Name Calling

Garden hacks of a different nature


By Cynthia Adams

My friend Pratt, choking back laughter, rings me up and tells me he created
a monster.

He is talking about his sister, Brenda.

“She’s become this plant snob,” Pratt drawls. 

A plant snob?

“Somebody obsessed with plants and their names,” he answers. Understand that this is a man who directed community design and preservation at the University of Georgia and knows a thing or two about plants himself.  It’s possible he, too, may occasionally be accused of being a snob on some topics, I gently remind him. Pratt shifts gears. “It gets worse,” he sighs heavily. What follows is not about snobbery. The topic is cancel culture.

“Listen, what I called to tell you about is that my sister’s in a garden group and their Facebook blog was hacked.”

Who hacks a garden blog?

“Someone who knows plants and is funny, that’s who,” Pratt nearly howls. “You should read it.” 

“The hacker claimed to have made new rules and guidelines for the club and posted them.”

Give an example, I prod.

“For one, the new rule was the members had to adhere to botanical names.”

He pauses to snort. “They totally bought it and went crazy.”

Hacker struck paydirt!

This set off a fracas for the entire bunch of Louisiana Gardeners.

“Then there’s this whole long post about how Wandering Jew is a politically incorrect thing to call a plant,” Pratt chokes. “It should only be referenced by its botanical name.

That’s pretty good, I admit. A merry prankster had riled up the sensible clog-and-shovel crowd. Apparently garden clubbers tend to resist taking the low ground, with no taste for mucking in the dirt — at least, not online. But some wanted to take the fight outside. It was an entertaining thought, that.

“Then someone proposed Roaming Descendent of Abraham could be an alternate but appropriate name,” he adds, barely able to talk for laughing.

We chortle. War on!

A club member immediately fumed about how offensive that name, Roaming Descendent of Abraham, would be “to their Jewish step-grandmother-in-law.”

Was that real — or a fresh hack on new soil?

A Louisiana gardener, deeply upset, announced she would no longer even write the slandering name for the Southern favorite that proliferated in hanging baskets. She preferred “to never again mention WJ.”  She suggested the plant could be referenced by the alternate name, “Purple Heart.”

Purple heart? The name for an important war medal, the trickster interjected. “As politically incorrect as it seems, Purple Heart may be another name, but my whole life we’ve called it Wandering Jew.” 

She continued, digging herself into an impossible hole: “I never considered it a slur on the Jewish people — just the name of a plant.  Like Irish rose.”

“And then someone else in her garden club reflects upon the Christmas cactus and whether that name ought to be used either,” Pratt inserts.

“What about, say, a Hanukah cactus?” Another gardener had posted archly.

We both digest this. 

“And then there’s a whole series of comments about Irish roses,” Pratt says, laughing so hard he wheezes. “The beauty was, there were no obscenities posted. It was just funny. Like some elderly, retired botanist with time on their hands had done it.”

A retired botanist who also had the time and ability to hack a site? 

That’s bloody work, I point out.

“Yes, true,” Pratt concedes.

Send me the link, I beg. Instead, he forwards screen captures from his sister. I read through, wiping my eyes.

Members swiftly blocked one another after being mocked online.

Allow this to register: This. Is. A. Garden. Club.

Later, Pratt texts again, and I can sense his disappointment. “Looks like all the controversial posts have been deleted.”

I sigh with a mixture of regret and appreciation for the infinite jest of the Louisiana Garden Club hacker.  OH

Please don’t hack Cynthia Adams, a contributing editor of O.Henry.

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