Toad in the Hole

June 03, 2006

Arrogant Arborist: By Popular Demand

Here's a rant I had published in my hometown paper a year-and-change ago.

I do suspect, as Sara mentions, that the kind of slam-around-and-damn-the-consequences way that quite a few men learn to approach the rest of the world, when they deign to notice it, has a lot to do with idiotic work like this. "I got POWURRRR, I don' hafta be smart, durrrr!" The approach certainly isn't limited to men, but it's certainly tolerated for longer in them; cf. "Boys will be boys."

Maybe it's no accident that Plant Amnesty was founded by a woman.

On the gripping hand, I'll say right out loud that I owe my grasp of pruning mostly to Dennis Makishima, who's a man. So a/ it ain't hopeless and b/ there's no excuse.

Posted at June 3, 2006 04:47 AM


Well put. Thank you. I will spare you the details of the many atrocities committed in my sight (and worse, behind my back) by men with power tools. Suffice it to say that one landlord-hired man in April in Massachusetts attacking a dormant deciduous rhododendron with a power mower without asking first ("But it's dead, isn't it?") and another landlord-hired man attacking with a chainsaw the graceful lower limbs of an ancient ornamental cherry I had literally brought back from death's door ("So? They were in my way.") have left me a tad hate-filled, and I fear healing will come slowly, if at all.

People need to know it's okay to ask for instructions. It's okay to not know everything, to admit it, and to ask questions. It's okay for plants they don't own to get in their way if all they're doing is mowing the fucking lawn and they don't even live there; they can go around the plants. Asking questions and not throwing one's weight around as a motor reflex doesn't make anybody look weak.

It's also okay to go slowly when approaching other life forms. It's not inefficient to exercise care, nor is it all "empussified" (to quote a Twistyism) to take your time, especially when contemplating irrevocable steps upon said other life forms.

Geez. I'd think this would be obvious.

Seriously, though, I do love these posts. They are, as I said elsewhere, even more enjoyable to me than the series Gardens Illustrated ran a few years ago about pruning. I think I like yours better because one is just so unlikely to read about beating bad practitioners with sacks of wet shit in Gardens Illustrated, whereas to me this seems like an entirely reasonable response.

Also, thank you for the great article (poor plum!) and for Plant Amnesty. I didn't even know Plant Amnesty existed before today. We really, really need something like that around here.


Posted by: Sara at June 3, 2006 01:27 PM

I like PA a lot. Cass Turnbull, the founder, wrote a couple of very useful books, too. The one about yard and tree/shrub renovation is hard to find, but IIRC members of PA can buy it or mnaybe it's available on the site. Worth buying, very clear and practical.

And I share your rage about plant vandals. Unfortunately one of the worst that I've had to deal with is female. OTOH she tends to delegate the actual work to clueless and/or vicious associates. Don't get me started.

I suspect that a lot of assholes haven't quite figured out that a tree is actually a living thing. They think of them as chairs or hatracks or, you know, wooden objects. It looks to be halfway between complete narcissism and the sort of mindset that thinks milk comes from carton factories and carrots grow in plastic bags.

Posted by: Ron at June 4, 2006 06:52 AM