Here’s a May, 2007 post from Garden Rant co-founder Amy Stewart, in which she speaks of a situation that has only grown in significance since when this was posted.
Gardeners Like Us are naturally suspicious of “branded” plants, particularly when that brand has a hokey name like Proven Winners. There’s something condescending in the name Proven Winner; it assumes an uneducated gardener with unrealistic expectations and a need for constant reassurance. It assumes that a plant can be guaranteed to thrive, regardless of the weather, the soil, the water, the bugs, or the gardener’s own miscalculations. It sends this message to the gardener: You just haven’t been buying the right brand of plants. Buy our brand and your garden will be a winner, too.
Maybe there’s just something a little too pedestrian about it, too mainstream. Kind of like Harold Bloom’s response to these citywide reading programs where everybody reads the same book at the same time: he said it was “rather like the idea that we are all going to pop out and eat Chicken McNuggets or something else horrid at once.” Joseph Epstein at the WSJ said something similar: “A book has only to come with the municipal seal of approval for me to lose interest in it.” Honest-to-god book lovers want the read the book that nobody is reading–the difficult, obscure, undiscovered book, or the old classic that other people only claim to have read. It took me forever to get around to reading The Kite Runner or The Time Traveler’s Wife, because I just couldn’t stomach the idea of reading the same book that ten million other people were reading that week. (By the way, they were both amazing. Of course.)
Maybe that’s the problem with Proven Winners. A big, well-marketed brand implies that everyone is doing it. I don’t want the plant that everyone else has. Or more to the point, I don’t want to want the plant that everyone else has. I want that obscure, undiscovered rarity. I want a handwritten label that says, “Warning: Very Difficult to Grow. Many Have Tried, Most Have Failed. You Undoubtedly Will, Too.”
So imagine my disgust when I saw that this euphorbia had a Proven Winners tag attached to it. Folks, meet Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Helena’s Blush.‘ This plant is a work of art. Its leaves are pink and green and burgundy and silver all at once; its flowers are chartreuse with just a drop of vermillion. Being a euphorbia, it puts up with drought, spreads like mad (I hope), and blooms all season with no need for deadheading. My only regret is that it grows to only about a foot and a half tall; I’d like to live in a forest of these.
And goddamnit, it’s available right now everywhere plants are sold.