Confessions of a Curmudgiculturist

I never set out to become a curmudgiculturist, but here I am. Sixty-one years into this game of life, forty-three of it playing with plants, and most days I wake up feeling rather crusty. I grumble at the coffee maker. I gripe at my contact lenses when they refuse to go into my eyes. I get short with the cat when she sits by the food bowl, literally caterwauling, at 4am.

Still, I have my moment at the bathroom sink; splashing cold water on my face, looking at myself in the mirror, and thanking God for another day. I borrowed this ritual from the film, The Milagro Beanfield War…which I first saw in 1988…and I have performed it every morning since. This is my first confession.

My second confession is admittedly trivial and ridiculous. I can’t stand it when someone uses the word “Horticulturalist.” I contend it’s not an actual word. The word is, “Horticulturist.” My main problem with this is when well-intentioned folks politely correct me, as if I’m too thick to know the title of my own vocation. But enough on that…I shall continue this discussion with my Therapyist.

I fully expect to be banished from Texas for my next confession, so I will just go ahead and apologize before I even mention it. I love Henbit. I know, I know…it’s a heinous invasive weed that causes large, burly men to cry and gracious nuns to gather for novenas on the church house lawn. But it’s also a cute little plant that puts on pretty pink flowers in early spring when the bees need pollen. It’s easy to pull/hoe from beds. It goes away by mid-May and life moves on. I also contend that a solid field of bright pink Henbit is almost as pretty as a meadow of Bluebonnets. (Lord help me, I see an approaching mob bearing axes, torches, and pitchforks as I write this.)

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While I’m here, let me state that the Oxford comma is correct. “The 1960’s were defined by hippies, mini-skirts and rock and roll.” Case closed. I also double-space between sentences…just looks better. (Oh my…another mob approaches. This time they are waving axes, torches, and AP Stylebooks.)

I confess that I want to like bottle trees more than I do. I wish they were neater and tighter and used only blue glass.

I confess that of all the magnificent wildflowers in Texas, my hands-down favorite is Basket-flower (Centaurea americana).

I confess that the best & easiest way I’ve ever gotten home-grown tomatoes was to raise chickens. I’d show up with a basket of fresh eggs and leave with a basket of fresh tomatoes. Boom! And I’ll feed those hornworms to my chickens.

I confess that I own about 200 more gardening books than I’ve actually read. I believe in the power of quick references…and, apparently, osmosis.

I confess that I have been forced to stifle unpleasant words when some office person tells me how lucky I am to work outside…in August. Same for folks who talk about the “cool breeze” on Texas summer evenings. My ear…

I confess that I haven’t always dug the hole twice as wide as the root ball when planting a tree.

I confess that I think carefully dividing perennials every year is a waste of my time. I just cut a few chunks off the edge of the clump and call it good.

I confess to absolutely loving a picture of me after we built a school garden at Colegio Nezaldi near Monterrey, Mexico back in 2004. Still got it!

I confess that nothing makes my day like a little chainsaw action.

I confess that I once played a recognizable version of Happy Birthday on a chainsaw. Well, I recognized it.

I confess that I absolutely love playing with that little ball of water that forms on Caladium leaves.

I confess that I like my color beds stuffed & puffed. I get no thrill out of looking at mulch.

I confess to acting like a pompous idiot when my Vigna caracalla finally came into bloom. Apparently, the intense fragrance is literally intoxicating.

I also confess that I took it personally when some botanist (I’m sorry…botanicalist) renamed Vigna caracalla to the much simpler and easier to remember Cochliasanthus caracalla. Thanks.

I confess that I never mispronounce Elaeagnus, but I always have to double check the spelling when I’m writing about it.

I confess that I’ve never had a white picket fence of my own, even though it’s the most useful garden element I know. Brand new, weathered, or old & rotting…always looks great. Everything looks good planted on it, behind it, or in front of it. (This one’s at Blue Moon Gardens.)

I confess that of all the great independent nurseries in Texas…and there are many…I have to say The Arbor Gate is my favorite. It inspires me in so many ways…makes me dream about the big things and treasure the small ones.

I confess that I have probably overused Shakespeare’s — “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin” — because it makes me feel good…and sound a bit scholarly.

I confess that I get overly emotional about fallen leaves because they are such a great reminder that our lives are but a season in the larger scheme of things. We are born as part of a community that is literally built upon the communities that lived before us. We grow and serve our community… weathering the storms, basking in the sun…in a beautiful struggle until our time is over. Then we return to the same earth that nourished us so that we can nourish others yet to come. Fallen leaves always remind me make my season count!


Just so you know…the Longview Arboretum & Nature Center is OPEN! Hours are 10am-5pm, Wednesday through Saturday; Sunday 12 noon-5pm. Come out and see us! Check out the progress on the Southern Living Garden and other areas of the Arboretum. Please observe social distancing at this time. And bring your own brand of Zen! 903-212-2181

I need a road trip! Let me know if you’d like me to come and speak to your group sometime. I’m low maintenance, flexible, and you know I like to go just about anywhere. No city too big; no town to small. Just send me an e-mail at and we’ll work something out.

Posted by Steven Chamblee
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