In Defense of Plant Critics by Susan Harris

Impatiens at the HQ of the American Hort Society.

Impatiens at the HQ of the American Hort Society.

Anne Raver covered the newsworthy topic of Impatiens suffering from Downy Mildew Disease in her usual clear-headed way for the New York Times – or so I thought.   This week they published comments by some dissenters, readers taking offense at Raver’s dissing of their beloved annuals.  Raver had identified Impatiens as “a plant I love to hate,” but here’s how some people read that:

– “Supercilious” and victimizing people who love Impatiens.  The letter ends on this revealing note:  “I suppose Ms. Raver…would see me as being utterly tasteless and unworthy of notice.”

– “Anne Raver, who strikes me as the last person to write this piece about a generous, giving, colorful little plant that is now in serious jeopardy. Her disparaging comments seem oddly smug about a plant that is so beloved of home gardeners everywhere.”

– To another commenter it’s all about “horticultural snobbery” by “self-defined sophisticated gardeners,” “Elitist, sophisticated Compleat Gardeners,” “horticultural aristocrats” who use “complicated, studied flower cultivation and garden landscaping.”

– “Not just a little mean. She seemed almost to be gloating over the loss of impatiens. I happen to love them, and I also happen to think they’re prettier than most other flowers. I don’t appreciate her snide attitude. I’ll miss them. Her, I won’t read again. I don’t need her negative arrogance.”

Okay, the Times culled these out of who-knows-how-many, but their point seems to be that some folks respond defensively to criticism of plants they love, as a personal attack by arrogant elites.  Culture wars being played out in the aisles of the local garden center

I’m sure Raver has heard it all before (as have the quoted Truman Capote and Michael Pollan) and so have I.  (I’ve been warned to keep my feelings toward chain-link fences to myself, to avoid reactions like these.)  Here on GardenRant I feel free to rant away about my least-favorite plants or gardening practices, though the accusations of snobbery never fail to appear.

Doesn't like Impatiens.

Doesn’t like Impatiens.

I can identify with the commenters, though.  I’m sometimes irritated by criticisms of things I love. (Recently, my book club recently panned Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, which I enjoyed thoroughly, but kept my praise to myself.)  What I don’t get is taking plant criticism as a personal attack on the people who grow them.

I’ll put up with occasionally hearing my favorite TV show or movie dismissed as derivative (or fill-in-the-word) because I think criticism is important and a world without it would be boring.  Can you imagine Henry Mitchell with only nice things to say about plants?  Or Michael Dirr, for that matter.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *