A GROWING CONCERN: Keep your gardening rooted in science

JUST LAST WEEK, having gone to a magnificent Pacific Northwest ballet performance of Cinderella, my mind was on fairytale thinking.

Then two separate events led me to my own “self thinking.”

There was a post on Facebook claiming trees have a heartbeat, or so said a pair of European scientists.

They actually described the physics of the dark phase of photosynthesis and how liquids and nutrients flow up and down.

I found amazing the responses of various people to the belief of a “heartbeat” and a higher level of consciousness in trees.

The next involved random late night cable surfing and boom — there was a “ghost whisperer” talking about all the pain and fear she feels — feeling all the anxiety, knowing people’s exact ages but not knowing any names.

This made me remember a dream job I thought of 10 years ago.

If I ever wanted to turn to the magical, I could become a world-famous “plant whisperer.”

The early spring-like weather has exacerbated this sensation.

I’ve been called out to too many clients yards after they express concerns about the detrimental effects our unseasonably warm weather may wreak on their gardens.

You cannot believe the horrendous things I have seen done to plants in my 47 years of working in the horticultural and greenhouses trade — things deliberately cruel and consequences devastatingly brutal.

Shade plants burned to death after being placed in full sun.

Light craving plants planted in the dark beneath trees.

Pruning horrors as homeowners shred and butcher hedges or driveways in the name of a view or tidiness.

The drowning of plants, burying them to their necks in clay.

Fresh plantings “stoned,” weighted down by the rocks in un-amended soil.

Lawns savagely scalped week after week to show off the victory of a perfect “American lawn.”

As I go to clients’ yards, friends’ homes, parks and corporate grounds, I hear the plants voices as they scream.

I want all of my readers to know what I sense — even though all of us have killed numerous plants over many years — that plants hold no ill will or violent feelings towards their tormentors.

The plants realize this is the nature of things, the cosmic universe in action. Plants live and die, and many are killed by us.

If as a professional horticulturist, I had every plant I have ever killed, I would have the best stocked nursery on the North Olympic Peninsula.

You, too, would have quite a collection as well, I’d wager.

The nature of things are such that we humans kill our plants on a regular basis.

I could, if I wish, get a license from the state registering my business as “Andrew May — Plant Whisperer.”

There is no provision in the revised code of Washington that precludes that.

With my business insurance, I would then get my business license and of course, bond myself so I could advertise as a licensed, bonded and insured plant whisperer.

Many of my colleagues and friends have said I would be perfect in this scam — my expertise and experience give me a body of knowledge that could so easily be manipulated to hustle the naive.

After all, I would be licensed, insured and bonded by the state.

But alas, no.

I want to make it abundantly clear that this column is scientifically grounded — with its advice rooted in evidence.

This is precisely why you have not seen me write about compost tea — because there is no credible scientific evidence of its advantages.

In fact, prestigious horticultural universities like Cornell, Ohio State, University of Minnesota, Penn State and Rutgers have concluded by scientific testing that compost tea has no quantifiable advantage.

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof.

Nor is there credible evidence that marigolds are effective for mosquito control; planting by the full moon causes increased yield; praying for good weather causes increased crops; crystals in the garden make for better energy; Feng shui ensures better garden performance; or basis for a whole host of thumping, zapping, sonic mole devices that state benefits without a lick of scientific proof.

If you believe any of those items to be true, send your money to me instead.

Believe me, I will use it with far better results, such as beer or margaritas.

At least my garden will seem to double in plants as I drink more.

So here, in this forum, look for science as the driving force, not magical thinking.

That is all I will allow myself to write, although one has to admit to a certain fantastical feeling.

It is always nice to be open to all possibilities.

It’s just that I am driven by “the more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinary the proof.”


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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