Hiaasen is going to regret messing with garden columnists

Erin Schanen


Carl Hiaasen’s final Miami Herald column was published last week. I didn’t read his column often, but when I did, I found a cast of real-life characters, the kind that are only found in south Florida, New York City and Chicago, engaged in a variety of misdeeds and the occasional noble pursuit. Regardless of the subject, Hiaasen always made his opinion perfectly clear, no waffling allowed. He explained that his approach was that if he wasn’t making someone mad, he wasn’t doing his job.

That kind of approach is what makes a great opinion columnist. I suppose Hiaasen would be happy to know he struck a nerve with me in his farewell column.

 “Show me a columnist who doesn’t get hate mail, and I’ll show you someone who’s writing about the pesky worms on his tomato plants,” he wrote.

Pardon me, but I think Hiaasen just threw garden columnists under the bus. All 10 or so of us.

The feedback on this column has been generally positive, but I’m here to prove that garden columns are not all sunshine and roses. Well, that’s actually exactly what they are, but garden columnists can offer controversial opinions too.

So here are some of my unpopular opinions on gardening.

• Jumping worms are completely evil, but all earthworms are overrated. None of them are native to North America and there’s an argument to be made that they do more harm than good.

• ‘Stella d’Oro’ daylily is horrible. It is said to have been the first reblooming daylily, and I can only assume that led to its near ubiquitous presence in every big box store parking lot, new home and street island planting. If you really want a reblooming daylily, and I’m not sure why you would, there are many other varieties that are better in terms of both looks and performance.

• Excessive use of wood chip mulch is an addiction worthy of a Mulchers Anonymous group. Year after year, gardeners buy mulch by the dump truck and pile inches of wood chunks on their gardens. Sure, it suppresses weeds, but over time it creates an impenetrable mat that stresses plants. Dyed red mulch is a sin, and I have nothing more to say about that.

• You’ve heard of the “Thriller, spiller, filler” adage for container planting, right? Great. Now forget it, because it’s hogwash. The marketing genius who came up with that catchy rhyme was undoubtedly trying to get people to try to grow something other than a dracaena spike, geraniums and vinca vine in pots. Although that was a worthwhile effort, it created a whole new monster, once again urging people to take a formulaic approach to container gardening. If plants look good together and need generally the same conditions, put them in a pot together. Or put just one plant in a pot. Stop worrying about marketing rules.

Hiaasen has retired from the newspaper business, but he’ll continue to write his wickedly funny novels, featuring characters only slightly more absurd than (and sometimes more than a little similar to) the public figures he wrote about in the Herald. Everglades National Park, along with its flora and very reptilian fauna feature prominently, and you never know, the novelist might find himself in need of some flora-savvy fact checkers. I bet he’s regretting crossing the garden columnists now.

Hate mail may be sent to erin@theimpatientgardener.com.



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