Well I’ve done a history six, introduced naked gardening and had an ornamental six. I have racked my brain (took me a while to find it though) again and this week have come up with a new six idea.
It’s the garden 101. You know, that series on the TV. This is my version. Six garden-related things that I would like to consign to Room 101. With how many will you agree?
I will, in the best traditions of such things, announce my results in reverse order.
6 The RHS
Pause for a moment and ask yourself what is the purpose of the RHS!
Consider Chelsea. The daily crocodile moving ponderously around the showground. The growing number of exhibitors who have called it a day because they cannot justify the cost. The show gardens, with their idiotic budgets. The environmental overhead.
Think of my “local” show in Cardiff. The garden-related stands crammed together making it difficult to get at whatever plant it is you’d like to examine. The tat, sorry, craft, and food stalls with loads of space around them. The show gardens placed beyond the end of the temporary pathways, making it difficult for those in wheelchairs to get to them if it rains. The floral marquees. with their diminishing number and size of displays, again because of cost.
Think back a few years to the unfortunate partnership with Interflora to promote Valentine’s day bouquets. Bouquets of imported flowers. When there were plenty of growers in the UK supplying flowers in season. I get the feeling that the RHS exists, primarily, to make money. It could do more to promote British horticulture.
I also offer this tweeted advert for the RHS qualification course “How to kill your seedlings!”
Oh, come on! Every idiot knows how to handle seedlings, don’t they?
5 Monty Don
“What?” you exclaim! OK, Monty hasn’t somehow made it to the exalted beatificated heights of St Geoff of Hamilton. But he’s a friendly fellow. Why should he go to room 101?
It’s blinkers, you see. He not only refuses to garden with chemicals (good) but refuses to even allow their mention. And so loses the wonderful opportunity to educate. He says “There is only one way to kill lily beetle.” Doesn’t even explain squishing properly. Not everyone wants to squish. So they reach for the chemicals. Word on the street is that the only chemical is a neonicotinoid. Eeek! There are less harmful chemicals that will do the trick if used right. But people don’t read all the information on the labels. You know, the bit about spraying in the evening when bees aren’t flying all over the place. You know, about not killing beneficial insects at the same time.
The opportunity to educate is lost. He doesn’t even mention the trick of holding a plastic cup under the leaf on which the lily beetle is chomping. So, if you miss first time, the disturbed beetle does what disturbed beetles do and falls to the ground. Upside down (that’s the black side). Much easier to find if it falls into a cup.
Sorry. He seems to take for granted the fact that he says something and everyone will listen and obey. Fact is they don’t.
4 Garden Centres
“What?” I hear you exclaim! (again)
Yes, I’d like to abolish garden centres. They are a response to mass consumerism. They sell what the masses will buy. When it comes to plants, this means plants in flower. Try buying Heleniums in March. Summer bedding, flowering before its time in polystyrene packaging, appears in the middle of frost season. The poor, tired plants give up halfway through the summer. But not to worry! The punters will look at their dying plants and decide to flock back to buy bulbs and winter bedding in late August. They may also find Heleniums then, heading towards the end of their flowering season.
And to get to the plants you have to navigate through the concessions. You have to resist clothes, shoes, furniture, dog-grooming, haircuts, wine, tat and so on. And the tropical fish, the fitted kitchens and bedrooms. Don’t forget Christmas decorations (in season). And the half-price sale of Christmas decorations (out of season).
And don’t try to buy a flower pot in November!
Far better to find a nursery. In nurseries, staff know what they’re selling; they probably grew it. And they know what it was grown in. And they won’t have covered a plant labelled “Perfect for Pollinators” with chemicals that harm bees. They’re happy to talk, to give all the advice you want. They care about their customers because they want them to return. You are a person, not a a mere member of “the masses”.
3 Plants for Pollinators (that aren’t)
Once plants arrive in my garden, I can decide if I want to drench them in chemicals. And I decide what chemicals to use. There’s chemicals and there’s chemicals. You know what I’m leading up to, don’t you?
Neonics. Or to give them their proper name Neonicotinoids.
They’re pesticides. And pretty nasty pesticides at that. Because they’re systemic. Zap a colony of aphids with soapy water and that’s all you’re doing. “SB Plant Invigorator” (also now sold under other brands) will also zap but will feed the plant at the same time. Contact pesticides, used properly, will kill what they hit and then dry off.
But neonics can last almost the life of the plant. And neonics harm pollinators. So a plant treated with neonicotinoids shouldn’t have a “Perfect for Pollinators” label.
Roundup is a product, not a chemical.
Glyphosate is a chemical. It is the main chemical ingredient of Roundup. But it is not alone. There are other ingredients. Monsanto makes Roundup. The trouble is that they have resisted attempts to get to the details of the make-up of their product. Many have long argued that the other ingredients are more dangerous than Glyphosate. The trouble is that no-one is actually certain what those other ingredients are! The composition is protected information. Look at https://journal-neo.org/2017/08/30/monsanto-it-ain-t-glyphosate-it-s-the-additives/.
The World Health Organisation decided that Glyphosate was, on balance, carcinogenic. The EU decided, on balance, it WASN’T.
Some bright sparks noted that this difference of opinion might be down to a simple matter of process. The EU had looked at the impact of Glyphosate on its own.
I’m not a chemical scientist. Rather a confused observer.
But meanwhile, in the real world, the lack of “education” of users (see also 2 above), leads to over-use. Glyphosate takes some time to work its way through a plant and down to the roots. It is only when it reaches its destination that it completes the job it started out on.
But if you cover a plant with Roundup, the added ingredients will kill the top growth in no time on a sunny day. The uneducated gardener pulls off the deadness in the name of tidiness. Goodbye Glyphosate. Underground, the weed’s roots start the process of regeneration. The weed regrows.
And so the uneducated gardener shrugs their shoulders and sprays again …….
1 Plant Name Changes
I know. I’ve been here before. But this tops my list so I’m here again.
Most sensible gardeners talk about plants using their common names. We have Joe Pye Weed, Busy Lizzie, Crab Apple, Laurel and so on. The problem with these is that the same plant may have different names in different countries. You know, it’s like tell American parents to make sure there’s always a rubber in their children’s pencil case. And then there are the catalogues. I did once attempt (but gave up) to work out what every plant in a Bakker catalogue was. So many companies invent their own names for everything. And if you can’t work out what something really is, how do you know what the best growing conditions are (hint: DON’T trust the catalogues).
Thus every plant has its proper name. We have Eupatorium, Impatiens, Malus, Prunus and so on. And in the collection of books weighing down your bookshelves, you’ll find everything you want to know about these proper names. All you have to do is fork out £50-60 for the RHS Encyclopaedia and you’ve got all the information at your fingertips.
Until someone decides that some Asters, not all, mind you, are now Symphiotrichum. Joe Pye Weed’s no longer Eupatorium but Eutrochium. Stipa tenuissima is now Nasella tenuissima (unless it’s changed back; there’s uncertainty about that). And if you look for a plant using its old name and the nursery’s changed everything to the new name, your plant will be “out of stock” or “not found”. Then again if you’re quick off the mark and the nursery isn’t, you’ll get the same result. Either way that expensive bookshelf of books is now irrelevant. Useless,
The RHS (see above) will, of course, rub its hands with glee and commission a new edition of the relevant encyclopaedia and Dr Hessayon will come out of retirement. Botanical gardens will spend a fortune relabelling everything. And everyone will get confused.
I’m beginning to think that every plant should, in future, have three names:
- The common name such as Joe Pye Weed
- A horticultural name such as Eupatorium. This is what real gardeners have always called and will continue to call the plant and what its label in the nursery et al will say. All the encyclopaedias will use this name.
- A biowhateversomenamingcommitteedecideitoughttobecalled name. No-one in the real world will use this name but those scientific, academic and otherwise highly expensive tomes will be free to use it. It may appear in square brackets, italics and upside down lettering, after the horticultural name when the RHS update one of their encyclopaedias but it should be a legal requirement to state in bold letters on the front cover, and in every advert for the book, whether the new edition has changed from the previous one simply to include these new whogivesadamn names.
Meanwhile I will continue to grow Asters and enjoy them very much thanks.
We do have our own language!
I’ll get off my soapbox now. If nothing else, I hope I’ve made you think.
Meanwhile, why not pop over to The Propagator’s Blog to see his post of the day (after all he did invent this Six thing). Repeat visits are advised as through the day others who offer less controversial sixes than mine will provide links to their posts in the comments section. Alternatively, pop over to GardenBlogs.online where the meme page for this get together has links to the blogs of a lot of contributors.
Until next time, enjoy your garden.