Plants for the Grim Gardener

“Black Plants: 75 Striking Choices for the Garden”

By Paul Bonine

ISBN No. 978-0-88192-981-2

How’s this for two words you’d never expect to use together: black plants. No, not the oil-slick shrubs and trees that got major ink in the media when that pipeline burst in a residential area of Vancouver a few years back but actual healthy, thriving plants that just happen to be, well, black. And not the bark-black or brown-black of certain wall flowers or cedars, but the black-Black-BLACK of debt or death. Is there such a thing? Well, according to this surprisingly original gardening book there are actually 75 such things, each of which gets a colour picture, a paragraph and the moisture and light requirements it needs to survive. The Hillside Black Beauty bugbane, for instance, likes “part sun” and “light shade” and – perhaps given the stress of being the only black plant in a garden of rainbow colours – drinks a LOT of rainwater. The book goes on to say, almost with the same relish that Poe wrote about his raven, that the bugbane sports black “lacquered” leaves “as ornate as the carved designs on a piece of Moorish furniture.” As for why some plants are black, science says it likely has something to do with either compounds the plant creates to protect it from sunlight or some pigment-particular genetic trait. The book suggests that including a black plant in your garden can give the space the mystery and depth of a Dutch realist painting. I think gardeners are more likely to use big black plants to put a period on where their garden ends; kind of like Nature’s Edge. Regardless, whether you use black plants in your garden or put the book “Black Plants” on your coffee table you’re guaranteed a conversation piece. In Margaret Atwood’s futuristic “Oryx and Crake” much was written about the Chicken McNuggets of the future coming from a genetically modified headless bird. The idea of black plants is similarly sci-fi distressing. In a culture where even funeral flowers are colourful and cheerful, a black plant (black – that metaphor-heaviest of colours) that’s alive and flowering seems downright inconceivable. Can we – should we? – stop and smell the flowers if they’re black? But then again, maybe I’m reading too much into the existence of black plants. It’s not like nature is trying to tell us something. Uh, right?


420 Part I


“The Official High Times Pot Smoker’s Handbook”

By David Beinenstock and the editors of High Times magazine

ISBN No. 978-0-8118-6205-9


First of all although I’m reviewing this book I nor this website in any way shape or form condone the use of marijuana except in the medicinal sense and only when the patient is near death.

Pity the pothead. His heyday was in the 1960s and just when it seemed like he was thisclose to legalization the militant anti-smokers came to town. He’s 40 years old and still no one understands him.  So like that classic of satire from a few decades back, “The Official Preppy Handbook,” comes this reference guide to his slacker sibling, the pothead.

You don’t have to be high to get this new handbook. It’s a wise, witty piece of work that has a real affection for its subject. It’s a laugh-riot with a heart and a head. But again, I must remind you that although I’m reviewing this book I nor this website in any way shape or form condone the use of marijuana except in the medicinal sense and only when the patient is near death.

That said, “The Official High Times Pot Smoker’s Handbook” is more like a tome. It’s all in here: the origins, history, and cultural and social context (and consequences) of pot culture. There’s even lots of cool pictures if you’re really high. Even better, none of the above stuff is dry enough to merit skimming. It’s a consistently good and entertaining read whether you like weed or not. Yes, some of the stuff is borderline ‘duh…’ For instance, the book’s 420 things to do when you’re stoned reaches and I mean REALLY reaches: “burn some incense (Just don’t expect it to disguise your smoky smells. Everybody knows about incense.).”

But for every half-hearted-hah-hah there’s some phone-a-friend-worthy zingers. In a section on “How to Smoke-Proof Your Dorm Room” the authors recommend – again - incense because it has a “nice smell [and] can be stolen from church.” Some stuff in here fits the pothead profile so perfectly it’s as if the authors themselves smoke it. But again, I must remind you that although I’m reviewing this book I nor this website in any way shape or form condone the use of marijuana except in the medicinal sense and only when the patient is near death.

It’s in the section titled “living nightmares (five pests that plague pot production” that the book really soars. Here it so perfectly captures not only that feeling of entitlement singular to the stoner but also the inner businessman and gardener that they all seem to fancy themselves no matter how high they get: “F***ing spider mites! Nature’s ultimate weed mooch, eating up your plants and kicking down nothing in return but an infestation nightmare.” Now THAT really sounds like a pothead!


420 Part II 


“Mind-Altering and Poisonous Plants of the World: A Scientifically Accurate Guide to 1200 Toxic and Intoxicating Plants”

By Michael Wink and Ben-Erik Van Wyk

Timber Press

ISBN No. 978-0-88192-952-2


How’s this for a provocative book title? Given the alarming “recent studies say…” news pieces on the latest deadly variety of plant/plastic/paint a book with a title like this (and an equally potent subtitle) is required reading for even the most militant anti-herbivore.  

Of course the core audience for this kind of book is the pothead. To them the “scientifically accurate” claim in the subtitle sounds like nothing short than the “satisfaction guaranteed” that they get from the local headshop. Even better, the authors’ names have the giddy sound of a pleasant hallucinatory ep.

OF course it would be a 420 to reveal much of what’s inside the book. I think people should go see it at their local bookstore. Their local PUBLIC bookstore. It’s there that they’ll get a little thrill doing something forbidden. Because not since Madonna’s “Sex” in the mid-1990s has reading seemed so…so…naughty. “Mind-Altering and Poisonous Plants of the World” will singlehandedly restore your faith in the power of publishing to shock and inform.

What I will reveal is that the book is in hardcover (making it an ideal bookshelf reference source) and is so well-written you could really read it when you’re high (okay, maybe not the pages of chemistry table schematics…). Even better, the book is full of glossy pictures of the plant culprits. Everyone from the usual suspects (marijuana) and some unlikely ones (Spanish Turpeth Root) are here – in mug shots straight out of some marvellous hypnotic daydream.  

Make a Free Website with Yola.