Baltimore Sun

Politics and plants: the Plant Delights Nursery catalog

The Plant Delights Nursery catalog is the gardening equivalent of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue: It arrives in the mailbox and everybody starts howling.

Plant Delights Nursery, located near Raleigh, N.C., is owned by Tony Avent, a bomb-throwing plant guy if ever there was one. And his catalog covers reflect that.

No pretty pictures of flowers for Avent. His covers are sort of political cartoons, complete with caricatures of political figures and names in the news that have no business in a garden catalog.

His spring edition just arrived, and tempers are rising, even if the temperature isn't.

The cover parodies the dating service as David Letterman, Tiger Woods, Jessie Jackson and Jon Gosselin, as well as South Carolina governor Mark Sanford are seen searching for plants with sexy names, such as "Japonica erotica" and "hot Asian vines."

Tiger has a golf club wrapped around his neck, and there are plants named for Tina Fey and Sarah Palin

I visited Avent's home and nursery this fall while in Raleigh for the Garden Writers Association meeting, and found evidence of his wit and whimsy everywhere in his gardens. His catalog covers reflect those qualities.

You'd think gardeners would be laid back enough not to get ruffled by Avent's politics, but the Plants Delight Nursery Web site received this kind of response:

I recently received your catelogue and want to express my objections and disgust with the "artwork" on the cover, which I judge to be bigoted, homophobic and in very poor taste. Please remove my name from your mailing lists and cease all communications with me.

Your company should be ashamed to distribute this disgraceful piece of garbage, and I will not stop here in broadcasting my outrage.

I guess that in the way the Sports Illustrated readers don't want sex mixed in with their sports, some gardeners don't want politics mixed in with their plants.