Thursday, October 4, 2012

Garden Literature Goes To Pot

Dear friends, just as there is no hiding the fact that ProfessorRoush is a rose nut, there is also no suspense to the revelation that I am an entrenched bibliophile.  My love of printed and bound material stretches far back into my childhood, to that happy time when I was still an "only" child and had to find ways to occupy myself.  While burdened now with middle-age, a sister, a wife, and children, I continue to feel comforted with the feel of paper and printed letters, the smell of new ink and glue.  I aspire to become the last person on the planet to purchase a Kindle or Nook.

My long worship of books and growing interest in gardening has, for the past twenty years or so, connected in that genre we know as garden literature, in the words of Penelope Hobhouse and Christopher Lloyd and Lauren Springer-Ogden.  I have discovered natural gardening with Sara Stein, delighted in the philosophical ramblings of Michael Pollan, grown old with Sydney Eddison and grumbled with Henry Mitchell.  I've plotted spousal demise with Amy Stewart and searched for old roses with Thomas Christopher. 

All that, I fear, is disappearing.  Literally, it seems to be going to pot.  Marijuana.  Mary Jane, reefer, and cannabis.  Call it what you want, I was shocked, visiting a large national book chain, to realize that what was previously eight shelves of fascinating garden literature is now four shelves, two of them composed entirely of books about growing, marketing, or self-medicating with marijuana.  I counted 87 different books on pot cultivation, with such imaginative titles as Marijuana 101, Organic Marijuana, Everything Marijuana, and the Marijuana Garden Saver.  The Big Book of Buds is not about roses, much to my chagrin.  Only one even looked mildly interesting to me, Super Charged; How Outlaws, Hippies and Scientists Reinvented Marijuana, probably because it was more science and history-oriented rather than a how-to-grow-to-get-high-at-home manual.  I didn't buy it for fear someone might see it laying around our home.

Can the drive for all these new books about marijuana really be sales-based?  I don't see these on the bookshelves of friends, sitting on tables of garage sales, or promoted in bestseller lists.  Perhaps the gray-haired members of my daylily club are only pretending to grow hemerocallis in my presence, but pass the potato bong when I'm not around.  Somehow, somewhere, are the same clueless editors and booksellers just surmising that these are what the public wants?  The same editors that contract good writers to produce lame and repetitious books of landscaping dumbed down for the homeowner, or to write the 200th tome cautioning against over-watering houseplants (which currently comprise the other two gardening shelves in the store)?  Would Scotts, Bayer, and other companies grow richer if they forgot about lawn care and rose chemicals and concentrated their marketing on hydroponic fertilizer and gro-lamps aimed to entice that little extra buzz out of hemp?

Don't answer that last question. It was rhetorical, not a suggestion for improvement.

I'm asking instead that all gardeners, from the lowliest bean planters to topiary artists extraordinaire, all of us vote with our pocketbooks.  Buy works authored by Mirabel Osler and Beverley Nichols and Helen Dillon and Henry Mitchell.  Read about the gardens of others, old and new, green and growing, famous or banal.  Become a fan of organic gardening, water gardening or prairie gardening.  Shun the Siren call of cannabis and read to garden for flowers and food! 

1 comment:

  1. I've noticed the same at our local chain bookstore. A pathetic offering of dumbed-down gardening books and pot growing guides. Oh, and for awhile, we suffered the indignity of all the gardening books being put on shelves at the back of the store, near the entrance to the restrooms. The placement did not invite you to linger and browse through all the books.

    I could add other names to your list of those to read... do not forget Elizabeth Lawrence!

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