There are those among you who will say that the delicate tendrils of amusement provided by GardenRant as you sip your morning coffee should not be torn asunder by anything as brutish and non-chlorophyllic as our nation's summer-long debate over health care. Gardening is peaceful and tranquil, a respite from the monstrosity that is political discourse. A great democracy deciding how best to govern itself is exactly the sort of loutish neighbor one erects yew hedges to protect against. You will, of course, say as much in the comments.
But I beg to differ. Health care is of tremendous importance to gardeners in general–by this I mean people who make their living by growing plants or gardening–precisely because of the perils they face at their jobs: flesh wounds inflicted by spiders, thorns, and pruning shears; backs and knees in desperate need of an ice pack or a titanium replacement; the nagging fear that the flu will rob them of two weeks' work.
Garden writers face similar perils: having iron flower pots lobbed at us when we upset our readers, for instance. It's a risky business, one that calls for some sort of plan of protection. But what, exactly?
It's an interesting question. Some argue that insurance should only insure against the unexpected, the catastrophic, and that everyday disasters like sprained ankles and the flu and prescription refils should be paid for the same way we pay for car repairs and home repairs: without a call to the insurance company.
This is the sort of plan I have now–a catastrophic insurance
policy. I pay cash for doctor’s visits and save the insurance for the real disasters. But even though paying cash
for everyday medical treatment is supposed to make me more price-sensitive,
there’s one problem: the doctor doesn’t know how much anything costs. At the
auto mechanic or the veterinarian's office, I can choose the more cost-efficient way to
resolve the problem because the mechanic and the vet can lay out the options
along with their prices and let me decide. But there’s no menu of prices in the
So what if gardening came with insurance? Would I want catastrophic coverage or the full HMO, ten dollar copay variety? I wondered about this as I followed the news about the late blight epidemic on the East Coast. Wouldn’t it be nice if I had gardening insurance to protect me against the misery of a healthy tomato crop turned to black mush in its prime? I got to thinking: What kind of health plan does my garden need?
Catastrophic coverage. Well, yes, I’m absolutely going to need protection against such disasters as late blight, tent caterpillar infestations, plagues of locusts, and so forth. And I don’t want the insurance to pay out in cash, replacement plants, or expensive chemical treatments. If my tomato plants are wiped out by blight, I’d like a lug of Brandywines left on my doorstep in early October, when I still have time to enjoy them fresh and freeze a few for winter.
Hospitalization. Has your orchid refused to bloom for three years? Is your ficus tree feeling unwell? No problem. Send it off to the hospital and somebody with more skill and compassion will nurse it back to health. And if it dies, they’ll send you home with a younger, more beautiful version of the same plant and you’ll never know the difference. Try that with regular health insurance!
Prescription drug coverage. A ten-dollar copay for fertilizers, insecticidal soap, and truckloads of compost? Hmmm. Sign me up.
Durable equipment. I do like to buy durable equipment. I’ll need one new pair of pruning shears every three years, a new shovel every five, and replacement gloves once every twelve months. Benches, arbors, and trellises would have to be subject to pre-approval, I suppose.
Mental health and substance abuse services. One could argue that gardening is its own form of mental health treatment, and that substance abuse in the great outdoors is one of the sublime joys of the gardening lifestyle. So perhaps those services are already included at no extra charge.
Pre-existing conditions. Now, here’s the bad news. So much of what goes wrong in my garden is someone else’s fault. The poor soil was here before I was. The weeds come up on their own. The long shadows cast by the house, the passers-by helping themselves to flowers, the fog and the wind and the rain and the drought—all of this will, sadly, be excluded from any gardening insurance plan.
So there we are—the plan hasn’t even begun accepting applications, and it’s already in need of reform. Let the debate begin.