Several years ago I went to see a movie called “American Pimp“. And yes, that is exactly what it was about. I had an odd feeling all the way through the movie that was hard to explain. I was fascinated because while I knew that such an underground world existed, I didn’t really know that that world existed. I thought somehow that the “pimp” world was really just a fabrication by the movie industry and to find out that this was not the case was definitely… disconcerting.
I had exactly the same feeling while I was reading “Backyard Giants” by Susan Warren. The subtitle for this book is “The Passionate, Heartbreaking and Glorious Quest to Grow The Biggest Pumpkin Ever”. At 1,500+ pounds, the phrase Biggest Pumpkin Ever just does not seem big enough.
I want to say first of all, I did enjoy the book. As unsettling as I found the material to be, the book was well written and well-paced. I think that in the hands of a less capable writer, the subject matter could have quickly turned dry or tabloid-ish. But that is not the case. Ms. Warren presents a lot of information in a fun to read story.
But the subject matter is a whole other world of gardening that I knew existed but never really knew existed. Imagine spending hundreds, even thousands of dollars on your garden (okay, so that is not so hard to imagine) but with the sole intent of growing a pumpkin near the size of a small car. Something that a pumpkin isn’t suppose to naturally do. A single pumpkin vine grown in an attempt to grow a giant pumpkin will not only suck down hundreds of dollars in fertilizers and other chemicals but will need as much coddling and man hours as the rest of your garden combined. You will not eat it. You will not be able to decorate with it. It may not even make it through to the weigh-off at the end of the season… Disease, animals and even just its own grotesque weight could kill a giant pumpkin without warning.
To me, the world of giant pumpkin growing is fascinating and yet frightening. Part of me says that it is not any different than my tomatoes or my husband’s uncle daylilies (he grows a few hundred varieties) but somehow what giant pumpkin growers do seems, well, wrong. All that time, money and effort all to grossly abuse the limits of what Mother Nature and a squash plant never intended? Even as a gardener, I can’t understand it. But I suppose it is their obsession and they are welcome to it.
I do recommend reading the book. It is an intriguing (albeit slightly creepy) look at a world most of us don’t even consider in our daily puttering in the garden. Me personally, if I could get a pumpkin to Jack-o-Lantern size, I would be thrilled. But I do suppose that a giant pumpkin would give the passers-by something else to gawk at besides the Shrub Monster.