Sunday, September 29, 2013

Defiance and information

Before I go off to do some actual gardening, here's today's little bit of philosophy.

I had another one of those conversations the other day, the one in which it comes up that I'm a gardener, and the other person says, "That takes special skill. I can't grow anything; I kill every plant I touch. I don't have a green thumb."

Which of course first off makes me think of this bit from my favorite Henry Mitchell essay:

There are no green thumbs or black thumbs. There are only gardeners and non-gardeners. Gardeners are the ones who ruin after ruin get on with the high defiance of nature herself, creating, in the very face of her chaos and tornado, the bower of roses and the pride of irises.
Defiance is what makes gardeners, he says, and to a large extent, and especially on a large scale, I think that's true. But the other thing that makes gardeners is information. Of course you kill plants if you have no idea what their needs are, where to put them, how to take care of them. No one would, for example, adopt a dog without finding out how much it needs to be fed each day, that access to water is required, that it needs to be taken out to poop. (Or if they would, I don't want to know them.) This isn't even getting into issues of training or veterinary care, or geeky stuff like clipping poodles or teaching frisbee catching.

You don't get cited for cruelty if you mistreat plants, and their deaths are usually less painful than those of pets, but the need for information is just as critical, and people don't realize that. Nor do most retail outlets emphasize it, though good garden centers have staff members who can answer questions - if customers know to ask them, which they often don't. Just... take a plant home and stick it in the ground, right? Or, sometimes, try to grow it in the same tiny pot you bought it in.

I like to think I've saved quite a few lives in my time as a Master Gardener. (Lives of plants only, I assume.) But anyone who bothers to learn something about gardening can pass on what they've learned, and often it's the really basic stuff that people need to hear. "You need to water this," is likely number one. ("You need to water this less" is certainly in the top ten, too.)

Also: "It's okay to make mistakes." And with that, I'm going to go off and make a few. :)


  1. Wise advice, for an occasional gardener, with limited knowledge, and time, but who loves what my garden of perennials (and other guests) surprises me with, depending on the year. Am reminded that I don't need to be an expert, and just need to get out there and keep working at it.

    1. Thanks, Victoria, and yes, keeping at it is the most important thing!