JAMES HATTORI, host:
Pine trees once covered most of the Southeastern United States. Southerners used them for fuel, building material, and cash crops. But the forests are disappearing and people are losing track of the old ways.
Essayist Diane Roberts offers us this lament for the disappearing pines and what's replacing them.
DIANE ROBERTS: So I go to the plant nursery to find a fall tomato seedling tough enough to survive global warming. Instead, I practically trip over a bail of this stuff. It's shinny as a spring fallen pine straw had been rub down with lard. It's bright. The shade of red your mother told you not to dye your hair because it's trashy. A brochure proclaims it text straw.. Says it's a product made from recycled polypropylene extruded in concave strands with a cross section identical to natural straw then cut in various links to simulate longleaf pine needles - fake pine straw. It costs 43 bucks a bail.
I'm all about better living through chemistry, but fake pine straw is yet another assault on southern authenticity. We've already got lab created instant grits, no need to stir for an hour over a hot stove just add water. We've got artificial ham hock flavoring to chunk in our grains, but plastic pine straw? Come on. Pine straw falls from the sky. It's a lovely auburn gift from the conifers, a treasure of the south and free mulch for the flower bits.
Once, the southeast had more than 85 million acres of longleaf pine. Now, almost all the old growth long leaves are gone, and we are left with polypropylene needles. The makers of the fake straw say their product retains color better than real straw, and that it's more economical overtime. They're probably right. Astroturf if a better long-term bargain than grass - hell, it's always green. For that matter, artificial flowers take a lot less work than the kind it need water and sunlight. The manufacturers of text straw also argue that since it's non-organic, roaches, termites and other denizens of the forest floor do not care to live in it.
Well, maybe I'm just a horticulturaltori(ph), but I think that the garden package should include bugs. Birds have to eat too. And what joy is there in a garden without a little labor involved? What does blossoming growth mean without decomposition and death? I cling to our long heritage of wrecking, piling and pitch forking - the cycle of loss and renewal.
HATTORI: Essayist Diane Roberts straws her flower beds in Tallahassee, Florida.
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