As much as I dislike fads, I think this is one fad that could have lasted longer that it did three years ago.
As much as I dislike fads, I think this is one fad that could have lasted longer that it did three years ago.
This illustration is relevant neither to the topic, nor to that really creepy rock band of the same name. Even though the band has been popular since I was in high school, all that I know about them is that I am none too keen on their music. Embarrassingly, I do not know much more about the topic, and it has been a hot topic much longer than I have been growing my vegetables.
Vegetables make no music of course. I just mean that I am no more familiar with contemporary cultivars of hot pepper than I am with music that I do not appreciate. I happen to appreciate some types of peppers, and some of them happen to be hot peppers. However, I have not bothered to get acquainted with those that are so ridiculously hot that I do not want to grow them.
Why should I? What are they good for? Why waste my time, limited garden space and other resources on something that no one wants to eat or add to any recipe? They are not particularly productive. If they were, they would only make more of something that is just as useless as the few that each plant produces. I can not even justify putting effort into finding a picture of one.
Those who indulge in this fad brag about it profusely. They post pictures of their few tiny hot peppers online, with sensational claims that there is nothing hotter. Some post selfies with their free hand dangling one of their weird peppers over their extended Gene Simmons tongue. Some even post videos of their drunken friends tasting their peppers, as if it can not be done sober.
I suppose that, regardless of how pointless it seems to me, it is one way to enjoy gardening.
Pluots, plumcots, apriums and peacharines! Who comes up with this stuff?! Aren’t good old fashioned plums, apricots, peaches and nectarines good enough? Who decides that these weird hybrids are somehow better than their parents? Some of them are actually quite weird, or downright ugly. Several do not even look like they would taste good. It may be an acquired taste; but I have all the good taste that I need without acquiring any more.
Some old classic cultivars (cultivated varieties) of fruit were develop centuries ago. More have been evolving from those ancestors since then. Some were intentionally bred from parents with desirable qualities. Others just grew incidentally where their seed fell, and were found to be somehow better than their parents. Some were merely discovered as natural occurring mutants, and perpetuated for their superior qualities. It is a slow process.
So, putting two different kinds of fruits together, or finding an aberration of a single type of fruit, is nothing new. Tangelos were created by hybridizing Mandarin oranges with pomelos or grapefruits. Ever-bearing ‘Eureka’ lemon was perpetuated from a mutant of the seasonally bearing ‘Lisbon’ lemon. This is how cultivars evolve and develop. Generally, newer cultivars become popular because they are somehow superior to their ancestors.
Yes, somehow ‘superior’ to their ancestors. Who decided that a hideous hybrid of a plum and an apricot was somehow better than either a perfectly good plum or apricot? Furthermore, what evidence was there for such a weird claim? Even farthermore (if that is a word) how and why do so many people believe this evidence?
I was still growing citrus (trees not fruit) back in the early 1990s when the ‘Cara Cara’ pink orange was popularized. Yeah, a ‘pink’ ‘orange’. It is really just a pink mutant of the formerly more popular ‘Washington’ navel orange. We could not grow enough of it. It was just too popular. Some people really seem to believe that it is somehow better than ‘Washington’ and other navel oranges. I can’t argue. They certainly know what they like.
To me, it has a milder flavor than ‘Washington’. Yes, it tastes about as bland as it looks; pink.
Back in the good old days, Kaffir lily, Clivia miniata, which is probably most popularly known simply as ‘clivia’, bloomed with big round trusses of exclusively bright reddish orange flowers. It was such an excellent color that no one thought to change it. Flowers of feral plants that sometimes grew from seed were potentially more orange and less red, but were flashy nonetheless. There was no need, and minimal potential, for ‘improvement’.
Then the allure of the ‘rare’ happened. Yellow Kaffir lilies had previously been so rare that very few had seen them. Once the rest of us became aware of their existence, many of us wanted them, only because they were so rare. However, after seeing them, some of us came to the conclusion that they were rare because no one wanted them when the species was first introduced, and cultivars with the best color were selected and perpetuated.
Regardless, yellow Kaffir lily suddenly became a fad. Traditional bright reddish orange Kaffir lilies became passe. All the while, those subscribing to the fad seriously believed that yellow was better and more desirable than reddish orange simply because it was so very rare. All the while, yellow became increasingly popular, increasingly available . . . and no longer rare. All the while, reddish orange became unpopular, uncommon . . . and rare.
So now what? Why is yellow more popular than reddish orange now? Yellow is insipid and pale. Reddish orange is vibrant and bright. Furthermore, yellow is so dreadfully common. Reddish orange is quite rare. According to the previous justification for the popularity of insipid pale yellow Kaffir lily, bright reddish orange Kaffir lily should be popular now, not because they are so much more colorful and appealing, but because they are RARE!
These are in Brent’s garden.
This is why I do not grow hellebores in my own garden. The specimen in the pictures above and below are about as good as they get here. Most are quite a bit worse. Some put out only one or two flowers. Some do not survive their first year in the garden.
No one seems to know why they don’t do well here. It might be the lack of chill in winter, although they do better in even milder climates. It might be the minimal humidity, although they generally do no better in the damp redwood forests where the specimen in these pictures lives. Those that might get too much sunlight do no better or worse than those that get too much shade. They are simply not happy here.
My solution to this ‘problem’ is to not grow them in my own garden. I do not particularly like them anyway. Even those that look ‘good’ look like huge African violets dipped in paraffin. Those in the landscapes that I work with now are the colors of worn vinyl upholstery of 1970s Chryslers. Yup, I will pass on hellebores. ‘Problem’ solved before it happened.
That ‘solution’ does not work for everyone.
Some landscapers get what they can from the few growers who will grow them here, and plant them in all sorts of landscapes that they just do not belong in. Some will do it because they read somewhere that hellebores do well in shade, which is technically true, but only in regions where other environmental conditions are appropriate. Some do it because they saw pretty pictures of them, and read a nice article about them in some gardening magazine that features such articles about what does well where the respective magazines are published.
Sadly, many do it because hellebores are a fad here, and something that many landscapers with something to prove like to brag about. They are like dawn redwood and unusual varieties of Japanese maple that are so often installed into inappropriate situations just so the landscaper can add pictures of them to their portfolios. Fortunately, hellebores merely struggle or die without causing any other damage to the landscape.
There are a few kinds of fads, and some of them actually make sense, but good landscape designers should use fads responsibly and with discretion.
Stereotypes can be such a bother. For the past almost twenty years that I have been writing my gardening column, many of those who read the column have been making assumptions about who I am and how I behave. I actually find much of the behavior that I should conform to be rather objectionable. Even the lingo would be awkward for me. I am a horticulturist, and if you must know, an arborist as well. It is my profession. I did not take an interest in horticulture because I retired or got bored with my primary career. Nor did I flunk out at everything else. I am not a garden guru, flower floozy or hortisexual. I do not crowd my garden with garden fairies, repurposed junk or rare and unusual plants. There is nothing eclectic or quaint. There is no whimsy or magic, and most certainly NO riot of color! Brent does not even flinch at my offensive racial comments.
Does anyone remember the yellow clivia fad? Everyone wanted yellow clivias in their own gardens because they were so rare, and so different from the typical orange. Does anyone even know what ‘rare’ means? When we all get them growing in our own garden, they are NOT rare! Has anyone tried to find an orange clivia lately? Yellow clivias had been rare back when orange was the more popular color, but only because orange clivias were the previous fad, and nurseries did not bother to grow the undesirable yellow clivias. Both yellow and orange are nice, but only if they happen to be the right perennial for a particular situation. They work nicely in spots that are too shady for other plants, and the bright colors are striking against the richly dark green foliage. However, they are not better than lily-of- the-Nile for sunny spots. I have grown more lily-of-the-Nile than I can write about, but have grown only one orange clivia.
The same goes for dawn redwood, or like landscapers with something to prove say, ‘Metasequoia glyptroboides’. They are nice trees in the right situation, particularly where redwoods would be nice, but a bit of sunlight is preferred through winter. However, that certainly does not make the right tree for every situation. I have worked with a few, but have never grown one in my own garden.
I loath Japanese maples! I do not mind growing them in the nursery, but I do not want to waste garden space on something so trendy. There are plenty of other more useful or prettier trees and shrubs. When I say that maples are some of my favorite trees, I mean ‘real’ maples, such as sugar maples and red maples. I know that silver and bigleaf maples are not very desirable trees, but they happen to be two of my favorites.
Being a good horticulturist is about knowing the many plant specie that we work with. Although silver maple happens to be one of my favorites, I have only been able to recommend it for just one application in my entire career. Just because it would be nice in my home garden, and I am willing to deal with the problems, does not mean that I can recommend it for other landscapes where others would need to contend with the problems. As much as I dislike Japanese maples, I have recommended them a few times for small spaces like atriums, particularly for clients who happen to like them. Unfortunately, they are more useful than silver maple. It is all a matter of knowing what specie are most appropriate for every application.