Don’t let sentiment skew judgment
Posted: Monday, October 5, 2009 8:01 pm
By: By Jimmy Williams
“The truth never hurt anybody.”
“The truth hurts.”
Well, take your pick. Sometimes it’s one way, sometimes the other. I venture to say, however, the latter takes the cake.
We — most of us anyway — don’t want to hear the truth. Even if we know we’re ugly, for instance, we don’t want anyone telling us we are. My dear friend, the late James Cox, one day years ago tenderly informed me my legs (I had shorts on) looked like I had swapped legs with a jaybird and got cheated out of the feathers. I’ve long since forgiven him.
I had a sorry bird dog once, and it took a fellow hunter of impudent nerve to tell it like it was. Sadie was a sweet little pointer, but useless as mammaries on a boar hog. Once I got that through my thick skull, I got a real bird dog and, after that, my children were practically raised on fried quail.
Same with plants. We are so enamored with such-and-such a plant we often put up with all kinds of ills emanating from same, all for a few days — even hours — of some nebulous and benign asset.
These kinds of worthless subjects include the range of almost any ornamental type of plant: shrubs, perennials, annuals, ferns, trees, etc. But start waxing derogatorily, particularly from a public forum, about any one of them and some scattered lover or two of same erupts from the woodwork, tongue or pen at the ready, to lash out at the truthmonger. Well, the truth hurts.
There’s probably a backer or two out there of the mimosa tree. These nasty things (crawling incessantly with all kinds of vermin) put out their powder-puff fragrant flowers for a few weeks in summer, then sully up the landscape for months, defoliating at the first attack of those insidious worms.
Try to cut one down (I did once) and before you turn your back on the deserved massacre shoots are already sprouting from the old stump. The more you mow them, the more they — like Hydra — multiply. Nowadays we have herbicides (plant poisons) to take care of just such annoyances. You might as well have a Siberian elm, another tree that should be on the pernicuous weed list to be exterminated.
Michael Dirr is a recognized world-class woody plant expert. Professor of ornamental horticulture at the University of Georgia, Dirr has written textbooks on trees and shrubs. His considerable value to the home gardener is less in the good things he says about this plant or that, but the downsides he dutifully lists. After all, if you were buying a car, would you want to know the latter as well as the former?
I have his textbooks and more ornamental (no pun intended) publications as well. I never leave home without my Dirr references.
His honesty and acid opinions have saved me a ton of money and trouble during the years when I was attracted to some seasonable attribute of a plant, but read dire warnings in his books about its frailties as well. They made me have second thoughts. I don’t always agree with Dirr, but I must admit his critical honesty about everything from lilacs to ligustrums proves invaluable.
For the good of your garden, don’t be fettered by sentiment to the point of planting junk.
Any gardener worth his manure won’t want to miss a big plant sale to be held Thursday at the West Tennessee Research and Education Center in Jackson. There you won’t find any junk.
Jason Reeves and Carol Reese of the Extension Service staff there have done a fantastic job in making the grounds into a veritable botanic garden. It’s worth the trip just to see that. But for the first time this year they are putting on sale plants of every description. These are favorites of theirs, and come from their travels to destination nurseries and specialty growers literally from coast to coast.
Going for a price are everything from rare conifers to deciduous and broadleaf evergreen shrubs, trees, perennials, annuals, herbs and bulbs for fall planting. A plant list I received contained almost 200 varieties.
At 3:15 p.m. Reese will showcase the “best of the best” in a tour of the grounds. At 4:30, Reeves will speak on the best bulbs for our area. The sale starts at 4 p.m.
If all that weren’t enough, the Madison County Master Gardeners invite everyone to attend a brown bag supper. Bring your own meal (and enough for me), and the MG’s will provide drink and dessert. Then Reeves will make a presentation, “Summer Travels to Fabulous Gardens in the Eastern U.S.”
The gardens are on Airways Boulevard, just off Highway 45 Bypass. You can’t miss it.’
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 9.29.09
Jimmy Williams, The Garden Path