The Impolite Botanist was started on the last day of 2013, by Janna Beckerman (a.k.a., the ‘Impbot’), so she would have a place where she could share what she knows about plants, but also, (finally!) her opinions*. It is a blog for people who like flowers, food (especially fruit), fungi, and the occasional f-bombs (that would be the impolite part). It is also for people who like plants, even non-flowering plants. The Impolite Botanist is in contrast to the ‘polite botanists’, who were Victorian women of leisure who studied plants. I’m guessing they probably didn’t cuss often, either. And I’m sure they didn’t have my creativity and flair with the swears!
In my professional life, I try very hard (and sometimes fail) to be professional, and provide unbiased information, mostly about managing plant disease. As a result, I bite my tongue. A lot. In those posts, newsletters, magazines, websites (whatever) I try to be “Fair and Balanced.” In this blog, I will probably be unfair and unbalanced. Deal with it. Comment. Post. And please feel free to call me out for it, too. It’s all good–As long as we don’t end up swearing at each other. That is never cool.
One reason for starting this blog is let people know, especially beginning gardeners, that it isn’t all bountiful harvests, Anne of Green Gables bullshit. Although there is bullshit. Or manure. Or chickenshit. Personally, batshit is my favorite, but I digress…Gardening is hard work. And there are thorns and weeds. And plants die. I will say it again: PLANTS DIE. Sometimes , when they do, it really sucks. But
If a tree dies, plant another in its place” Linnaeus.
Linnaeus rocked the binomial nomenclature—you know, the two part Latin name—but he obviously didn’t know shit about arboriculture. And we won’t even go into the plant pathology! This blog is all about the garden fail. Because they do, you do, I do and if I’ve learned nothing else, it is this: It isn’t the fail, but what you do after that defines you.
I grew up a suburban kid. We always seem to have a garden and a compost pile, and no, my parents were definitely not hippies. My Grandmama gardened, and so did her mom. I went to school, majored in biology, and being a dork, really got into fungi and dying plants. I graduated magna cum laude, kept on studying, and worked on a M.S. degree studying the chestnut blight fungus. From there, I did a Ph.D. on the fungus that causes rice blast. There was a brief foray into fungal pathogens of people, but that wasn’t fun, so I worked for the University of Minnesota Extension Service. It was a great experience, and I was so fortunate to get to work there, with some über-competent extension people, and great master gardeners. However, when a tenure track position opened up at Purdue, I applied. I had a child (and a plant habit) go support and feed. I’ve been in West Lafayette, IN, since 2005.
Since then, I’ve written approximately a gazillion articles in everything from Facts for Fancy Fruit, the Indiana Flower Growers Newsletter, the Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Lab Picture of the Week, the Indiana Nursery and Landscape Association Newsletter, the Ohio Florists Association, Greenhouse Grower News, American Nurseryman, Greenhouse Products News, a boatload of extension publications, yearly updates to spray guides…to more popular press articles, like the Preventing Problems with Plants, in The Miracle Grow Encyclopedia of Plant Care, and a chapter on low impact rose care. However, I am currently most proud of are the apps created with my friend and colleague Cliff Sadof (and the brilliant programming team at CERIS): the Purdue Tree Doctor (for iOS and Android), and the Purdue Flower Doctors (for iOS, for now, but coming soon!). One of the things I’m most proud of is that many of the plant disasters seen in the app occurred in my backyard.
I teach two courses, one for undergraduates on integrated plant health management, and another for graduate students, on plant disease diagnostics. I do research, mostly on how to manage the fungus that causes apple scab, an awesome project on morels, Phytophthora species (a common name, besides Phytophthora, would be so nice!), and whatever problem shows up.
I also have a life, with an amazing daughter, a cockapoo and cat. I like cooking for that amazing daughter, who has no love of gardening, but does like a lot of the produce. I like growing “unusual” things, and have currants, gooseberries, jujube, and Cornelian cherries in my yard. I guess I should confess at this point: I like plants, but I don’t get landscaping. You’ll see. Oh, and I like taking that produce and using it for cocktails, too. Finally, when I’m not gardening, or canning, I’m cooking or doing yoga. Or driving the kiddo to her next activity. It’s a full life.
*Disclaimer: This site is solely the work and opinion of Janna Beckerman as a private citizen, and has absolutely nothing to do with Purdue University.