Saturday, March 13, 2010
Blast from the past...
The new season is quickly advancing and there are lots of things actually in bloom: I've taken lots of pix, but I wait to download them until there's enough...so I went to this file of pictures I scanned a few years ago from old transparencies. A depressing number of them are extinct from my garden, including this morsel. This is a miniature, deep blue Dracocephalum: it is probably Dracocephalum paulseni, although it could be the rather similar D. aucheri--I have grown and loved both, and both have departed.
I could go on and on about blue cushion plants, and my love of mints. Instead, let me say that no matter what plant I had dredged up (incognito: the images only show up as numbers when I upload them), likely nine out of ten would be no longer with me, although the slides date from recent decades.
I am often asked at talks (so effective has the lobbying been by the native purity nazis) if I am afraid a plant I introduce will be weedy: how to explain that generally speaking, the plants I grow and the plants I try to grow are actually a bit challenging to grow at all. The great bulk of the plants we obtain year to year for our gardens are but fleeting visitors. We grow them for the frisson of learning something new, of being connected to a distant and mysterious place, for the aesthetic thrill of watching them evolve and develop. If they're weedy, for Heaven's sake you don't keep them (and probably don't even try to grow them in the first place).
To ask a plant explorer if he thinks his plants will be weeds is like asking a doctor if he expects to kill his next patient. Of course, nobody would skewer the doctor because it would be rude. Both things are possibilities (although I suspect more doctors kill patients than horticulturists produce new weeds). But both doctors and plant collectors devoutly strain to avoid the statistically unlikely, but possible unfortunate outcomes of their craft. To grill us about it isn't just bad taste, it's hostile.
But then horticulturists don't have either the salaries or status of doctors: no wonder people are more willing to insult us! Obviously, we need to charge more!
(P.S. consider that weeds are not intrinsically evil, or even just bad, but that the environment that we create that encourages them is the root cause of their weediness. I increasingly think of weeds as Nature's attempt to protect the ravaged body of the earth assaulted by mankind: you fear weeds? Don't look in the mirror.)