Friday, August 29, 2008

"Master Gardeners" Don't Know Everything

This spring sometime, we had a customer come in who wanted to send a small tropical arrangement to a friend. The flower shop dutifully threw something together and sent it out, and . . . well, I'm a little fuzzy on whether the recipient brought it back or whether she just declined to accept it and then called the store about it. But either way, the arrangement came back, and we heard about it from the recipient later that day, who berated the front counter person (not that she had had anything to do with taking the order, putting the planter together, or any of the rest of it) to the point where she nearly cried. It was something to the general effect of, we oughta be ashamed, the planter we sent had a diseased plant in it, and she was a Master Gardener so she knew there was something really wrong with this one, and so on for what was apparently a really long time. I heard all this second-hand from the boss and the front counter person (I think I was at lunch when this all went down), so I don't know how involved the cussing-out got.

The problem is, the plant that generated the objection, a Philodendron 'Moonlight,' was not, in fact, diseased or infested or otherwise unhealthy. 'Moonlight,' like many Philodendrons, will develop lighter-colored spots on its leaves if they are damaged during development. The damage may be from spider mites biting the developing leaf, or from the leaf being bent under another leaf while unfurling, or anything else that might cause little pinprick-type damage to veins, but once it's there, it's permanent.

I first saw this on a Philodendron 'Imperial Red,' which I wound up buying. I didn't know that spots weren't normal for that cultivar until the new growth started coming in without them. Since then, I've seen it on the other self-heading Philodendrons ('Autumn' and 'Prince of Orange'), as well as Ficus lyrata, F. triangularis and Homalomena 'Emerald Gem.' (The Ficus spots tend to be reddish-brown, unlike the others, which are usually just a lighter version of the leaf's normal color.)

Homalomena 'Emerald Gem' with spots.

It's not that big of a deal. It doesn't mean your plant is sick. It doesn't even mean your plant has ever been sick. And even if it were a sick plant, that wouldn't justify huffing and puffing and trying to pull rank because you're a Master Gardener and the store employee you're abusing isn't. Call up the store, explain the situation, talk like you're a human being and not like you're the Pope. (Who may also be a human being. Unverified. I'll let you know.) Being a certified Master Gardener doesn't make you infallible; it just means that after you're gone we all shake our heads sadly at what a moron you are, and cluck our tongues at how the MG standards have clearly declined.

Being a jackass, though, does make you a jackass. So, you know, your choice.


10 comments:

Wicked Gardener said...

That person doesn't really give Master Gardeners a good name, huh? Wow.

Frances, said...

Not being a master gardener myself, I wouldn't know if it means you are also the pope. But as you say, a jerk is a jerk no matter the accomplishments of community service plantings you have done. Shame on them.

mr_subjunctive said...

It'd be different if she'd said that she found the plant unattractive (instead of diseased), or if the plant had actually had something wrong with it. Ignorant and belligerent is always somehow worse than knowledgeable and belligerent.

Water Roots said...

You're so right. Being a master 'anything' doesn't give you the right to be a pompous a$$...

Kim said...

The recipient certainly has a talent for turning a nice gesture (a gift to them) into something ugly, don't they? Now that's a talent which should NOT be developed or even tolerated. It doesn't cost anything to be nice, and how on earth the recipient can rationalize striking out at a third party is beyond me. I guess it just goes to show that even nice lables (master gardener) can hang on very ugly people.

susan harris said...

Being a Master Gardener means you've sat through 8 lectures, taken a take-home exam any moron could complete, and volunteered for 50 hours. Clearly "master" is a misused word in this situation, but explains why so many people sign up for the program - because the public seems to think it means something.
Remember "America's Master Gardener" Jerry Baker? Certified quack.

The Succulent Dish said...

thank you for addressing this in the open. there's nothing worse than abuse of a worker. unless it's abuse at the hands of a moron.

Hermes said...

We don't have Master Gardener's here - thank God. How rude and ignorant.

MrBrownThumb said...

Everyone has a story like this don't they? Either from real life or from a gardening message board. So it begs the question; with such crappy ambassadors and bad PR how does the program survive and keep creating these douche bags?

sheila said...

For many years I wanted to go through the Master Gardener program, but I was never able to fit it into my schedule. Once I really looked at the curriculum, it's not all that deep. Certainly doesn't give one any right to pull rank or anything. I have met my share of pompous Master Gardeners. I'm sure there are lots that aren't pompous, too, they just don't run around flaunting their title. (Oh, and they are not supposed to use their title in connection with any professional plant-related job, but a few of them sneak it in anyway.)