Saturday, June 12, 2010

Yo! Germinatrix – Here Ya Go…

Here’s something I’ve never done before—use my blog to respond to comments at Facebook. I need space and a few of the tools that Blogger gives me.

I’m here because I need to ‘splain wazzup. I’ve been good-naturedly called on the carpet for being what amounts to a wuss, a flip-flopper, a blade of grass (I’m kinda partial to Muhlenbergia pubscens, but had trouble with it rotting out at the crown, but I digress) that bends with the wind.

“Nuh, uh!” I reply!

[Author’s note: You might want to click away from this page now. This is going to get messy (it’s Saturday night and I’m not going to fine-tooth edit) and it’s probably of no interest to more than a handful of people. I’ll be pimping it around at Facebook and Twitter, so you can always pop off and find it later. No, I’m not trying to get rid of you; I like you—I really do like you. I’m just showing a little respect for your time and sensibilities.]

And we’re offfffffffff…..

Quick history: I do a shtick I call Crimes Against Horticulture (CAH). Anyone who follows my blogs or knows me from social media is in on it—pictures of bizarre, f'ugly-in-the-eyes-of-this-beholder-things that people do when they butcher their trees and shrubs, accompanied by my snarky comments.

Long story short(ish): Joe Lamp’l, creator and host of the new PBS sustainable gardening TV show, Growing A Greener World, wanted to have some fun with a pruning episode, so he invited me to meet him in L.A. this week to do a segment based on Crimes Against Horticulture. Am I stoked?

Joe figured we could have some fun, while at the same time passing along a useful message about selecting the right plant for the right place. The 5-minute tidbit ended with Joe and me standing at the base of a massive green cube of a tree I've dubbed Sponge Bob Square Tree. Bob was discovered by a fan of CAH who sent me a picture from his phone camera months ago. I was in awe! You’ll see why.

I forwarded the photo to Joe as an idea for the segment, got a thumbs up and headed to L.A. to scout locations.

One month later: We filmed our stuff last Thursday morning and had a blast. By that night, Joe had posted a picture at the show’s Facebook page with him and me standing in front of Sponge Bob. Comments flooded in.

Ivette Soler left some words, too. Ivette (aka The Germinatrix) is a delightful, passionate, funny (in a slightly Pythonesque sick and twisted way that I totally love), talented landscape designer. After a few years of reading each others tweets and blogs, we met this spring at the SF Flower & Garden Show. I love this lady and enjoy her wit and design eye.

What follows is a thread that starts with my first post and caption of Sponge Bob at Facebook, then an FB post with a pic from my recon trip, and finally Joe’s Facebook post.

[End of history lesson]

Andrew Cheeseman (you might know his wife, of Christy Wilhelmi, alias Gardenerd) sent me this photo of Sponge Bob. It’s not exactly hi-res, but I had a good idea what I was looking at.



My caption: “My quest for the perfect Crime Against Horticulture is now complete, thanks to Andrew Cheeseman, hubby of Christy Wilhelmi, alias Gardenerd. I don't yet know where this resides, but somewhere in Los Angeles, George Jetson's gardener his hovering above this tree, assuring that the top, sides and bottom are laser straight. Actually, I do appreciate the effort and finesse of the work. But it's still SOOOO FREAKING WEIRD!!!!”

[Link to FB post]

Ivette: One point to you—I start by calling it the “perfect crime,” most definitely categorizing it along with all the UFO-inspired junipers I bitch and moan about. That said, as you can see, I almost immediately soften (not in an erectile dysfunction way) and admit to appreciating the effort and finesse.

See, here’s the deal. Snark aside, I’m a very fair-minded guy. It probably comes from being of Vulcan parentage and being born under the sign of Libra. Even when I see a mind-numbing example of bone-headed horticultural acts, I understand that there are a whole lot of complex reasons for the act of butchery.

My Facebook friends’ comments for this photo ranged from humorous to shock to unabashed appreciation. I weighed in with this reply:

“I didn't sleep well last night. Visions of geometric shrubbery danced in my head. I'm soooo conflicted about this one: On the one hand, appreciation for the technical skill; on the other, confounded why someone would go to all this trouble, waste of resources, generation of greenwaste, consumption of fossil fuels and the noise and pollution.”

My bad. I made an unsubstantiated assumption that they were using environmentally harmful methods to maintain Sponge Bob. (Not very Spockian of me.) Turns out, after speaking with Mrs. Vasquez in my mangled Spanglish, I was wrong. Her hubz does the whole thing from a ladder with loppers and pole pruner--no gas, no fumes, no racket. I’m not sure if he composts the litter.

After my pilgrimage to L.A. to seek out Sponge Bob and see him in person, I posted a better photo...



...and included this comment…

“I'm actually here! If ever the letters O, M, F (especially F) and G belonged together, this is that time. You can keep Cheops' pyramid. Behold Sponge Bob Square Tree, soon to appear on Growing a Greener World.”

Though the caption can be taken as something other, the OMFG was an expression of awe, of ending my quest. It’s not a dig, since I go on to compare it to one of the Wonders of the World.

Link to second FB post]

So then Joe posted his thing on Thursday.



His caption:
“So here's how our morning started; Billy Goodnick taping a segment on crimes against horticulture and then, we get to meet Sponge Bob Squaretree in person. You never know who you're going to meet out here in L.A.!”

There’s a lot of chatter in the comments section and then it happens: The saloon doors swing open, the piano player stops just before the 8-bar turn-around going into the bridge of Monk’s Straight No Chaser, customers dive under tables, and Ivette ambles in, spurs jingle, jangle, jingling.

[Ivette's comment] I always thought "Crimes Against Horticulture" meant just that - that Billy was pointing out crimes against horticulture. He states that he doesn't like plants that are altered by shearing and pruning and that proper choice of plants is crucial so that excessive shearing doesn't need to happen. I always LIKED this tree…but was under the impression that Billy didn't and considered it a "Crime" ... what's with the switch-a-roo?...C'mon, Billy - what happened?

In a later exchange…

[Me] Ivette: read my original FB post about Sponge Bob. Never was heard a discouraging word.

[Ivette] OMFG! The "Cheops" comment! Come on!!! You are always so on point Billy!!! You KNOW what you meant ... the subtext was clear!!! I say snark away - but don't back off! We need our snarkers to HOLD THE LINE!!! …So what IS your position on excessive pruning? Maybe I have misread your mission statement, Wise Guy!!!

No switcheroo, my lovely. Per my previous testimony, I might have been conflicted about it, but I was far from ripping it a new orifice. As for stating that I don’t like altered plants, that’s still the case in my own design work and the gardens I’m attracted to, but I’m not opposed to pruning plants, with a few provisos:

ONE: Do it in an environmentally aware way, preferably without gas-powered tools, assure that the greenwaste doesn’t go to landfill, and eschew toxic products.

TWO: Use some artistry rather than the Random Form Generator app on your smartphone.

THREE: Use pruning methods that are appropriate to the specific growth habits of each plant. My Horticratic Oath says “do no harm.”

Here’s how Ivette and I left it at Joe’s post. I didn’t want to bog down his FB page any more, so here we are.

[Me]: gimme a day (too much going on right now and I'm writing from my phone while driving and deep-frying chicken) and I will reply at my blog or FB. I don't wanna weigh Joe down with this. I think you'll be good with my reply.

[Ivette] Wise Guy, I'm good with you ANY way - you know that! Now go handle your chicken!

[Me] NOW look what you did! Made me laugh so hard I dumped the boiling oil. I'm looking forward to putting this into written word.

Ivette’s possible double entendre aside, it was all good-natured fun, but I figure I needed to address her points. And I enjoy having the opportunity to clarify my thoughts for myself.

I think I’m done. Did anyone other than Ivette make it to the end?

Growing A Greener World website
Germinatrix blog
Gardenerd blog

8 comments:

Claude said...

the first thing I thought when I saw that pic was that the Borg had landed... Resistance Is Futile!

Still, it's nothing compared to the beer can garden.

later - Claude

Joe Lamp'l said...

I did, and I appreciate your efforts Billy to clarify this CAH issue as it relates to Sponge Bob Square Tree. I too have been grappling with how am I gonna "fix this" so viewers understand we were not dissing on this tree. The fact that it fits into our segment you and I did together would be confusing. Yet we say nary a disparaging word about it and in fact, I shoot a quick, 30 second "come to the camera" piece that will appear during the end of the show credits to clarify my position that we appreciate how they maintained this tree without the use of electric equipment, etc. I think Billy and I both had a new appreciation for Sponge Bob Square Tree (and BTW, that nickname is just catchy, there is no negative association with it), after talking at length with the homeowner and understanding the labor of love that goes into keeping it looking this way.

Would Billy or I have a tree like this in our design? No, but as has already been said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Thanks again Billy for taking the time to nicely lay this out.
JL

Germi said...

Wise Guy, you have made your stance clear, AND made me laugh (How did you know I had spurs?)

I think "Crimes" is a great, controversial project - you are taking risks here - some people won't like the snarkiness and some will love it (you KNOW where I stand!). I DO think that your position should be clear and consistent, which it is - you DO say what you mean. I read a disparaging subtext where none existed, and then was disheartened by what I saw as backpedaling.
Thanks EVER so for taking the time to clear it up. And on a side note, I think showing instances where "Crimes" can actually work is cool. There are crazy pruning situations that become fine art! And you always make it fun... in true Billy Goodstix fashion!

I feel SO listened to and considered and taken care of - shucks...
... and excuse me - "possible" double entendre? Ahem. You know me better than THAT! ;-)

XOXOIvette!

Pomona Belvedere said...

Well, taste is a personal thing: I support your right to support that.

I think the thing that strikes us plant-lovers as weird about these topiaries is that it's an attempt to make a plant into a thing. A decorative thing, but a thing.

Debra Lee Baldwin said...

Southern CA is plagued by poodled shrubs deprived of their natural growth habit by homeowners who hire a phalanx of gardeners to come biweekly to engage in time-consuming shearing, followed by loud leaf-blowing. That said, there are always exceptions, both practical and artistic. Sponge Bob isn't my taste, but if the homeowner is doing it with the intent of whimsy and to make a sculptural statement---perhaps even to create an LA landmark (which Billy and Joe are helping to make happen)---I respect that.

MyPlant said...

I love this! I feel guilty now in a good Irish Catholic way of course. Last week I saw a crime against Horticulture and I didn't bring it to Sherrif Billys attention or whisk out my IPhone and shoot it. I don't see the Green Cube as a crime coz it's living and nobody has killed it yet. What I did see were plastic replica topiary Buxus in plastic potsimpersonating plants. That's Criminal and I am going back to shoot them!! Thanks for reminding me Billy, Germ and Joe.

Pat FitzGerald

laura said...

You guys crack me up. Gotta ask, does there need to be dogma in gardening? Or is it more important to spreading the love of gardening?

A person who hands prunes such a creation must love gardening.

Maybe it comes down to self-expression. I think that's important to maintaining a love of growing stuff. Could self-expression be where the gray area exists?

"Meatballers" probably aren't expressing their deepest yearnings for plant beauty when they shear plants into shameful forms. They're probably copying neighbors or cousins.

The plant artist behind sponge really wasn't copying anyone, no? Love to you both.

shannon said...

U r just 2 funny.