1. 1.
    traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
    "the peripatetic nature of military life"
    synonyms:nomadic, itinerant, traveling, wandering, roving, roaming, migrant,migratory, unsettled
    "I could never get used to her peripatetic lifestyle"
  2. 2.
  1. 1.
    a person who travels from place to place.
  2. 2.
    an Aristotelian philosopher.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gardening Tastemakers--Are Consumers Losing Their Appetite?

Recycled from an older post: Invitation to a secret garden at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park 
I know this post won't win me any popularity points with the folks who live for and/or make their living by gardening. Oh well! With the steadily souring economy having forced belt tightening all around the world, lately I've begun to wonder if gardening tastemakers and the consumers they cultivate are getting a bad taste in their mouths. And, considering the changes they've wrought on the environment for hundreds of years by promoting unrestrained, irresponsible horticulture, is it really such a bad thing? I'm in trouble now, for sure.

One of many Camellias to be found at Maclay Gardens
When we first moved to Florida, I was naive about choosing plants to add to our property. Many, if not most of them, are considered exotics and even downright invasive. I found them in nurseries and big box store garden centers. So they had to be okay, right? After all, one of the first things I noticed on entering the state with all of our worldly goods in tow was an agricultural check station. We had to stop and have the moving truck and our drilling company trailer inspected for any plant material that might be considered a threat to Florida's environment. At least that was my initial impression. However, once I started gardening in earnest, I realized that there were other, rather powerful interests behind controlling the influx of plants to the state.

Having relocated from the Midwest, I still clung to my old favorites in the plant supply business. Park Seed Company, Wayside Gardens, and Jackson and Perkins Roses continued to wow me with their seasonal catalogues, and I was thrilled to finally be able to grow some of those Zone 8 plants I had always wanted to try. And then there were palm trees and citrus trees to consider. Could I order citrus from the companies I had trusted for years? Uh-oh. There are rules regarding the importation of citrus into Florida. It's a big, big monoculture in this state. What's monoculture? The dictionary defines it as "the use of land for growing only one type of crop." According to the bee guy who spoke at the recent Butterflies, Bees, and Bats seminar we attended, some of the latest research being done on honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder indicates that monoculture style farming may be greatly contributing to the pollinator's decline. But that's another story, and this post is already getting out of hand and running away!

I've learned a lot about gardening since we first moved here, and that education is due in no small part to becoming a Florida Master Gardener. Does the designation mean I'm suddenly an expert or will it ensure my progress on a path to everlasting fame and glory? I'd rather eat dirt than become an "expert" in anything. That title and a few dollars might still buy me a cup of strong coffee, if I'm lucky. I have discovered a few interesting things along the way, like where to turn for valuable, research-based information on landscaping and related topics: EDIS--the Electronic Data Information Source of UF/IFAS (University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Services)--has over 4000 articles to help guide consumers. One of the more interesting ones I've found regarding invasive plants details quite a bit of the history behind Florida's and other states' growing problem.

It's nothing new, this introduction of plants into a once-pristine environment. According to the article referenced above, "welcoming non-native species into our landscapes for centuries [emphasis mine] has created a multi-billion dollar ornamental plant industry and a gardening public that takes this largesse for granted, selecting primarily on the basis of color, shape, and size. Today's public is unaware of the origins of most ornamental plants and of the danger some species pose to natural areas." And I've always thought the farming industry was to blame for ruining nature. Ha! John Q. Public and his cohorts are in on it too. That means me--and you, if you like to garden or golf or shop or even just admire those beautiful urban and suburban landscapes where you work and live.

So, is there any hope for recovery or at least respite from this constant assault on the environment? It's doubtful, considering the 2.5 billion dollar annual wholesale trade in plants alone here in the U.S. The Great Depression in the 1930s slowed nursery sales somewhat, but we know that slump didn't last long. Sluggish economies always rebound, and a public hungry for lovely ornamental plants will clamor for satisfaction once more. I just wish that public (including me) would exhibit better table manners by learning as much as possible from reliable sources of gardening information like EDIS. We all should be taking smaller bites and chewing slowly--thinking critically--if Florida or any other state in this union has any hope of retaining a shred of its true, natural identity.


  1. Hi W2W .. great post - so interesting about the damage the colonists (our ancestors) have done .. and continue to do as we move plants around. But monoculture must be terrible for any part of Nature .. nature just doesn't exist like that.

    We've got alien species invasion .. brought in and now rampant, disease to trees etc etc ..

    As humans we really need to protect our environment .. a large variety of natural local plants is the way to go ...

    Love the photos - that Camellia - aren't they glorious .. they were out when I went down to Cornwall this last weekend .. beautiful! Cheers Hilary

  2. Well said... and just the tip of the iceberg. Add in exotic birds and animals etc. What of the worst in our state is purple loosestrife whice is taking over our wetlands to the detriment of native wildlife.
    btw you catalogue preference is the same as mine with the addition of Burpees and Seed Savers.

  3. Right on, as always. I prefer to stick with native plants, myself. But I'm also very fond of the wildflowers most people refer to as weeds!! My garden would be considered unkempt, but to me it is beautiful. ~karen

  4. ahh... master gardener! I talk to many of those around so-Ala. And they do talk about native plants and growing native plants and bees. What you're saying is very good and needed. There are people who love to garden, and I support that! I'm not so great at it, but I'm on your side--LOL! :D

  5. Your point about invasive plants is true almost everywhere in the US. How do we get the people who love to garden to get involved in classes to learn about invasive species, though?

  6. A well written and insightful post as always! It is hard for the normal consumer to make good choices indeed but I think real gardeners tend to learn and correct mistakes. I know I have-no more invasives in my yard. Ripped the last two out this week. Yeah me! Less maintenance too.

  7. Ms. Hilary, the more I learn about certain plants' potential for invasiveness, the more I try to avoid them. And some of them are so tempting!

    TB, I think the article did reference that loosestrife problem up in your area. I read your comment on Tina's blog, I think, where you said you're turning most of your property into a native wildflower habitat. Excellent idea! I would love to do that with our lawn. I detest lawn mowing.

    Karen, the older I get the more natural I want the yard to look. I keep telling myself it's not laziness. The neighbors may never be convinced.

    Ms. L, I'm glad the tide is turning in many gardening circles to a more native approach. Let's hope it stays that way and that the generations coming up will learn that gardening with native plants is best. Maybe more nurseries will take notice.

    Ms. Ciss B, as they say, you can't force a horse! Maybe, though, if enough people blog about it, the tastemakers will notice and stop promoting the nonnative plants. If you read the article, you'll see a familiar and still popular mag (Southern Living) that back in the 90s touted the virtues of an extremely invasive tree (I think it's a tallow) which has escaped suburban landscapes and is wreaking havoc in forests all over the South. I haven't read the mag lately, but I certainly hope they're changing their tune with regard to landscaping with nonnatives.

  8. Hi, Tina. I was just writing my comment, and yours popped up as I posted it. It is hard for most people to know what's good or bad to add to the yard. You tend to trust nurseries not to sell things that could harm the environment, but a lot of them just stock what tends to sell well and what the wholesalers send them. Good for you taking out those invasives. I have some I'm still working on, and I've definitely stopped buying them.

  9. Well, they might not like what you've said, but it's very true and indicative of the greed-based pig-headed me-me-me gimee-gimee the-grass-is-always-greener culture that is ruining native habitats and upsetting the grand balance of things. They are, quite simply, knobs.

    I salute you!

  10. You didn't lose any points with me, W2W, especially since you point out it's not just farmers to blame for interfering with nature:) One thing I learned from my Master Gardeners classes is how much I still have to learn--I will never be an expert on anything either. Two lessons to learn from the mistakes mentioned here--diversity and go native! More and more I'm drawn to the native plants here like the coneflowers and rudbeckias; there's a reason bees and butterflies love them. My dream is to one day have a little mini-prairie here.

  11. I also have heard about certain flowers banned in certain places, could not recollect which was which. If certain plants are allowed to grow in some areas, it could adversely affect the biodiversity.

  12. I'm beginning to focus more on using native species, and talking about it more in my column and in lectures. You hear it a lot "going native," but as you so eloquently pointed out: "We all should be taking smaller bites and chewing slowly--thinking critically--if Florida or any other state in this union has any hope of retaining a shred of its true, natural identity."

  13. As an amateur gardener I agree with you whole heartedly.
    Gardening is, by definition, an artificial pursuit. Nature it is not.


    what is wrong with sticking to indigenous plants?
    What is wrong with growing your own stock?
    What is wrong with dividing, propagating?

    Gardening is big business in the UK. Although there are plenty of 'gardeners' going to the big garden centres - not nurseries - and buy stupid imported shrubs and trees and herbaceous plants, the general consensus among serious gardeners is to stick with indigenous varieties, growing them on and swapping them with other gardeners.

    Most of my work in the garden is just that, taking cuttings, from root and stem, digging up clumps and dividing and replanting them, growing from seed comes into it, of course, as does allowing self-seeders room and/or giving them away.

    As for invasive foreigners? Get rid of them, if you can.

  14. I'd rather eat dirt than become an "expert" in anything - too funny!!!

    I'm not a master at gardening, I'm actually a master at knowing how to kill plants. I think they know I'm trying to hard and give up on me before I waste too much time torturing them!!

    I saw that you were joining the A-Z blogging challenge and wanted to welcome you to the fun come April time! I'm one of the hosts!! I look forward to your upcoming entries!! It's nice meeting a fellow blogger!

  15. Master gardener or not, I will have a cup of coffee ready for your arrival any day :-) When I tour water marshes or any natural setting, I am amazed at how the beauty captivates me. Natural settings are the best aren’t they?

  16. Well, IG, thanks, I guess. You do have a way with words.

    Rose, I knew you're of like mind when it comes to native plants. It's just so hard to resist the pressure to try something new and exotic. And the tastemakers know it. You know what they say about pointing a finger. The rest of the fingers point right back at me.

    Tomz, I guess the problem of introducing nonnative plants is a global one now. Native plant societies are trying to get the word out, but they have limited resources compared to the entities that import and promote exotic plants.

    TC, I'm glad you're going native too. Maybe the tide is slowly turning, and the influx of pest plants will stop. If the demand for them decreases, then the supply will dry up. Then we'll just have to contend with the ones already here. *sigh*

    Friko, you're so right about gardening being artificial. I have mixed feelings about it. Wouldn't life be simpler if we all just lived in the woods, picked berries, and ate acorns?

    Ms. Jen, thanks for the welcome! I've still got a lot of work to do getting ready for the challenge and not much time to do it. Don't feel too bad about not being the gardening type. It might be a good thing because at least you're not contributing to the madness.

    Skeeter, I take my coffee straight up, just so you know! I hope to try some of yours one of these days. Yes, I love the natural places best too.

  17. I am so glad that I am not a gardener... this season I want to remover a couple more non-natives and replace then with natives.. but we were able to plant 20 native plants last season.. Oh the lawn...the I want a lawn that isn't grass or at least traditional grass....thought I would drop in....Michelle

  18. Thanks for dropping in, Michelle! It's so good to see your comment here. You know, after I had already signed up for that MG class, I found out there was a Master Naturalist program being offered. I almost wish I had done that instead! Really, though, I don't regret doing the gardening thing. I'm gradually learning what not to do, and hopefully I can share that.