Monday, April 25, 2011

Plant snobs and sunflowers

In my horticulture studies I've encountered quite a few "plant snobs." Instructors and other students often share their disdain for certain plants, like hostas, daylilies, and arborvitae. "Those are gas station plantings," I've heard more than once. I love this article by potager gardener Anna Pavord on how to be a plant snob. Well, I am standing up to say - I LOVE HOSTAS! I even love daylilies so much I have Hemerocallis 'Joan Senior' in my front yard (daylilies in the front yard - gasp!) And my few arborvitaes create a nice backdrop for my peony garden, and attract lots of birds. Yes, these are common plants, but there is a reason so many people plant them. Hostas will grow in dry shade, which I have far too much of in my yard. And daylilies will grow anywhere. While these plants don't provide much as far as food for wildlife, they do provide cover. And none of these plants require lots of water (in fact, after the first year, I never water them at all), making them an eco-friendly choice. So, I say, don't worry about what people think about you and your plantings. If hostas make you smile, then by all means, plant more.

Another plant subject to snobbery is the sunflower. Maybe because it's the first plant any of us grew, excitedly trotting home from school with our styrofoam cup full of soil, a sunflower seed, and possibilities. Does a plant need to be difficult to grow to escape being labeled a "throw-away plant"? I love planting sunflower seeds with my little one, and watching her excitement as the small plants emerge, grow huge, then burst open in all their glory! Plant some sunflowers and watch as the honeybees and yellow finches call your garden home. 

Two projects utilize sunflowers to bring about planetary change. The Sunflower Project is "a global appeal to all people on planet earth concerned about nuclear war, pollution, violence, injustice, and threats to the balance of nature -- to plant at least one sunflower seed in a sunny place where it will be noticed. This simple, yet radical act of planting a seed will demonstrate the energy, simplicity, and practicality of nature." I like it. The Great Sunflower Project asks people to plant sunflowers that will help the honeybees that are in a great decline. They can then use data collected by people like us to produce the first real map of the state of the bees. A fun project for families with a bigger purpose. I like that too.

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