While I was gardening

The art of gardening and the science of life.

You May Not Ride an Ugly Horse.* (But you can buy an ugly plant.)


I find very few animals to be ugly.  Besides the fact that beauty (or lack of) is entirely subjective, all creatures have some feature that can be off-putting.  After all, who’s perfect?  And if I did encounter an animal that could be considered ugly I certainly wouldn’t want it outlawed.  So, when I read about the above referenced law I was intrigued.  What prompted it?  After all, who determines that the horse is ugly?  For instance, if an entire town has judged a horse to be ugly, and the owner of the ugly horse needs to come into town and has no other means of transportation, what choice does he have but to ride the ugly horse?  If the animal’s looks are that offensive, don’t look at it!  Or if your cows got loose and wandered away, and the only means of rounding them up was to ride your ugly horse, what do you do?  I can understand a law that makes riding a hostile horse that bites against the law, but ugly?  That’s just mean.  An Oklahoma law states that you can be arrested for making ugly faces at a dog.  That makes sense.   But, what if an ugly horse makes a face at a dog?  What if the dog is ugly?  What then?

And I usually feel the same way about plants.  A common expression I agree with is “I’ve never met a plant I didn’t like.”  I even like juniper.  Really.  Not all junipers, of course, but many species in this genus would be welcome in my garden if I had adequate space.  So when my long-suffering spouse told me that he found a plant he fell in love with and wanted to add to our garden, I assumed it would be a beauty.  He does have good taste, and he has accepted with grace (or at least with silence) the many unique plants I’ve added to our garden over the years.  Reciprocation was in order.  But you can imagine my shock when he showed me a full-screen picture of this plant.  “Holy monkeys!” I said.  “That’s one ugly plant!”  After I apologized, I asked what aspect of the plant he found most appealing.

“All of it.”

“Even that?”

“That most of all.  I’m off to the nursery.  Want to come along?”

Well, it’s always been difficult to turn down a trip to our favorite nursery, and I mistakenly thought I could talk him into favoring a different plant.  Nope.  When he found the plant, Corokia cotoneaster, ‘Little Prince’, I thought it best to just keep quiet.

“See?  Isn’t it interesting?  Where are you going to plant it?” he asked.  In the alley, I thought to myself.

“I don’t think I have any more room for a full-sun plant,” I said.

“Ok then, let’s buy a container for it.”

To make an ugly story a bit more appealing, we purchased the plant and a beautiful Mexican terra cotta pot in which to plant it.  The plant and its lovely container have pride of place on the terrace next to our pond.  I still don’t like the plant, but the container is gorgeous!  And my spouse is very pleased with it all.

And, after all, that’s one beautiful aspect of gardening.


*It’s the law in Wilbur, WA.


Author: dphare2014

Horticulturist, Lead Steward Carkeek Park Demonstration Gardens, Author

2 thoughts on “You May Not Ride an Ugly Horse.* (But you can buy an ugly plant.)

  1. Our NPA group would like to invite you to be a speaker next year. How can I contact you?


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