Garden Writing I Dig:
An Obituary and a Parade of Uglies



On the heels of our recent rants about bland, uninspired garden writing, I offer a couple of examples that got my attention quickly and held onto it til the very last word.

The very important and influential Marc Cathey died this week and news accounts can easily go the route of resume-writing, but not at the keyboard of Adrian Higgins.  He immediately lets us know that Cathey was "flamboyant" and describes a scene I’m sorry I missed:

Before the dawn of PowerPoint, he would extol the virtues of plants using multiple slide projectors, soundtracks, and, on occasion, smoke machines, confetti and other special effects.  "He got people wowed up because of his ability to tell stories and to bring life and drama into everything."

Oh, to have been wowed up by Marc Cathey, who, it turns out, teamed up with Oehme, van Sweden and our new friend Kurt Bluemel to popularize the perennials and grasses of the New American Garden and natural gardening in general.  He also created the heat zone map and preached about the need for gardening in everyone’s life.  I’m wowed just reading about him.

Don’t miss the stories of his Miss Nannie back in North Carolina, the grandmother who inspired him to garden.

Not me!  And Billy Goodnick even has a blog category ‘Ugly" for articles like "Ugly is in the Eye of the Beholder".  Great use of photos to make interesting points, not just show prettiness.

Cathey photo via the American Horticultural Society [pdf].  Juniper photo by Billy.Juniper1


  1. Re. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder:
    O.K., let’s review: We all want low maintenance, eco friendly landscapes, right? If the homeowner in the “Juniper lawn” photo isn’t into “gardening” at the level we wish they were, who are we to criticize their successful low maintenance (buzz sawing it into shape once or twice a year), sculptural choice of landscape? It beats a weekly mowing, over fertilization, pesticide applying, plant homicide approach to lawn care by someone not necessarily interested in landscape design. I’m just saying…

  2. Since that juniper lawn is in California, I can tell you with some confidence that a crew of plant janitors shear it once a week, every week, with gas-powered hedge tools and blow away the clippings with gas-powered leaf blowers. The smell will be nasty and the din will be horrific.

    Also, that juniper lawn is probably infested with imported black rats, the kind that carry bubonic plague.

    It’s not just ugly. [/rant]

  3. Matilija: Thanks for the rebuttal. You are absolutely correct about the environmental impact caused by the probably maintenance regimen for the junipers. That’s the way it’s done, even here in the little paradise of Santa Barbara.

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