Monday, June 14, 2010

Are yours real or fake?

No, get your mind out of the gutter.  I meant plants and flowers.  Walking and driving around my town, I had noticed a smattering of frilly, bright greenery.  Not that that in itself is strange, but the occasion I’m thinking of was in January and the snow was about three feet deep.  That time of year, green things do arouse my suspicions.  Green hanging baskets and forsythia bonsai are almost unheard of in summer, so a sighting in January was special.  Too bad it was fabric and plastic.  To preserve the dignity of my fellow Alaskans, all identifying characteristics in the photos below have been edited out or blurred.  I know, I know, that’s no fun at all.

spring 021

Take the beauty pictured above.  If you just blur your eyes, it might not seem too out of the ordinary.  Back in focus, I’m wondering where the stem connects to the ground and why is so blooming healthy when there is snow on the ground.  We have no, I repeat, no blooming vines that are that early to start growth.  So subtle is perhaps not the effect this “gardener” was going for.  I’m not the only one pondering this propensity for plastic.  Kelly at Life Out Of Doors was hoodwinked recently by some man-made beauties, blue hydrangeas to be precise.  She was oohing and aahing and snapping away on the old camera and leaned in for a touch.  Yes, you all can guess what happened next.  After the shock (and horror?), a funny post on plastic plants.

For a real live researched post on fakies try Gardening Tips ‘n’ Ideas from the godfather at Blotanical (a garden blog community), Stuart B.  He even mentions the economy: wow, no such meticulous background info here at LFG.  You know if it was on his mind in Australia (and mine in Alaska) it’s at least a phenomenon in the Pacific area.  But wait, Mr_Subjunctive in Iowa has a (more edgy, PG-13 rated) take on fakies at Plants are the Strangest People and even discourses on their care, maintenance, and common pests.  They get the deluxe treatment, complete with Latin names.  Very posh. 

Liza in New Mexico at Good to Grow gets a bit ranty (scroll to bottom of post) about fakies and has a firm philosophy about their disposal.  Speaking of philosophy, here’s one for Socrates: if you plant a plastic plant, does that make you a gardener?  Or a decorator?  The one fakie I saw that didn’t cause immediate scorn, revulsion, or imminent vomiting can be found at Nestmaker in Oregon, where Megan writes about a designer (grandpa’s quote about “more money than brains” comes to mind) having a fake boxwood hedge made to cover an eyesore.  Not too shabby.  And probably more costly than my car.  At Go Away, I’m Gardening, Amy in Texas rejects the I Love Lucy method of fakie gardening and decides to stick with the real thing.  I think we have represented the US pretty well in the imitation plant department.  I’m wondering if fakies are also an international outrage…please weigh in on this if you feel the need.

spring 025

What do a persons plastic blooms say about them?  I can see a theme in the arrangement above.  These folks are obviously patriots, with their red, white, and blue mailbox and matching ersatz flowers.  Quite cheering, especially for April (yes, that is snow in the background).  And always timely as Independence Day (July 4th for for Americans) comes around every year after all…they’re just ahead of the game for six months and woefully behind for another six.  A bit like leaving the Christmas lights up year ‘round.

fake flowers 002

Pictured above you can see the aforementioned forsythia bonsai.  It is an incredibly hardy variety capable of withstanding –30F with no protection.  I have seen the yard in four feet of snow and the cheerful yellow blooms just shrug the cold off.  (Simply amazing or simply synthetic?)  Here it is keeping company with another strangely hardy creature, the rare, shy, and very slow moving Porch Swan, Cygnus polyvinylchloridus porchus.  Maybe the little documented porch swan nests only in synthetic plants…there could be a graduate degree in this for some dedicated soul.

fake flowers 003

My one word answer to the above: really?  That ficus doesn’t even look real.  The forsythia, you could drive by and not give it another look.  This doesn’t even pass the drive by test.  Maybe the Porch Swan has some distant mock songbird cousin that could roost here.  This person is trying…there are lots of perennials in the front yard, however I just can’t in good conscience give an ‘A’ for effort here.  Even in the reproduction plant market, there is better than this.  I’ll just think positive: maybe they are going to clean it and it’s just resting there for now.  And the past month.

We live in a world were fake is often desirable, maybe even better than the real thing.  I myself just had some silk wrap fingernails removed.  They were gorgeous and high maintenance and impossible to garden with.  There is artificial hair, hair/eye/skin/nail color, and implants of all kinds for our bodies, inside and out.  The garden has seen it’s share of synthetic: rocks, dead end wishing wells, grass, beehives, all manner of plastic statuary meant to look like animal/vegetable/mineral/gnome, faux (which is a nicer sounding French word for fake) terra cotta, and even sham gardeners.  You know the one’s I mean: the painted, wooden silhouette of the gardener (usually rather large in the beam) bending over.  If all that and more can be counterfeited, it was only a matter of time before the plastic and silk moved out to the garden in place of the plants.    

Where do plastic plants belong?


  1. Christine, I'm laughing even before I read the post! Real all the way....but yes, down the street we have some amazing flowers that seem to bloom all year even in the winter. The ultimate low maintenance garden.

  2. Gotta tell you, I love reading your blog.
    Very entertaining.
    Plastic flowers, well, in general - thumbs down. But I have to admit that I purchased one two years ago to put in my hanger by the door. I was going away to Sweden for 3 weeks and did not want to give the appearance of an empty home to potential burglars. I know, as if that would stop some crack head at 3 o'clock in the morning, but, I thought better try, than not. And, nobody broke in to our home. Although, burglaries in our town are rare, very rare. My husband couldn't wait to take it down. Tacky - he says. And I agree.

  3. Christine, I love your sense of humor. Someone in my neighborhood keeps their rural mailbox decorated with fake plants that are changed with the seasons: plastic tulips in spring, roses in summer, gold and orange leaves in fall, poinsettia in winter -- well, you get the idea. And, of course, the cemetery near my house is always full of plastic floral grave decor (perhaps an appropriate accessory in this case?). -Jean

  4. Thanks for the link. I hate seeing fake plants in people's yards (and there are a lot of them here, for as small a town as I live in), but I do totally understand the impulse. (I imagine it's even more tempting in Alaska.)

    Seems like you'd get bored with them eventually, though, even if they didn't fade or get ratty from the wind. I mean, real plants grow, and change. That's what makes them interesting.

  5. Haha, I'll try not to be too ranty here, but plastic plants belong in the trash!! They're ugly, they get dusty, they're expensive, and they do nothing to clean the air or make you healthier. They are clutter.

    Your post made me happy. I especially like the fake ficus by the basketball goal - classic!

  6. @Annelie
    Fakies as burgalar deterrants? I like it! I'm glad to hear it came down though....


    Hello there Jean. I guess anything cheering in a cemetary is good. However, I will haunt anyone that puts fakies on my grave!


  7. A friend, a very shy person, had a greenhouse put in next to her pool. When she realized that plants in the GH could not survive a GA summer, she took someone's advice to pick up artificial greenery and plants at yard sales. She said, "At first, the thought of parking in front of someone's house and approaching them terrified me. Soon I was whipping into the driveway, hopping out and shouting, "Is fifty cents the least you'll take for that fake plant?"

    From a distance, her greenhouse outfitted with fake plants looked quite nice near the pool.

  8. Plastic plants out of doors aren't really a feature here-but I guess the climate is so much kinder. Lovely post-made me laugh a lot.

  9. The answer to your deep, philosophical question is that Plastic plants mostly belong somewhere else.

    But to backtrack slightly: your number two picture (patriotic mailbox shot). The flowers I understand: brightness - albeit ill advised - amongst the bleak midwinter, star spangled banner, Hail to the Chief etc etc.
    I do not, however understand the tin jammed on top of the upright post.
    Is it, like tarpaulins, another Alaska thing?
    Or is it perfectly logical.
    Please forgive British ignorance of complicated cross cultural divides.

  10. Funny post! Well, you know where I stand. :)

  11. Fake plants make me shudder. A lot of restaurants, of the chain variety, indulge in fake plants in our town.

  12. Plastic plants belong in the dump or possibly cemetaries where there are no living human beings most of the time and those should be replaced or tossed after so many months.

  13. @James A-S
    Surely you must be joking. Brits don't saw their plastic newpaper boxes (not tins) in half and use them as mailbox post protectors? I must admit, even I don't see solutions like that every day.

    We Alaskans are nothing if not thrifty (or is it tacky?).


  14. Can't think why I hadn't already become a follower til now! Like the controversy and very interesting and unusual post.
    In short I hate plastic plants -seems like a contradiction in terms. Whenever I've stayed in hotels where they are room decor, I simply put them out in the corridor! Hotel over the road here has plastic evergreens as frontage which are perpetually vandalised - so even the vandals hate them!


  15. Hi Christine,

    Oh, I just love this post! There are a few people who live just a block or two away from me that have brightly colored silk flowers in their front yard. Some have even stuck them into the ground.

    I honestly can't think of a place where silk flowers belong. I even went to a wedding where they used silk flowers and I had a corsage made out of them ;-)

  16. Thanks for the shout out Christine. Can't wait to go visit the other "fake" posts out there. That ficus tree is appauling. Really. Really it is. Kelly

  17. I will not snivel anymore about our cold, wet weather here in So.Oregon. Plastic flower essay is hilarious, and so is "tarp of the month". Not your usual pretty flowers. Great and fun posts that we can all relate to!

  18. hmmm, plastic plants belong...maybe in the home of someone who loves plants and the beauty of flowers but is severely allergic? I don't know. I really so no use for plastic at all in my environment. I can do dried - like in my office with no natural light, but definitely not plastic. I really don't get the ficus either!

  19. Mine are real. But I have some fake flower arrangements inside the house. Orchids. Never could grow real, so should settle for fakes. But nice ones. Interesting and fun post, Christine! I almost fainted when saw a basketball stand. Should show it to my boys!

  20. Yes, our society has a thing for "fake". Just look at the plastic surgery people get for aesthetic reasons.
    I think fake flowers outside are tacky. And inside they are just dust collectors.

    TO answer your question about our is about the same as yours. About 10-12 inches.
    Proof of the semi-arid conditions? cactus grow on my property on the south facing side. Ouch.

  21. The fakies are resplendent in their abundance at my parents' home, often in the guise of ornate silk flower arrangements atop doilies that they've had since the 70s (maybe worth an appearance at an Antiques Road Show). So kitschy and so Mom & Dad. Gotta love 'em!

  22. hi good day ! nice post . am i really need to answer the question haha .. well nice posting you have . hmm i think youll never realize what is fake from real when you are far . but these fake things add contrast and designs . i lkie this ! im in too wind spinners garden accessories . it makes me relax whenever im view it at my garden .

  23. Plastic Plants are kind of a necessity in Alaska, yes?


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