Weird light at sunset. Orange light due to wildfire smoke.

Extreme Gardening?

Many sports and other activities have an “extreme” version. Think ultra-marathons, free climbing, wingsuit flying, and tightrope walking over vast chasms. There’s even extreme ironing.

So what about extreme gardening? What might that look like?

  • Gardening on someone else’s land or public land, e.g. in a park or on a boulevard. The last is known as “guerrilla gardening.”
  • Stealing plants for your garden.
  • Growing dangerous plants, such as giant hogweed, poison ivy, or poison hemlock.
  • Growing a garden of weeds (bindweed, thistles, stinging nettle, Japanese knotweed).
  • Not deadheading plants like purple toadflax or rose campion, i.e., letting them seed freely.
  • Growing tropical plants in non-tropical places; or, for that matter, alpine plants in lowlands, desert plants in rainforests, etc.
  • Growing plants on a vertical surface.
  • Growing trees in your house.
  • Growing Himalayan blue poppies.
  • Engaging in marathon pruning, weeding, or digging sessions.
  • Gardening in the nude.

I’ve actually done some of these things. Guess which ones…

Poison hemlock

The consequences and dangers of the above list include: getting arrested, skin irritation, poisoning, illness, hospitalization, lawsuits, infected wounds, sore muscles, back injuries, disappointment, frustration, weariness, and death. Notably missing is the adrenaline rush which is the main point of most extreme sports. (Well, OK, there might be a small thrill in digging up a plant from a garden that isn’t yours and vanishing into the night. But see the list of consequences.)

Unfortunately for the extremist, gardening is not a sport that produces adrenaline rushes. For one thing, results are usually slow to appear. The gardener’s main reward is occasional fits of quiet awe, in which he or she stands gazing at a plant or group of plants with a happy, vacant smile on their mug.

Meconopsis sheldonii "Lingholm" (grandis) Himalayan blue poppy
Himalayan blue poppy in bloom.

Extreme ironing image created by Greg Williams in cooperation with the Wikimedia Foundation. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.


  1. We have a small garden which refuses to behave by human standards and all sorts of things pop up and seem to get along quite happily.
    I suppose you could call it An Extreme Garden (and not overgrown!). Do you think that counts?

    Glad to be back

    Liked by 2 people

  2. These days, due to my diminishing energy levels, anything to do with gardening is becoming extreme. Clipping the hedge, for example, took three days to complete. Even the brambles have more energy than I do!
    I do love that blue poppy though…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brambles are tough creatures, and hedge clipping is hard work, especially a tall hedge. It could be called Extreme. And blue poppies are one of those awe-inspiring plants when they bloom. I just don’t count on seeing them alive after winter. It’s not cold weather that kills them, but rot, possibly due to fungus or something in the soil.

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        1. I’ve tried a couple of things, but haven’t hit the magic formula yet. The internet is full of different gardeners’ thoughts; quite a few of us are in thrall to those blue flowers!

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    1. Ha, ha! Good guess, Robbie. You’re right about the last one (too prickly, and I’m kind to my neighbours!). However, the only other thing I haven’t done at least once is vertical gardening. Okay — stealing plants was nipping cuttings from huge bushes by a sidewalk, long ago. The only poisonous plant I’ve harboured was the poison hemlock, and only until I identified it, whereupon I dug it up and disposed of it. The boulevard on my street has been getting weedy since people stopped watering it due to high water rates. So I introduced chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace to a bit of my boulevard because they look better than the weeds that were trying to take over (which I weed out). I guess that’s a kind of guerrilla gardening.


  3. You have a great sense of humor, Audrey, and I so enjoyed this blog! I agree that most gardeners have probably done some “extreme” activity at one time or another, but it’s the sweet feeling of quiet awe and admiration that keeps me digging and planting, year after year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Nancy. Gardening is one of those things you can get obsessed with and keep working at past the point where it’s rational. I guess that’s a kind of extremism. And it’s sort of like writing.

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  4. I love your sense of whimsy. If you were to indulge in nude gardening, I hope you have a good privacy fence, nonjudgemental neighbors, or practice indoor gardening with the blinds or curtains closed (unless you are a naturalist and it’s your thing.) This post made me smile. Thanks, Audrey.

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  5. Well the dangerous plants and the blue poppies are a given with the image hints you gave us. I bet you’ve also experimented with a weed garden, and bravely not deadheading, too. I’m going to say you’ve grown plants on a vertical surface and engaged in marathon pruning sessions, but I do not think you’ve tried gardening in the nude. The mosquitoes would eat you alive!

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    1. Actually mosquitoes aren’t a big problem here. But you’re right, touring the garden in my PJs is about my limit for indecency. And I haven’t tried vertical gardening yet, but I’ve done all the other things on my list to some extent. And rest assured, I don’t make a habit of stealing plants, although I have nipped a few illegal cuttings in my youth.


  6. The Himalayan Poppy is gorgeous. I’ve fought a winning battle against goat heads, but I’ve lost to Night shade. I’ve decided the purple flowers are nice and the mesa around my house is full of them. I don’t have small children that might be tempted.
    This year milk weed has run me over. The news said that this year was the first time in ten years Monarch butterflies were in the state and they feed on milkweed. I left them alone and they grew over five feet tall with only one butterfly so far, and that one went after my zenias.

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