The lone voice of horticultural reason

The 2000 Renegade Gardener High Spot / Black Spot Awards

Don Engebretson, The Renegade Gardener, Deephaven, Minnesota
Tugboat Woo-Woo Jones III, dog, Deephaven, Minnesota
Wendy Medland, gardener, Winnipeg, Canada
Anders “Chainsaw” Olafson, retired tree-trimmer, Ely, Minnesota
Bill Boudewyns, smart-ass Iowan punk kid with a fancy-schmancy job at a big-time publisher, Center City, Minnesota
Jeremy Powers, Webmaster extraordinaire, Minneapolis, Minnesota

High Spot: Perennial Grower of the Year
Vince Dooley, Dooley’s Gardens, Hutchinson, MN

For over 40 years, Vince has been growing and selling the finest chrysanthemums available to northern gardeners. I finally got back to Hutchinson in May, to interview Vince for an article I was writing on the subject, and was reminded of how important this man has been to the nursery industry, and to gardeners across the continent. Not only are his patented varieties among the hardiest mums on the planet, his wealth of knowledge is irreplaceable. These days Vince only does mail-order, primarily to nursery retailers, but next spring he’ll cheerfully fill your order, if you call for his catalog. Give his mums half the love and care that Vince does, and they’ll do fine.
Some year, inevitably, Vince will head up to the big harvest in the sky, and every gardener who grows Chrysanthemums will move up a notch. Dooley’s Gardens, (320) 587-3050.

Black Spot: Most Blatant Attempt at Making a Buck Off the Current Gardening Craze
Garden Music “Flower” and “Herb” CD Collection, Incentive Media, Ambler, PA

That’s right folks, from the same caring geniuses who gave us “Pet Music’,” a three-CD set to help alleviate pet stress and separation anxiety (I am not making this up), we now have the Garden Music’ CD set, over nine hours of “light and lively performances” of works by such public domain (meaning they didn’t have to pay anything for the jingles) heavyweights as Debussy, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Vivaldi. (Hmm, Vivaldi … let me guess.)
Incentive Media president Dan Rappoport is quoted in the press release as saying, “We believe we have found the right blend of relaxing, enjoyable, and inspirational music to accompany the country’s favorite leisure time activity. It’s music for a growing audience.” I’m not Rappoport, but I have a hard time believing this was uttered with a straight face.

What’s next? An herbal tea mix formulated just for gardeners? Oops! Dang! My fault, my fault, my fault …

High Spot: Best Landscaping
Minnesota Department of Transportation, St. Paul, MN

We smirk about MNDOT in the summer, every time we bottom out the Lexus in a pothole, and curse their name in the winter as we slide across black ice in the SUV. But give the gang over in St. Paul some credit: they know how to landscape. This fall, the drive from Wayzata to Minneapolis along 394 could have been listed in any “Best Fall Colors” guide published in the state. Get south of town on I-35 and the use of native grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and tree clusters keeps one blissful darn near to Albert Lea. Head north up through Hinckley towards Duluth some June, and the sight of orange hawkweed blooming sixty-billion-strong up the center median will make your jaw drop. They also do a super job of dead-on natural tree and shrub clusters in the island patches created by cloverleafs. Someone in St. Paul gets it, and is having a ball at the ol’ day job. Well done.

Black Spot: Worst Television Gardening Show
Rebecca’s Garden, syndicated, various affiliates

Slow-moving, trite, and wholly unwatchable, Rebecca’s Garden aims for the absolute lowest common denominator and hits it every time. It’s a pity — the host, a former Twin Cities weather person, is a smart, witty, attractive woman, and avid gardener, but she’s totally lost in this plodding production, written by some committee on the West Coast. If you’ve been gardening for more than ten minutes, you’ll pick up better horticulture tips from The Red Green Show.

High Spot: Best National Gardening Magazine
Taunton’s Fine Gardening

It started out being written by gardeners for gardeners, and though it’s gained some editorial polish over the years, it’s still the best all-around gardening magazine in America. I especially like the opening Tips section, where readers submit gardening techniques and discoveries they’ve made by trial and error. Only occasionally will one wince. Good artwork and great photography surround straightforward prose promoting common-sense gardening all along the way.

High Spot: RG Perennial of the Year
Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’ (Snakeroot)

Here it is, fall in God’s country, and of the eight varieties of plants in bloom in my garden, my far-and-away favorite is this one.
Click on over to Plant Spotlight to see and read more.

Black Spot: Worst New Gardening Product
The Stone Edge Border Stone, Ames-True Temper, Parkersburg, WV
All season long I felt sure the winner of this, the most coveted RG High Spot/Black Spot Award, would be an utterly vile product called the Typar Plant By Numbers Garden Fabric. For this product, manufacturers took plain weed barrier fabric and printed circles on it, so you can lay it out on the ground and know where to place the plants. “It’s time consuming to learn about all the plants that will grow and do well in your area,” stated the press release. “With Typar Plant By Numbers Garden Fabric, homeowners can create a beautiful garden with a minimum of time, effort, and learning on their part.” Whoo. Powerful words, making for a mighty powerful contender.

Then, unbelievably, this other product came to my attention at a trade show just three weeks ago, and stole the roses by a nose.

What we have here are PLASTIC ROCKS, you heard me, plastic rocks intended to be used as border edging, “easily installed and secured by 8-inch or 10-inch stakes. Variations in stone design also help create the look and feel of real stones.” Look and feel of real stones my foot. I’ve seen them, picked one up, and what they look and feel like is plastic rocks, each with a brick-smooth end, so that they tightly butt together in an endless run of mediocrity. What you have here is a product that would lower real estate values in a trailer park.

Don Engebretson
The Renegade Gardener