I often wonder about those folks who toil in their gardens alone with just their plants and thoughts. Such non-joiners, scattered worldwide, just a few in every community, love gardening more than they do hobnobbing with other people.
You know the type. Loners, not lonely. Don’t join garden clubs, don’t throw around Latin names yet, horticultural correctness aside, have decent gardens. They typically grow all sorts, indoors and out, often with no apparent plan.
Unlike sports, symphony and drinking enthusiasts, they lack an appropriate venue for getting together. They may visit botanic gardens or go to an occasional library or Master Gardener lecture or plant swap and tune into safer broadcast programs. But mostly, they just putter along with an occasional chat with a fellow gardener.
Most are borderline plant hoarders, often with a trove of mismatched potted plants on the driveway, usually acquired on a whim or from a plant swap or gifted from a garden friend, waiting in a scraggly queue for a garden opening that may never appear. Sometimes those plants sit so long in their undeserved purgatories their labels have faded; sometimes the pots have been there so long the plants themselves are long gone!
Hmmm. Ought to be a word for that forlorn driveway garden. “Bibliomania” describes the acquisition of books that never actually get read. It’s been said to be kinda ecstatic that the buying of more books than one can read is “nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity. ... Even if unread, their presence exudes comfort and reassurance.”
Goes for plants, too. I’d love a word or term for those plants languishing sometimes in vain to be planted. A herbarium is a plant collection; the plants themselves are herbaria. And a hortorium is a herbarium specializing in preserving material of horticultural origin. What about those in ordinary gardens? How about hortaccumulata?
Back to the lone gardeners themselves. Over the years, I’ve asked garden and horticultural friends who have over-the-top gardens that we tend all by ourselves, is there a word or term for us?
The best response was from Bill Thames, an old friend from Laurel who coined D.I.G., an acronym for “determined individual gardeners.”
DIG’rs. I like that. Simple, accurate and to the point without making judgments. I mean, every established plant support group or garden club has at least one hardcore gardening member who doesn’t play well with others.
My horticulturist great-grandmother, a charter member and education and show committee chairwoman of her garden club from back in the 1930s grumbled about other members who didn’t actually garden much but were very good at the social aspects.
And Master Gardeners bemoan those many folks who start or even complete the formal training but give up over the rigors of learning a bunch of science, when all they wanted to do was learn better gardening. And who refuse to play the games inherent in being successful and active in an outgoing group.
I’ve belonged to and even been president of some plant societies, but to be honest when I get home I’m a somewhat messy cottage gardener who’d rather tend my stuff by myself, and please myself, than to compare notes and compromise on what and how to do things like someone else would prefer.
I have my plant stash, stacks of used pots, compost pile and well-worn tools standing ready by the door. I leave certain weeds as wildflowers and share everything with wild critters. And though I no longer attend club meetings, I swap plants with visitors. My garden is my venue.
That makes me a DIG’r, and it’s OK.
• Felder Rushing is a Mississippi author, columnist and host of the “Gestalt Gardener” on MPB Think Radio. Email gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.