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Would you hesitate to buy a puppy or kitten because sometime in the future your pet might die? And if that dog or cat got sick should you be allowed to return it to the breeder and get your money back?

I think that most people would answer “no” to both those questions, don’t you? Yet a speaker I heard yesterday was proposing something similar when it comes to plants. He said that people are afraid to buy plants because they might die, and that independent garden centers should help take that fear away by giving unconditional guarantees. If your plant dies, for any reason, you can bring it back even without a receipt.

As a gardener and human being, not to mention garden center employee, I think that this is a slippery slope.  This response to a feeling of uncertainty continues to undermine all appreciation of personal responsibility. It’s an extension and perpetuation of the “Everyone is a winner and gets a gold metal!” philosophy, to use an Olympics-inspired analogy.

I’m sorry, but this is a lie. Some athletes are better than others. Some people are smarter than others. Sometimes plants do better than other times. With plants, gardeners learn that they can plant three or more of the same variety in the same location and one of those might shrivel while the rest grow well. Plants are living things, and are therefore uncertain and quirky.

And I wonder if unconditional returns on plants would really remove the fear of taking chances? If every performer gets a prize does that take away the fear of getting up on stage and singing in front of an audience?

There are inspirational posters that say, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” I don’t think that this is saying that we should strive for a world where there are no failures. I believe that it’s encouraging us to proceed without guarantees because it’s only in the process that we find out what might or might not happen. And the process it self leads to discoveries, whether our original goal is met or not.

There is risk involved in life itself. To embrace life we also must embrace death, like it or not. One thing I love about gardening is that it encourages people to take chances. For every plant that dies there are others that succeed against all odds and being in the garden opens our eyes to the many possibilities.

Let’s think about other ways to encourage people to enjoy and connect with plants. Let’s encourage people to view risk as a dare not a deterrent. Let’s remember the satisfaction that comes from trying something new and going through a process where the outcome is uncertain.

Oops...this plant died. Not only that, but the weed in the center of it lived! Should I return this plant to the garden center and ask for a refund?


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