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An Irritated Introduction

An exasperated James Roof at Tilden Regional Park, writing in 1959. If all writing could be so honest. This passage is from his introduction to Guide to the Plant Species of the Regional Parks Botanic Garden:

Some Unhelpful Notes

We are miles from the nearest post office and we have absolutely no facilities for mailing out plant material, seeds, or other requested items from the Botanic Garden.

We also have no secretarial staff. Answering the volume of mail, domestic and foreign, that the Garden naturally attracts, was a task that only the Garden Director could handle. He was and is delighted to receive communications from native plant lovers, but when answering such mail became full-time work the Director had to forego the pleasure. It is much more necessary to work in the Garden than to answer letters about it.

Regrettably, the crystal ball the Director uses in planning his work does not foretell “surprise” visits, even from professionals and friends. He doesn’t, as has been remarked, dwell in an ivory tower, but he does plan his work. Surprise visitors shouldn’t be at all surprised if he goes on working (or is away on a field trip) during their visits.

Requests to us, in person or by mail, for information on how to grow plants or landscape home gardens, are unfair, unwelcome, and unanswered. Every trained professional that we deal with these days charges us a fee for his services. Commercial native plant growers and landscape architects profit from dealing in native plants. Since we are researching farther ahead on the native species than either commercial growers or landscape architects, our services would be so expensive that few could afford them. Aside from that, our work in the Botanic Garden requires every bit of our time. . . .

I e-mailed this to an arboretum director I know. She replied,  “Ah, the botanic garden curmudgeon. They’re more common than you think, but typically they get more censored than Mr. Roof.” (external link)

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