So I was gonna hold off on this one until it hit new stands but it looks like Organic Gardening Magazine let the cat out of the bag early and has published an article I wrote for the Feb 2008 issue (“Grow Where You Are Planted”) on their website.
I really enjoyed writing this article. When they approached me about writing a piece the timing was good — I had been itching to write about the topics covered and needed the impetus to get off my butt and do it. It’s a short piece briefly outlining my overall experiences as an urban gardener. The article also addresses outsider feelings I have struggled with since entering the world of garden writing and publishing as a career: Where and how do I fit in to this world of gorgeous, expansive gardens, expensive hardscaping, and quaint early-life garden experiences? Since writing the first book, several interviewers have asked about my childhood and early experiences with gardening. I have stammered and fallen over myself every single time. There is no easy answer to this question. There certainly are informative early experiences but my feeling has often been that the answer they are looking for is not one I can provide. And as far as how do I fit into this world, well it seems that in every category possible I stick out like a sore thumb. I did not have quaint early childhood gardening experiences, there were no early-life mentors, I live in a small apartment, I have only lived in a house with an actual backyard for 3 brief moments through the course of my entire life, I still consider myself to be lower to barely lower-middle class, I have never owned land, I don’t drive a car, I do not have a degree in horticulture (I studied Fine Arts), I have a terrible potty mouth… shall I continue? When attending garden shows and giving presentations I have rarely felt comfortable with the other “Gardening World Celebrities” and have always felt a bit like an impostor accidentally admitted to the Country Club. It’s not a feeling of inferiority or insecurity so much as a feeling of strangeness and difference. And a feeling that sooner or later that membership is going to be revoked.
It has taken some time but I’ve finally hit on an answer to this issue that I bring up in the course of the article. The answer is in the tagline I’ve been using for this site over the last few years, “Gardening for the People.” I’ve been living out the answer all along. I just needed to get there in my own head, for myself, in a new way. Gardening is not just a homogeneous experience in which rich white people with big floppy hats and sparkling teeth increase their social standing and property value through proper plant and rock placement. Gardening is for all of us. Gardening is for anyone who loves plants, or wants to grow food, or thinks flowers are pretty. Gardening is for anyone who is scared to try but who wants to give it a go. We all come to this from different places, different backgrounds, different experiences (and experience levels), and different interests. My life is complicated. Your life is complicated. I’d wager a solid bet that the seemingly quaint life of every single “Gardening World Celebrity” is also complicated.
In the end I don’t care how different we are. The only thing we need to have in common is the love. And even that isn’t a prerequisite.
Check out the article here or see it in the February 2008 issue of Organic Gardening magazine.
I received the following update on the Scotts Miracle-Gro versus TerraCycle lawsuit from Scotts over a week ago but was a little freaked that the Scotts PR team would be so eager to get the facts of the settlement out into the world as soon as the verdict came through. Regardless, I figure I may as well mention the outcome given I wrote about the initial lawsuit. The following is a copy of the letter in their own words:
“With your previous interest and coverage of The Scotts Company and TerraCycle litigation, I wanted to bring to your attention todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s settlement announcement, which is detailed in the following news release.
TerraCycle has agreed that it no longer will make advertising claims of product superiority to Miracle-Gro products to ensure accuracy in its advertising. More specifically, TerraCycle has agreed that it will not claim that its products are better than, or more effective than, or as good as Miracle-Gro products. In addition, TerraCycle may not claim that any independent tests or university studies were conducted to support any such claims.
TerraCycle has also agreed to change its packaging so it will not use a green and yellow color combination, for which Miracle-Gro owns a trademark registration. This change will be made to avoid any possible confusion with Miracle-GroÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s trade dress.
The court order and the settlement agreement will be posted on TerraCycleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s www.suedbyscotts.com Web page. TerraCycle also agreed to phase out this site after three months.”
The email sent to me also included this statement from Scotts spokesperson, Jim King:
“Scotts is pleased to resolve this case and believes that the settlement serves the public’s interest in ensuring the accuracy of advertising claims, as well as protection of the valuable Miracle-Gro brand.“
Phew. [Wiping tears of relief from eyes] Thankfully the public’s interest has been served. Oh how I do enjoy the delightful spinning.
The website has indeed been updated including the details of the 29-page settlement agreement. Why not brew yourself up a cup of relaxing chamomile tea and settle under the covers tonight with a copy of that little ditty for an evening of good reading? You do not have to thank me.
In a recent New York Magazine feature entitled “My Empire of Dirt“, writer Manny Howard takes on the arduous task of growing a farm, complete with flora and fauna in his Brooklyn backyard to explore just what is involved in trying to feed himself locally for one month. The results are a humorous and slightly demoralizing mixed bag of mishaps, small rewards, freakish weather, and rabbit and chicken cannibalism which certainly makes for an interesting and sometimes horrifying read.
“Eating local is expensive and time-consuming, which is why this consumerist movement will not easily trickle down into mass society. It requires a willful abstinence from convenience and plenty, a core promise of the modern world. Our bountiful era is predicated on the division of labor: We donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sew our own clothes, we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t build our own housesÃ¢â‚¬â€and we certainly donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t farmÃ¢â‚¬â€because weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re too busy doing whatever it is we do for everyone else.”
The ensuing drama and general naivetÃƒÂ© of the author would have left me rolling my eyes skeptically (it seems like every paper and magazine has a writer on board trying out these kinds of food-related ‘experiments’ lately) if he had not captured my heart just a little with his stubborn determination. In the end, the intensity of the experience left both he and his family with a hard won lesson in the value of good food and resolve to buy responsibly.
“It wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just a matter of buying regionally, or seasonally, or organicallyÃ¢â‚¬â€the important thing was to consume responsibly.”
I somehow doubt he will keep The Farm up at its current pace but I wonder if he will continue with the garden.
Let’s all agree right now to stop pretending to hate cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) and (Cosmos sulphureus). Let’s agree to stop telling ourselves we are too good for it. Or that it’s too easy. Let’s agree to admit right here, right now that we think it’s a pretty flower. Let’s stop telling ourselves it doesn’t have delicate, ferny foliage and soft petals. Let’s put the breaks on our own inner elitist whispering in our ear that a plant that can come up from a sidewalk crack and still put on a show is too embarrassing to grow.
Can we all just agree right now that we are in fact delighted to find one of these tough, resilient flowers dancing on a thin and graceful stem in a light late summer breeze with a puffy bee set on top busily enjoying its pollen?
Yesterday afternoon, while working on the garden, a woman stopped to chat and mentioned that she had seen my sad and pathetic sign (my words, not hers) and knew who had destroyed the day lilies. It was the dudes who change the advertising on the large billboard that hangs on the wall over the garden! She said that she watched in horror as they intentionally trampled all over the plants — something they did not have to do since there was plenty of room and their equipment wasn’t in the garden and made it possible for them to avoid the garden completely. Never mind the fact that the garden has been sharing space with that billboard for years with minor consequences beyond the annoying lights, the pigeon poop that falls from the nests housed in the billboard structure, and the stray pieces of advertising that falls into the plants. That and the fact that we have to look at ugly advertising splashed onto the side of our building everyday.
As a city-dweller I have become very good at seeing without seeing. So good in fact that I can not provide even a hint as to the content of the current ad and the only ad I can recall in all the years the billboard has been up was for a film with Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino. Something with Al Pacino as the devil.
Anyway, I stood there speechless, listening to the details unfold and thinking that there is some kind of irony in this somewhere given that I had been working on finally trying to fix that patch when she happened by, and feeling sore that I have had to suffer both a financial and personal time loss while my landlord reaps the benefits of that damned billboard AND my hard work. Gah! At the very least I now know to whom I can call and send my complaints.
Still no idea who went after the thistles but I have since replaced that patch with a native switch grass, Panicum virgatum. As previously mentioned, I am intensely nostalgic and possibly a little nuts in the ways that I anthropomorphize plants. This is only made worse by the fact that each plant comes with a story and a history. Like the daylilies that were gifted to me by a friend. Or the yarrow that was given to me by a stranger who happened to be driving by with a clump of yarrow in the backseat of her car. In many cases I can recall where and when I received or purchased the plant. These feelings of attachment and compassion for the life of each plant is so strong at times that it is very difficult for me to remove and discard plants, even when I know it is beneficial to the garden. I’ve also got a stubborn streak that thinks I can shove one more plant in somewhere or bring that diseased plant back past the point of no return. My style is very Do As I Say, Not As I Do and I often struggle with the very actions I know to be right and advise other people to carry out. The only positive I can glean from the Operation Garden Terrorism experience is that it has prematurely forced me to carry out my long term plan to replace some of the more invasive gift plants with natives. But just because I can find a positive doesn’t mean I’ll be thanking the ad hanging dudes or the thistle stomping stranger anytime soon.