February 2, 2007

Hand me that pick ax, I need to trim the roses


You gardeners would cringe if you could only see how plants are handled here in La Ceiba. I know I do all the time.

We have had a worker here for a couple of weeks who is moving some plants for me. Frank has done some others and seemed to know a little bit about it so I felt comfortable to let him do his job.

EtlingeraMangled Etlingera roots

I just went out to check and found Frank using a pick ax to remove the plants! A pick ax! The plants barely have any roots left. Some of the tubers are mangled and shredded.

EtlingerA clump of Etlingera that I saved from the pick ax.

When moving a plant, good gardeners generally dig around the plant leaving as big a root ball as possible so as not to damage too many roots. Then they cut underneath with a shovel and gently lift the plant, root ball and all.

Here they cut off all the roots within one inch of the stem with a shovel and then pull it out of the ground. That is when they aren't using a pick ax. If it is a small plant, sometimes they just jerk it out of the ground, leaving all the roots behind in the soil.

DieffenbachiaAnother group of plants was in his way, so before starting apparently he macheted those and then ripped them out of the ground. Luckily it was a Dieffenbachia which readily roots from stem cuttings so I saved these for replanting. They don't need roots to grow, although it will be a few months before they look like they did before.

The frustrating part is that, in a way, these workers are right. Most of these plants will recover and will grow just fine. I just can't stand to see plants mangled and mistreated like this! And the recovery period from transplant shock (more like transplant terror) will be much longer. I've always felt that plants, like people, react better when you treat them nicely.

Another frustrating thing is that most of the workers don't want to listen to me. They assume that I don't know anything about gardening just because most people who can afford a garden wouldn't be caught dead getting their own hands dirty. It's kind of a class thing. Poor people garden. In general, rich people don't. They hire people to do that.

[Disclaimer: I'm not rich! All (north) Americans are assumed to be rich, and I guess stupid when it comes to any kind of manual labor.]

So when I try to explain how something should be done or a better way to do something
(for the plant!), they always insist, "No. This way is better."

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