The Dry Garden: Knowing harm

Posted on | September 10, 2011 | No Comments

Many years ago, as a photographer and I were at work on photo essay for a Sunday magazine about some of the more accident-prone people in Britain, we found that home gardeners were high among the klutzes known by UK emergency room attendants as “heart sink patients.” Evidently the repeated sight of them made the hearts of emergency room staff sink. Their favorite times for calamity were three-day weekends, when in numbers disproportionate to the general population they fell off ladders, cut their fingers and sprained their backs. The photographer and I hoped that the photo series might reveal something about the mad cap determination of gardeners. However, before we had a chance to undertake the series in earnest, the photographer died in a plane crash.

Since moving to Los Angeles and taking up gardening, I’ve thought about that aborted series every Labor Day weekend for more than a decade. Early on, I learned that public holidays here also routinely claim “weekend warriors,” however Los Angeles emergency rooms are just as likely to receive hikers, surfers and various outdoorsy types for the simple reason that not nearly the same proportion of Southern Californians as Britons do their own gardening.

Does that by extension, I have long wondered, make gardening here safer? British gardeners tend to focus on fruit, flowers and vegetables. Injuries would reflect digging, pruning and the presence of thorns. Southern California gardens tend to be dominated by lawn and hedges. Many, perhaps even most, Southern Californians don’t mow their own lawns or prune their own hedges. To understand the injuries here, we’d need to study the generally poorly monitored population of mow and blow teams. Click here to keep reading ‘The Dry Garden’ in the Los Angeles Times.


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