Thursday, January 14, 2010

Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery

I have seen the picture above (which incidentally, I photographed myself) reproduced on other websites and used on a brochure cover to promote containers and a similar picture was taken and published in a book (I was the author of the planting by the way, incidentally: so is a picture taken by someone else not a form of plagiarism in a way?) Some people would be piqued by all this casual internet larceny and mimicry. And a small piece of me is ticked, to be sure. But frankly, I'm also flattered. There's no better way to know you done somethin' right until it's copied, you see.

The plant, by the way, is Orostachys spinosa, which I have rhapsodied about elsewhere (notably this month's Sedum Society bulletin--which I bet you don't subscribe to! Ha! Gotcha!). And in my Pagodas of Lushan piece from a few weeks ago in this blog. This terrific plant must occur in the billions, nay, the trillions throughout much of Central and East Asia (and that's a mighty big chunk of country): we saw it on every gravelly patch or rocky outcrop we stopped at in Kazakhstan and Mongolia last summer. My mentor and brother-in-law Allan Taylor saw the plant in Yakutia, also called the Sakha Republic, where it has weathered -50F and colder on the banks of the Lena River.

I'd grown it several times early in my career, without much success. Then one day I visited Sandy Snyder who possibly possesses the most beautiful and innovative garden in the Front Range: she had planted this orostachys in a dish garden where it was thriving and I realized it grew best in shallow containers: so I copied her idea and created this trough that is now busy replicating itself further in cyberspace. Why is my act of mimicking Sandy's cultural technique not plagiarism? Two reasons: I didn't try to pass the trough above as her trough, and garden copying is generally approved of rather than becoming the cause of litigation. Ironically, Gwen took that trough to Lakewood when she moved there. So I replicated it on a shallow stone basin where it still thrives for me in a slightly different guise. Plagiarism and replication are not just flattery: they are the very secret of DNA and survival of the species--or of a good idea for that matter. Very little that we do is truly new. You just have to find ways to mask your lack of originality as I did!

1 comment:

  1. I love the planter; however, I respectfully question the identification of the plant. This almost seems more like a Jovibarba than Orostachys spinosa, which I believe has longer outer leaves surrounding a shallow central series of leaves in a spiral. Hmm.
    I know what you mean about the plagiarism, that is a major problem. I've dabbled with the idea of watermarking right on the pic, which hopefully would stop some of it. I also have the text on my site protected by Tynt ( which puts an attribution link on any of the copied text if it's pasted onto a blog or website. It's truly amazing how much there is that gets copied. I'm not really flattered...


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