Remembering Dave

     When I wrote my first blog entry, I was hell-bent and determined to get it online before the end of the year. Little did I know, that it would be dated about 6hr later…making my arbitrary, self-imposed deadline already missed.
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.
I hadn’t looked at my email or anything else–I was so going to get this blog out by 2013. As a result, I didn’t know that my friend had died that morning.
     I saw Dave about 10 days earlier, ending with that lame joke coworkers often use, “See you next year.” Except I didn’t and now I won’t.
     I almost emailed Dave the day after he died, with a picture of a ripe babaco I just harvested. Then I remembered–as soon as his name popped up–I remembered.
     After a monumental fail with that same babaco last summer, Dave and I figured out a ‘Plan B’ in the event that tree died, which trees do when you  separate them from the majority of their roots. Dave was going to help me propagate the tree, so even if it died, there would be others. But the tree lived, held on to it fruit, and flourished. It’s Dave that is gone. And I don’t quite know how to get my head wrapped around this fact. We were going to have a babaco party…what the hell happened?
He hated getting his picture taken. And he didn't remember this!

Dave during Cinco de Mayo, a few magaritas in. Photo by Terri.

     Dave was a wonderful plant dork. He loved plants–quite indiscriminately, I might add. He had a hard time saying ‘No’ to plants, or throwing plants away. As a result, his greenhouse overflowed.  There were always plants for secretaries, for faculty, for kids, or the college student who was homesick, or just broke up with a significant other. He provided plants for my daughter’s elementary school classes, for all sorts of outreach activities, and for anyone that needed one (whether they knew it or not!). He kept a supply of sensitive fern (Mimosa pudica) and burro’s tail (Sedum morganianum) on hand, along with bromeliads, patchouli, anything to grab a kid, and their attention.
     Dave was the type of person who helped you catch cockroaches for another friend’s child’s bug collection. Actually, to be accurate, he caught and bagged the cockroaches, and I just delivered them, trying not to gag, because cockroaches are pretty gross. He was generous and shared everything–plants, cockroaches, and mealy bugs.
     The mealybugs were funny, and are…were a running joke. Dave did actually share mealybugs. In fact, he donated them to students in my class who needed them for an assignment. I think one student acknowledged him in his write up with “Mealybugs generously donated by Dave”.
     Dave took in more stray dogs than anyone I know, although it was no where near the number of stray plants. I have this wonderful Philodendron squamiferum from Dave. It is actually my second from Dave. It was a replacement from one that had gotten unwieldy. A week later, he brings me this gorgeous, healthy, squat Philodendron, nothing like the spindly, etiolated, wind-whipped and ravaged one I gave him. Our conversation went something like this:
P. squamiferum
Me: “Dave, there is no way this is my plant. This plant looks good. Mine looked like shit.”
Dave:”Nope. It’s your plant…at least…it is genetically identical to your plant.”
     Unlike his plants, Dave was one of a kind. And he will be missed.
     This wasn’t on my list of blog topics. I planned to talk about the babaco… I gave this blog a tagline of ‘Flowers, fruit, food and f-bombs.’ Flu is the ultimate f-bomb. Please get vaccinated.

Do we really need another gardening blog?

Yes. Yes we do. We need a gardening blog that does not promote weird and ineffective methods to manage plant diseases or insects.  When a pathogen is wrecking my zukes, I do not offer them milk, or cookies, or a nice cup of chamomile tea.  To all the bloggers who say  “no to chemicals”, I reply “Um, water is a chemical.” So is fertilizer—organic and synthetic both are chock full of chemicals. In fact, organic has even more chemicals in their fertilizer, so…. So, I say yes to chemicals. In the battle for my tomatoes, “The price of liberty tomatoes is eternal vigilance.” That would be cultural practices. And chemicals. Lovely, synthetic chemicals, when, applied at the right time, stop the nasty little pathogens or insects from eating my plants.

Slide1I should also say “I love the smell of napalm daconil in the morning.” Okay, enough of the butchered movie quotes. I love gardening. But it isn’t just the process that I love, but the produce. And I take umbrage with any organism that gets greedy. I’m happy to share…to a point. A very limited point.

For the record, I do enjoy documenting when it all goes bad. And it goes bad. In the coevolutionary arms race between people, plants and pathogens, my money is on the pathogens. They outnumber us a trillion to one, and insects, outnumber us a few hundred thousand to one. They have us outnumbered, outgunned, and we are surrounded. And they use chemicals!

So should we. That said, we shouldn’t rely on them. That would be stupid. And we sure as hell shouldn’t abuse or misuse them. But, we have this industry in garden writing, I’ll call it the organic propaganda complex, which eschews any piece of garden management technology that occurred after 1870. And that is crazy. The Amish growers I work with are more are more progressive (way more progressive!). And that bothers me.

I hope it bothers you, too.

Sometimes, it drives me to drink, which is another topic I like to talk about. Alcohol, aka ethanol, is a chemical, too. I think it is one of my favorite chemicals. This is an instance where plants and fungi work with humans to create a beautiful thing-Alcohol. And when I drink, I need to eat. So it all comes full circle-Plants-Fungi-Alcohol-Plants. I hope you join me on this merry-go-round.

The Impolite Botanist

In ‘Cultivating Women, Cultivating Science,’ Ann Shteir highlights the role of John Lindley. Lindley was a complex character, whose contributions and role in botany (and the preservation of Kew Gardens) should not be overlooked. That said, the man had issues, as did many men of his day, and he was determined to separate “polite botany” that was performed by Victorian women of the upper class, and that was for “the serious thoughts of man”. I would have called this blog the Polite Botanist, except anyone that knows me would know it was ironic. So, the Impolite Botanist was born. Labor was only a few hours, and fairly bloodless. So far.