Human Flower Project
Friday, September 24, 2004
How can Philly’s flower judges go gaga over an invasive plant?
Philadelphia’s flower arbiters are ivy league. Their garden clubs and flower shows, some of the oldest in the nation, set floral trends for generations. But recent Gold Medal winners named by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society cast doubt on the sanity and—dare I say it?—the taste of this grande olde organization.
For, along with Korean fir and an orange variety of winterberry, the PHS chose Gelsemium sempervirens"Margarita” (Carolina jasmine) as a 2005 winner. We call it Carolina jessamine here in Central Texas. I think of it as cowboy forsythia, garish enough to survive our drought and alkaline soil. It’s everywhere.
This spring it was I who deserved the gold medal, for having hacked out a thicket of the stuff six feet high and twenty feet long. Already new clumps are fighting back.
So how could a plant that kindly Austin nurseryman Scott Thurman calls “a workhorse” captivate Philadelphia’s garden connoisseurs? Greg Grant, one of my favorite flower scholars, nailed it: “Gardeners want what they don’t have.” So while Carolina jessamine may deserve excitement and a little nursing in Zone 6, here in Texas, most of us can’t love it—it won’t go away.