Dysfunctional Gardeners

Artemisia

Artemisia in Jules’ Rock Garden

Countless gardeners say they’re anal or have Type A personalities. Gardeners are a bit dysfunctional due to their desire to control—nature among other things—but I’ve known gardeners who believe their super-power methodology bestows life to every plant in their garden.

Gardeners inflicted with God-of-my-Gardens Syndrome expect people to worship them as well as their gardens; after all they’re responsible for everything—genetic modifications, photosynthesis, how rain forms… These perfectionists, who pace around their gardens waiting for a weed to poke through the soil in case anybody driving by can see it, should be committed to psychiatric hospitals where they can prune box hedges into animal shapes for the rest of their lives.

Contrary to what Home Depot, Lowe’s and thousands of garden writers want us to believe, there are plants that procreate with abandon and live long after their supposed life-givers are gone. Yes, we help spread seeds but so do birds. The plants that evolved and survived did it in spite of us, not because of us. A walk or hike through a natural forest, prairie or glade is a quick reminder.

Gardeners are good at suspending disbelief—it could snow in April but I can plant these tender annuals at the end of March because they’re blooming on the shelves at Home Depot.  Newsflash: In the spring, greenhouses force the little, bitty plants crammed into six packs to bloom so you’ll be tempted to buy them. The energy goes into the blooms, not the roots. The roots are the plant’s foundation; without a strong one, a young plant has little chance of surviving poor conditions. Big box store nurseries adore gardeners who suspend their disbelief. They sell annuals to customers beset with spring fever and count on customers returning to their stores to replace those that died.

It’s difficult for me to tolerate narcissist gardeners. They spray, spray, spray non-organic insecticides, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers because the beauty of their lawn and garden is a reflection of them. They don’t care about the environment. They don’t care if they kill bees, worms, butterflies and ladybugs. They’re more interested in seeing the garden of the month sign in their front yard.

Years ago I was a narcissistic gardener. I used chemical fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides. My lovely garden was featured on three tours. I was proud of the pictures in local papers—they were proof of my supreme reign. Circumstances in the last four years pushed me to reform. I’m learning to live with and accept garden imperfections for the health of family, neighbors and the planet. It isn’t easy—beauty in the eye and all—but most gardeners want to be environmentally conscious. They’re also less annoying than squirrels, smarter than possums and prettier than armadillos.

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Jules Jacob

julie ginkgoJulie "Jules" Jacob is a contemporary poet who often writes about dichotomous conditions and relationships among humans and the natural world. Her poems are recently featured or forthcoming in Plume Poetry, The Tishman Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Rust + Moth, Yes Poetry and elsewhere. She is the author of The Glass Sponge chapbook with select poems featured at the Colorado Gallery of the Arts and Le Moulin à Nef where she was a resident of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Poetry Workshop.

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