canada africa partner reservation Beware of plant shamers when posting photos of your garden

Beware of plant shamers when posting photos of your garden


Bridal wreath is a plant on the watch list, but still legal to sell in Maine. Shutterstock

Life was more fun before the internet. The World Wide Web has a number of advantages: Many people read this column online, and I use the Internet for much of my research. But the convenience of computers has stolen some of the joy from life, and not just because people spend too much time looking at screens instead of the world around them.

What bothers me most is that the Internet opens everything up to criticism, including gardening, a phenomenon some call plant-shaming. It’s what happens when someone goes online and posts photos of his or her gardens with, for example, butterfly bushes or bridal wreath spirea.

The response can be immediate. The gardener is desecrating the state with a non-native plant, which will deprive native birds, butterflies, bees and mammals of the nutrition and habitat they need, the internet trolls will say.

Both plants are legal to sell in Maine. There are 63 plants that are illegal to sell because they are not native and have the potential to overtake the landscape.

Butterfly bush is another plant on the watch list in Maine. Shutterstock

Bridal wreath (Spiraea prunifolia) and butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) are on the watch list, meaning they will be considered in about five years when the state decides whether to expand the do-not-sell list.

I consider both ‘grandparent plants’; plants that I remember growing in my grandparents’ yard in the 1950s and 1960s. They are beautiful and flashy and bring back fond memories.

Nancy and I don’t grow either, mainly because bridal wreaths can be a nightmare to maintain, but many of our friends’ gardens we visit often have them in prime positions, and we won’t urge them to pull them out . We have Spirea bumalda (Anthony Waterer) and Spirea japonica (Magic Carpet), which are also on the watch list. We are considering whether to replace them, but from now on we will keep an eye on them for possible baby spireas, which we will take out.

The harshest online criticism I’ve received came after a column I wrote in February about chaos gardening. It included a photo of our vegetable garden, which although not a chaos garden, is still a bit chaotic, with lots of flowers. The photo was taken during peak bloom of the bigleaf lupine, Lupinus polyphyllus, which is native to the US, but not Maine. It is an aggressive self-seeder and we have never planted it in our garden. It showed up and we let it grow, which shows how aggressive it is.

The native sundial lupine (Lupinus perennis) is so rare that it is almost non-existent in the state, according to National Park Service officials in Acadia. They also say that bigleaf lupine has some value in feeding pollinators and attracting hummingbirds.

Anyway, by the time the photo came out, Nancy and I realized we had too much lupine and pulled most of it away so they wouldn’t self-seed. (And I became somewhat immune to shame during my years as a government and political reporter, although in the pre-Internet era, shame took the form of letters to the editor, phone calls, and face-to-face interactions.)

While I was trying to decide whether to write this column, I received an email from a publicity representative for Natural Lawn of America, asking if I would like to do an interview with the company’s founder and president about the impact of yard shame ‘. It had been raining for a while and I had nothing to do, so I thought I’d make a call.

Philip Catron, who said his company has locations in Portland and Bangor, said the reasoning was that people could be embarrassed because neighbors and visitors might think their lawns looked bad. But he was open to the question of whether people might feel ashamed about having too much lawn.

“I believe the lawn should complement the landscape, not the other way around,” he said. He likes the idea of ​​clover and other flowering plants in the lawn, if people want that.

He pushed back against the idea that lawns are barren wastelands. He said grass releases a lot of oxygen as it grows, filters out pollutants and provides an ideal surface for walking and playing games. The company uses non-phosphorus fertilizer, which reduces water pollution.

My advice about attempts at shame is to ignore them. Yes, every garden should have native plants and some natural areas that are a little messy with stunted leaves that support wildlife. But lawns and non-native plants can also be part of the garden.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer who gardens in Cape Elizabeth. You can contact him at: [email protected].

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