Plants are sessile, rooted in place, so they have to stand there and take what nature delivers. However, they are not without a response; plants (excepting annuals) are both indeterminate growers and phenotypically plastic. Plants are basically modular and since they have perpetually juvenile tissues, meristems, they continue to grow throughout their lives producing new modules. Phenotypic plasticity refers to their ability to alter their form to best suit the environment they are growing in, so if resources are limited, they may reduce the size of new modules, shorter stems, smaller leaves, and so on. Humans have long been aware of this ability and we have exerted control over plant form for many reasons: to limit size, alter shape, or produce more fruit. Just as strong seaside breezes can gnarl and dwarf trees that would grow straight and tall inland, we turn trees into hedge shrubs. In the most extreme cases full sized trees are dwarfed into aesthetically pleasing miniatures, bonsai trees.
However, many plants have pleasing growth forms, and when humans alter them into highly constrained shapes the result can vary from whimsy in the form of topiary to just plain out ugly. Indeed, the pruning done by your basic gardening dolt produces what can only be termed a crime against nature – poodled trees and shrubs. These are an abomination! Here are two neighbors of mine who have a different takes on Forsythia. The poor poodled shrub isn’t even whimsical unless maybe a number one appears on the side and 14 more such shrubs, of appropriately different colors, are spread around a completely flat and rectangular lawn, and even then you might say, clever, but tasteless.
Poodling may result from the misplaced desire to control and constrain nature, to place everything under our dominion. After all a poodle looks less like a wolf than just about any dog, so we sleep around the campfire a bit easier with such pets. Oh, and one more thing, poodling is never ending futility and work! But some people just cannot let go, cannot allow nature to be nature, or kids to be kids, so one imagines a strong connection between poodling and nagging, both manifestations of exerting control, but the results of both can be equally ugly, but here the Phactor's thoughts begin to stray into more controversial areas and spring is too nice a season, replete as it is with fresh asparagus, to antagonize too many people, and being chased out of town by a mob wielding hedge pruners and torches is truly a scene to be avoided, but it is true that viturally all of these crimes against nature are committed by using hedge pruners, especially those that are powered, and in the hands of the incompetent, they result in butchery. The plant police should take hedge pruners away from such people least they generate more offense to the aesthetically sensitive. Ah, but there are even worse gardening criminals, and shortly we shall expound upon those who remove every thing except grass or pave over gardens.
John Keats's "Chapman's Homer" (chemistry and drug discovery version)
12 hours ago in The Curious Wavefunction