Thursday, July 10, 2008

Top Ten Reasons Why I Hate Outdoor Gardening

Longtime close readers of PATSP are already aware that I and Garden Ranter Amy Stewart are locked in a months-long blood feud over her piece Top Ten Reasons Why I Hate Houseplants. Sadly, these readers are far ahead of Ms. Stewart herself, who has so far given me no indication that she knows she's involved in a feud, or would care if she did know. Few things are as pathetic as an epic battle against a completely oblivious foe -- but that's not going to stop me from perpetuating it.

Perilla 'Magilla Purple'

As the next sad and pitiful attempt in my ongoing effort to be noticed by Ms. Stewart, I'm responding to her post in kind, with a post of my own, which I'm assuming will show her, and eventually she'll acknowledge how completely right I am and we'll become BFFs and I'll totally forgive her 'cause I'm nice like that, and all will be well, and then we'll stay up all night on the phone eating cookie dough and talking about boys at least three nights a week or however often we can both get it together to make synchronized cookie dough. Or at least, that's my plan. There may be some kinks to work out.1

Anyway. So behold:

The Top Ten Reasons Why I Hate Outdoor Gardening

10. The plants that will actually grow well for most people in most circumstances, everybody has already. They're boring. And if they're really easy to grow, they're liable to turn invasive and take over a garden, which isn't boring so much as obnoxious. Plus, most of them have relatively plain foliage, making them only really interesting during the small portion of the year when they're flowering.

Petunia 'Burgundy Madness'

9. The ones that are interesting and cool also have to be fussed over endlessly, and won't even necessarily come back the next year.

(#s 9 and 10 are cheap shots, since plants that are easy to grow are obviously going to be the ones everybody has, and plants everybody has are obviously going to be the ones that everybody finds kind of boring. But the fact that it's a cheap shot didn't keep Ms. Stewart2 from using the same two points in her original list, so I think that gives me permission to use them too. Even though I know better. :^P)

8. You can't change your mind about a location without hours of dirty, hot work in the blazing sun. Indoor plants in pots can be picked up and moved in five seconds with no mud, little to no sweat, and (usually) no back injury.

Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Rainbow' mix

7. What's the point of trying to keep bugs off of outdoor plants? Outdoors is where the bugs live, after all. Better to have the plants indoors where the bugs can't get at them as easily. And yet outdoor gardeners are forever complaining about the bugs, slugs, birds and hooligans that are destroying their plants. Well duh. It's like plopping a big chocolate cake in somebody's kitchen -- every couple hours -- and expecting them not to eat any. That's why the plants are supposed to be inside. Where you can protect them.

6. Weather is unreliable. One too-wet or too-dry spring, and you have to replace half your garden. Indoors, not so much of an issue.

5. A lot of annuals (geraniums, marigolds, salvia, bacopa) smell funny.3

Salvia 'Red Hot Sally'

4. Ornaments. Jesus statue, gazing ball, gnome, peeing cherub fountain, pink flamingos, peeing gnome on a crucifix with a shiny ball balanced on his head and a flamingo on his shoulder – whatever your particular variety of appalling taste, not only are you looking at it, but you're inflicting it on your entire neighborhood as well. Thanks, but no.

Secretly, the other club members resented Anthony's holier-than-thou attitude, but none of them ever said anything.

3. Weeding. Raking. Mulching. Deadheading. Pruning. This all sounds suspiciously like work.

Platycodon 'Sentimental Blue'

2. Outdoor gardeners think they're so cool, with all their fancy trowels and fertilizers and composters and riding mowers and koi ponds and Garden Weasels and exploding gopher deterrents. When of course if they would just keep the plants inside, they could get all the required equipment (save maybe the koi pond -- but there are aquariums) reduced down to some dirt, fertilizer, and pots. Obviously outdoor gardeners are people with more money than sense.

I'm not saying I'm never going to need a riding mower in the apartment, but I think I've got at least a couple hundred plants yet to go.

1. The heat, the heat, the heat, the heat, the heat.


Photo credits:

1 Like for example learning to make cookie dough.
2 Persistent use of "Ms. Stewart" is actually out of respect. Also 'cause I don't know her well enough to use "Amy," at least until the cookie dough thing gets going. But mostly out of respect -- I actually really liked her book, Flower Confidential, and fully intend to write a very nice review about it as soon as I can do so, though it's looking like I'm going to have to read it again before that happens so don't hold your breath.
3 This may be the moment to note that I consider Portulaca an honorary indoor plant, because it's just so damn cool, and because it doesn't smell funny like all the others.


Karen said...

good for you for sticking up for us "natural outdoor gardeners" , lol

Lance said...

I really love the club meeting.

Anonymous said...

All good reasons. That woman sucks.

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

Har har har...loved it...

Okay, I do enjoy some outdoor gardening but up here in the north that season is really, really short. What the heck do you do the rest of the year? I can't imagine my life without houseplants, here where the majority of the year outdoor plant life is nowhere to be seen. That would be really sad...

mr_subjunctive said...

water roots:

As best as I can tell from what the customers tell me, in the off-season people mainly sit around wishing that it was spring, and/or visiting local greenhouses in order "to see something green." Though they don't, typically, buy any green stuff after they've seen it. I've suggested to the boss that maybe we should look into having ourselves designated a botanical garden so we could qualify for state grants or charge admission or something. She has not, so far, chosen to pursue this, but I'll bring it up again in November.


This is not the first time I've seen someone say this sort of thing about Am - I mean Ms. Stewart, and I'm a little baffled about what it is that she's done. Not that I want to get into a point-by-point list of all of her various imperfections; I just can't figure out, in general, what's so awful. I'm even more puzzled about how this seems to bleed over onto the other Ranters, who as far as I've seen so far are about as collectively threatening as a freshly baked apple cinnamon muffin.

Not that you've mentioned the other Ranters. Just something I've noticed. In any case, the blood feud is tongue-in-cheek - except for the part where she's not aware that she's in a blood feud. That part's true.

In any case, if you have reason to think she's killed before, you should tell me, 'cause I might still have time to call this all off.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

You failed to mention the mosquitoes! But my refutation of your entire thesis rests on one fact: outdoor plants get water from the sky, not from me. I've killed all kinds of houseplants, including an aloe, by forgetting to water them. I'll stick to outdoor gardens. At least if something dies, I can say it wasn't my fault.

Anonymous said...

Well, whether Amy notices you or not, THIS Ranter sure does and loves this description of us: "about as collectively threatening as a freshly baked apple cinnamon muffin." Next time some hort guy or marketing guy or thin-skinned designer guy (why always guys?) I'm quoting YOU. And thank you for NOT thinking we four are ONE PERSON. How hard is that to figure out? Apparently VERY.
As for your list - who can argue with it? Gardeners are nuts and you've nailed us.

themanicgardener said...

Okay, now, as I recall it was what, two, three, days ago that you spent a charmless day or two in the emergency room from what was at least in part heat stroke--and it's the heat you want to complain about with outdoor plants? How hot did you say that greenhouse was--well over a hundred?

Doesn't wash, Mr.S, doesn't wash at all.

(But the rest was great and all of it was funny, as usual.)


mr_subjunctive said...


Okay, Kate, touche. I will defend myself only by noting, one, that it also gets warm outside, even if not quite as warm (with the shades pulled in the greenhouse, the actual temperature rarely hits 95F/35C; it's just that the humidity can be anywhere from 60-90%, and the air is always very still compared to outside, so the heat indices are often in the 140-160F (60-71C) range.), and two, that my brain may not be functioning on some of the higher levels still because of Monday & Tuesday. Standing in the sun, outside, on a humid and still day can be just as bad as the greenhouse, though. It's just not as consistent.

mr. mcgregor's daughter:

Skipping the mosquitoes was definitely an oversight on my part, you're correct. On the watering thing, though, nature is sloppy, and it seems like you're as likely to get too much or not enough water as you are to get a plant-sustaining amount. Being Iowan (by birth, place of residence, and also temperament), I feel I know a little something about getting wrong amounts of water from nature. Though point taken that it's nice not to have to think about it most of the time.


I thought you'd like that. I think for best results, it needs to be delivered by a six and a half foot tall drag queen in an evening gown, but go with what you have.

themanicgardener said...

Oh, I want six-and-a half-foot tall drag queen in an evening gown! Is he for rent? (Is he for real?) When I first got here to Montana it seemed so _tame_. I mean, I went about the streets aching to see a blue streak in hair, a pierced eyebrow, anything. (It's loosened a little even in the past 7 years--) I knew your guy back in Minnesota (you know you're in the stix when Minnesota is more cosomopolitan) though he went in more for skirts than gowns. Wow, didn't see all that coming. Duck, it's coming your way--

mr_subjunctive said...


I don't actually know one at the moment, no, but I'm sure there's one out there somewhere. RuPaul is supposed to be 6'4" (193 cm): given high enough heels, I'm sure something could be worked out.

Anonymous said...

YES times ten. And the damn mosquitoes. And the club meeting. And you can't outdoor garden at night. (anyway I can't... just can't see what I'm doing.) And you couldn't see that six and a half foot tall drag queen well enough to be appreciative.
-perL, whose blogger password has disappeared......

Anonymous said...

EXACTLY - I can't even figure out what she hates about indoor plants. Not that she's actually "offended" me in the traditional sense, but it irks me to see someone list ten reasons why someone hates my hobby. She can hate if she wants - it's her opinion, but seeing as most of her reasons were weird anecdotes ("there's no good place to put a houseplant" or "houseplants that grow too fast are frightening"), weird opinions ("I'm opposed to putting plants in pots" and "houseplants are boring horticultural cliches"), or just wrong ("interesting ones are too demanding" and "there's no such thing as a drought-tolerant houseplant"). She also contradicts herself - saying a plant that doesn't grow quickly or thrive outdoors is depressing, yet she can't be bothered to dust or water it. Is she being compassionate for plants or is she above caring for them? I think she's just being polemical. I also find that most houseplants, being tropical, are WAY more interesting than the damn violets and shrubs I see outdoors everywhere in the US.

Again, I'm not hating because she's hating on my hobby - to each his or her own. It's just that she's so wrong about indoor gardening I can't see how she can stand the outdoor kind either.

The other Ranters are even worse - they're kind of like YouTube comments. "HUURRR YEAH HOUSEPLANTS SUX I THREW MINE AWAY!"

mr_subjunctive said...

Hmm. Well, I have to agree that most of the reasons in Stewart's post don't really stand up to any kind of real questioning, though this is maybe asking too much. I mean, one's reasons for doing or not doing something are one's own reasons, and don't necessarily have to make sense to somebody else. So it's not that that got me riled up about the list.

What got me riled is that I can't decide if she's serious about it or not. About the time I decide that objecting to houseplants on the grounds that you have to dust them is far enough over the top that it must be a joke, I'm reminded that there have been other comments at GR about the overall abiding hatred for houseplants and then I'm not sure anymore. I'd sort of hoped that maybe posting this would at least give me an answer to whether it was a joke (in which case, okay, though not very funny) or dead serious (in which case much funnier and weirder). So far, nothing.

At least one of the other ranters (Michele?) has recently posted about African violets, though, so I know they're not all entirely hard-core anti-houseplant activists. Though she did so sort of apologetically, and maybe afterward they took her back behind the building and roughed her up to teach her a lesson. You never know.

Greenbelt Community Garden Club said...

Hello from GardenRant, again. We do have ONE lover of houseplants - Eliz in Buffalo. My own contribution to the discussion was to say that MY houseplants are little better than fake... because I'm so shitty at taking care of them.
Hey, I'm ALL about to each their own - indoors or out, veggies, ornamentals, etc etc.

heather said...

Hello, I came across your blog by accident. Your top ten made me laugh so hard because I can totally relate to what you wrote. I have a mild love affair with houseplants and I'm glad to know that there are others out there too.

Anonymous said...

I'm a plant-lover. Period. And I seem to come from a family of plant-lovers. Whether inside or outside, so long as they're leafy, plants are a passion. The Canadian growing season is bloody short and anything that makes it longer, (such as having plants indoors), is viewed as a godsend.
Any gardener who attempts to divide gardeners into indoor and outdoor camps just to fuel their own conceit is only serving to shoot themselves in the foot.
This lady sounds to have shoes like sieves 'bout now.

Kenneth Moore said...

Hm, I agree with the last post... I indoor garden outdoor and indoor plants, because I couldn't wait for Nature to get her act together and get hot. Even in the humid, hot jungle of DC, winter sticks around for a few months.

Also, I don't even have a patio, so outdoor gardening is kind of hard.

ANY gardening at all, that's where it's at!

Anonymous said...

I naturally have a green thumb, but I'm so sick and tired of contending with birds every season. My wife and I have been combing through an endless catalog of perennials and annuals, most of which will eventually become mutilated by either birds or neighbors. We're better off having a wide variety of houseplants where we know they'll be left unscathed and untouched.