Copyright © 2005 Tammy Clayton
Morning coffee with internet has become a tradition of mine in recent years. The internet holds a much greater variety of information than newspaper, as well as less depressing things to read at beginning of day. No one should have to wake up with murder and mayhem in their face. A more pleasant mindset is found in waking to check weather, respond to a note from a friend, or reading about an exciting new plant. This morning I went to look for further information on a particularly nifty new plant on one of my vendor’s sites. Not finding that I clicked on another link that caught my attention in their Garden Writers section.
"Meatballs, Soapboxes and Tuna Cans", to be precise.
To a person who has never been employed within landscape industry, that phrase would bring to mind food. To insiders it would have a far different meaning. Of course where I worked it was baseballs and cubes. So this morning’s coffee was sipped between chuckles.
The author (head of sales) I would venture to say is younger than 50. Those over 50 feel that these balls, cubes, footballs or tuna cans are a staple that is required in landscape. For life of me I have never understood why we must have them. What is so necessary about using a shrub far to large for its placement and whacking off it’s limbs to shape it into an unnatural form? Off with its head! It should wear a size 42 long jacket, but we will force it to fit comfortably into a 10 short. It is interesting to note that also helpless poodles have also fallen victim to this manner of unnatural shaping and they are not plants. A month ago I witnessed a house cat shorn in this manner.
Mr. Woods, who wrote afore mentioned article, has developed opinion that it is an inherent human instinct. That we humans have so little that we actually have complete control over that our psyche has tuned in to helpless shrubs in our yard. While I giggled often while reading his words, it struck me that he has a good point. Why else would we so cruelly inhibit wild beauty of a shrub? In my early years I had no reason to argue with my father, professional landscaper as to why we must do this. Quite contrary, originally I assisted him in his whacking while trying to mimic his methods. It wasn’t until I started to design plantings and began to see plants for their own individual beauty that I began to question this barbaric practice. It has come to be a long standing argument between us over years. He refuses to budge from his Pro Juniper stance, insisting we simply MUST have prickly old things. Yews and Burning Bushes have their place and are quite lovely if not placed where they can be gently shaped not beaten in submission twice a season.
During my contracting days, I would arrive at a clients home for a meeting about a landscape facelift to find sad remains of Burning Bushes, Yews and Junipers that had resided along walk or foundation for decades. All of them left much to be desired in looks department after last harsh whacking. Common sense told me that following decades of cruel treatment, poor things have given up growing hair. Why should they continue to grow it if for past 25 years every attempt was quickly lopped off? How much squelching of creativity can a being endure before throwing in towel? In voicing this thought to successful lawyers and surgeons , I must admit I was rewarded with raised eyebrows. Why do we insist on planting a shrub that will grow eight foot tall and 12 foot wide in a 30 inch wide space and insist it does not exceed those confines? I am in agreement with Mr. Woods, it is one area to have complete control over in our lives.