No Flower Shall Wither:

Horticulture in the Kingdom of the Frogs

By Gary K. Clabaugh, Ed. D.


edited 4/20/14

In olden times, when hope still mattered, a young frog named Horace was in love with flowers. When they bloomed, Horace was very, very happy. When they withered, Horace was very, very sad.


Now Horace was an ordinary frog who lived in the Kingdom of the Frogs where Bullfrogs reigned supreme. They ate a great deal more than they needed, croaked so loudly no one else could be heard, and conducted their most important affairs while hidden in muck at the bottom of the pond.

Love of flowers (or at least talk of loving flowers), was widespread in the Kingdom of the Frogs. And when they were young most frogs in the Kingdom planted flower seeds, (some said that was chiefly because planting them was so much fun). Fewer frogs took pleasure in caring for the seedlings, though, which was hard work indeed.

Given all that planting, there were lots of flower seedlings to care for. Ordinary frogs used community greenhouses to help with that. In fact, they paid tribute to the Bullfrogs for their upkeep. The Bullfrogs, on the other hand, sent their seedlings to private greenhouses. And although they professed a great love of flowers, the Bullfrogs spent little time with their own, hiring lesser frogs to do that for them

One day, for their own very private reasons, the Bullfrogs began harrumphing that state run greenhouses were in an awful mess. A monarch-appointed Bullfrog panel even proclaimed, "If another kingdom were in charge of our greenhouses, their condition would be a cause for war." To be fair, Bullfrogs often found causes for war.

The Bullfrogs failed to mention that it was they who determined greenhouse resources and rules. They also failed to point out that public greenhouse conditions reflected pond neighborhood conditions— poor neighborhood, bad greenhouse, better neighborhood, better greenhouse. And since the Bullfrogs decided how the wealth of the Kingdom was shared, they determined how many poor neighborhoods there were, (and there were many poor neighborhoods, indeed).

Anyway, when Horace came of age he thought, and thought (in the way that only a frog can think), about how to make his way in the world. "I know!" exclaimed Horace happily, "I'll become a licensed horticulturalist and bring flowers to bloom."

Now in the Kingdom of the Frogs learning important things -- like how to remove Bullfrog bunions or assist Bullfrog tax avoidance -- required lengthy and focused schooling. Horticultural certification was necessary for state greenhouse employment also. But that training was easy.

At Frog College, which was controlled by a Bullfrog board of trustees, the horticultural program was a source of tuition income — little more. And since there was an ongoing need for inexpensive, compliant help in public greenhouses, the Bullfrogs saw no sense in making the training more difficult

In fact, when it turned out that four years of undemanding training was still too difficult for the truly casually committed, the Bullfrogs set up alternative routes to certification — "Grow for the Kingdom," for example. "Alternative certification," a spokesfrog solemnly croaked, "opens horticultural careers to bright young people who are enthusiastic about plant growth." By enrolling in one of these programs a frog could become eligible to practice horticulture in just sixty days.

Horace wondered (as best a frog can wonder), "When flowers are so very important, why is it easy to become a horticulturalist?" He never figured out the answer to this question.

Meanwhile, the Bullfrogs continued to stoke dissatisfaction with public greenhouses. And they also began croaking about allowing private for-profit Bullfrog firms to take them over (Bullfrogs were very, very big on profit). This takeover, they said, would make public greenhouses a whole lot better.

Anyhow, Horace achieved his certification and eventually found a job in a public greenhouse in one of the poorer parts of the Kingdom. (You may recall that since the Bullfrogs kept most of the Kingdom's money, there were many such neighborhoods).

Anyway, Horace was delighted to begin working with flowers. That is, he was until he discovered that he and his fellow horticulturalists had little say regarding how the public greenhouse was run.

Greenhouse heat varied erratically, so HoraceÕs cool weather plants sometimes cooked and his warm weather seedlings often froze. Greenhouse managers required him to use the same low bid fertilizer for all his seedlings regardless of their needs, and this inflicted considerable damage. He was not even permitted to apply insecticide or pull weeds if that it wasnÕt on managementÕs schedule. Consequently, Horace's plants soon were sucked dry by white flies mealy bugs and aphids while weeds stole their nourishment.

Horace wondered why the greenhouse was like this. Some said Bullfrog rules and inadequate funding left greenhouse administrators little choice. Others blamed it on frog administratorÕs who aspired to be Bullfrogs. Still others thought that the governing greenhouse board memberÕs lack of horticultural training was at fault. (Board members werenÕt required to know anything about flowers.)

The Frog King

In the Kingdom of the Frogs horticultural ignorance was not unusual at greenhouse managerial levels. In fact it was normal for greenhouse affairs to be controlled by horticultural ignoramuses. Even the Bullfrog Secretary of Horticulture, had no such training whatsoever. He was, however, well connected at the pond, and very skilled at croaky solemnity. Ignoring the many factors limiting plant growth, for instance, he pompously advised green house horticulturalists that if they just had "higher expectations" their seedlings would thrive.

About this time the Frog King emerged from the muck on the bottom of the pond, swam to the surface, stuck his thick Bullfrog head out of the water, and croaked out a royal decree. "Henceforth," he thrummed mightily, "no seedling will be left to wither!" And with that, the King dove back down into the muck. (Little additional greenhouse money accompanied the KingÕs declaration).

Then the Bullfrogs declared that all public greenhouses must regularly measure and report plant growth. Results would be proclaimed throughout the land and horticulturalists held publicly accountable." (There was no mention of measuring plant growth in the private greenhouses that served the Bullfrog's seedlings.)

The Bullfrogs emphasized that they were keeping an eye on greenhouse performance; and they assured plant owners that they could transfer their seedlings to other public greenhouses if theirs got low plant growth scores. In reality, such alternatives were nonexistent. High growth greenhouses were always full. But that didnÕt stop the Bullfrogs from touting the policy.

Horace and his fellow horticulturalists now found that they were completely responsible for seedling health and growth even though they did not control greenhouse conditions. Making matters worse, the seedlings were only under their care six and a half hours a day, five days a week, 180 days of the year. The rest of the time (and that was a great deal of time indeed), seedlings were "cared for" at home by their owners.

Some frogs loved their seedlings, and cared for them as well as they could. Others neglected or abused their seedlings for a variety of reasons. For instance, some were ignorant of flower care. Others were too sick to care. (Only Bullfrogs were guaranteed health care in the Kingdom.)  Some were too broke to care. (The Bullfrogs kept most of the money for themselves). Others were addicted to one or another mind-befuddling painkiller and were to numb to care, (there was much pain to be killed in this Kingdom). In any case, the result for the seedlings was always the same — stunted growth.

In fact, by the time plant owners brought their seedlings to the greenhouse, their all-important early growth period was over, and any damage that might have occurred was likely permanent. Horace often would get seedlings with needs that were well beyond his simple skills. He struggled bravely (or at least as bravely as a frog can struggle),

but try as he might he just couldn't get the stunted seedlings to meet Bullfrog standards.

He also tried expecting more, as the Bullfrogs advised, but that didnÕt work either. ÒI guess IÕm not very good at expecting,Ó Horace said to himself.

Bullfrog-owned greenhouse where Horace worked.

About this time a Bullfrog-owned corporation took over the public greenhouse where Horace worked. The focus was no longer on flowers, but profit. Plant growth did not improve. In fact, fewer plants blossomed than before. But the Bullfrogs were more content.

With the coming of summer the greenhouse season ended; and there was a new sad weariness in Horace's bulgy eyes. He still loved flowers. Only now he was preoccupied with all the seedlings that would never get a chance to bloom.

Horace spent the summer thinking about his future. In the end his love of flowers won out. He returned to the greenhouse, hoping things might improve. Sadly, they were worse than ever. Because of the Bullfrog-imposed measurement of plant growth (not to mention their pursuit of profit), love of flowers was entirely absent from the greenhouse. Seedling height was all that mattered now. Blossoming was forgotten

Horace still tried his best. "Worthwhile things are seldom easy," he said to himself. But reality slowly smothered what was left of his hope. Finally, on a particularly discouraging day (and frogs arenÕt easily discouraged), Horace just hopped sadly away, never to be seen again.

Some say he hopped to another pond where there were no Bullfrogs. Others say Bullfrogs dominate every pond in the world, and that Horace is dead.