What a delight to have been “found” by Anthony Murphy, a fellow grower of Marina’s in UK, who had been a subscriber of her paper journal.
Anthony was kind enough to exchange emails with me, including the one featured on this page.
On Monday, March 29, 2021 2:35 AM, I said to Anthony:
“I hate to “bug” a plant guy, but I have one more question.
The terms “hobby” and “amateur” in the field of botany, re cacti & other succulents. Taken together with the fact that “amateur” growers appear to have home greenhouses (glass houses) and acreage.
Once again, the comments of the trustee motivate my question. Here’s the whole statement of the trustee, you’ve seen parts of it before:
“From the photos of the greenhouse, it seems your mother kept the plants in ordinary pots, not in good or expensive pots to draw special attention, not labelling and naming the plants with Latin name. Your mother treated the plants and website as her hobby, and her aim is to share her knowledge with the parties who are interested in exotic plants through the Amateurs Digest. Your mother had to rely on other people’s contribution to keep the website running. It’s the sharing spirit that counts, not the monetary value of the plants. The plants have been left to the new owners of the house, so that the plants can flourish in the greenhouse, a suitable place for them to grow.”
I think the trustee knows very well what “the monetary value of the plants” is. I seriously doubt they tossed them into the skip. I think they sold them on the side, or gave them to someone. Which they have no legal right to do.
It seems to me the trustee is conjuring up a string of alibis for refusing to account for the plants and the records of them that have vanished. Their goal is to devalue Marina’s work and property as a mere “hobby” (less than professional) so if I come after them to kick their pants, it will cost them less. That’s what I think. Because the trustees are personally liable for these losses.
They didn’t expect to be caught. And when they were caught (it was the first question I asked in the first exchange of emails, where are Marina’s plants and journals), so then they thought they could buy me off with my own inheritance money.
They’ve had a surprise. I’ve refused to sign their release form since March 2019, and that’s a sizable estate.
Because I won’t authorize their pillage of my mother’s property, their disrespect of her Will, their abuse of her worth and her legacy. And their attempt to buy me off with her money (my money) really frosts the cake.
Even worse, it’s bad enough to die, without some stranger who has no appreciation for your life, and what you loved, and all your decades of effort, turn the key in your door when you’re gone and eradicate your life’s work.
So, there is a hot fight going on behind the scenes, and I won’t let them off for what they’ve done to Marina. And I’m wondering if an “amateur” or a “hobby” grower who cultivates for pleasure is pretty much as good as any professional grower who cultivates mainly to sell the plants to make a living.”
On Monday, March 29, 2021 2:35 AM (Montreal time, I hope), Anthony answered.
Good morning Kathleen,
Having just read your email, I think I need some time to think about it so as to provide a proper reply. I’ve got three days to the end of the month on the schedule I’ve set myself for repotting my rhodohypoxis (the cultivar named ‘Fred Broome’ is one out of 187 different ones, all grown in trays which means a lot of individual plants) — which I am mentally focused on at the moment.
One small point though, it’s flattering to be mentioned alongside Gordon Rowley, Clive Innes et al, But it’s for me it’s just a small private past time, nothing special at all (there’s no false modesty there) compared to other growers. My only claim to fame is to have gone to university in my late 40’s and to have emerged eight years later with a doctorate in sociology which I never used (not just because of my age, but because of my general dislike of present-day academia). I just did it because I was interested in it, and the same with the plants.
I’ll be in touch later in the week.
Anthony Murphy’s Reply
Dr. Anthony Murphy (PhD in Sociology) is an amateur grower. He sent me a couple of pictures of his flats to help explain to me how growers keep their plants, the type of pots, the type of labelling. I’m going to share Anthony’s two photos here. Both are his copyright.
The two pictures are from Anthony’s collection of plants, and both are from S. Africa. The second is from the summer rainfall region and the first is from the winter rainfall area. So in the UK the second, a Massonia, is dying back (in late March), and the other, pink-flowering, (a rhodohypoxis ) will be coming up to say ‘hello’ shortly thereafter.
Anthony says that Massonia’s hybridize very readily — so most of those in cultivation do not correspond to whatever the label might say (hence the need for named, collected seed). The one shown above is the genuine article (many Massonia’s are pollinated, not by insects, but by rodents in the wild). The leaves are like thick plastic.
Look at me! I’m not even a cactus lady, and I’m giving you news from a guy who knows. Marina, are you proud!
And what a nice surprise. One of Marina’s photos from her original web site, rescued by me from the Wayback Machine, is another Rhodohypoxis belonging to Anthony Murphy!
Below is Anthony’s appraisal of the attitude of the trustee who destroyed Marina’s work, based on statements by Nerissa Poon (now retired), an estate administrator for the British Columbia Public Guardian and Trustee.
On Monday, March 29, 2021 12:10 PM, Anthony replied:
Kathleen, I think there are two aspects to your claim. The first concerns the plants, the second all the written materials – the journals themselves and the background material, e.g. the correspondence connected with their production. In their response, the trustees deal only with the former, but I shall take each part in turn.
Firstly, the plants. It seems transparently obvious that the trustees are at pains to minimize the value of your mother’s plants so as to lessen their liability (if any) in their disposal of them.
Let’s take the issue of the labels.
“… not labeling and naming the plants with Latin name.”
From a purely logical standpoint, the fact that a plant has a label or not is immaterial to its monetary value. A grower/collector might not have a particular plant or indeed most of their collection unlabeled. Yet that collector would certainly be aware of the name of the plant(s). You expect commercial nurseries/retailers to have plants labeled (in order to sell them), but if the label is subsequently removed by the purchaser, that does not lessen the value of the plant. And likewise, ‘latin names’ do not add/remove value from plants.
“From the photos of the greenhouse, it seems your mother kept the plants in ordinary pots, not in good or expensive pots to draw special attention.”
The same argument about value can be made in respect of pots. Serious growers of cacti will typically use either clay, plastic, or more expensive ceramic ones. However, if you had, for instance, a collection of 200 plants, it could prove very expensive to house them in ceramic pots – plants do grow and need moving on periodically. More importantly, though, leaving aside the cost, most growers would not chose expensive ceramic pots as either clay or plastic are more suitable for growing cacti and other succulents in respect of their watering requirements (which it is crucial to get right with these plants). Ceramic pots tend to have less adequate drainage holes. ‘Ordinary’ plastic pots would be the first choice for the majority of growers.
And I fail to see any merit in the argument about
“…good or expensive pots to draw special attention.
Note the conflation there with value in “good or expensive”.
There is also the identification of value with “special”. Why would you necessarily want “to draw special attention” to your collection; not everyone is narcissistically inclined.
Let’s press on.
“Your mother treated the plants and website as her hobby, and her aim is to share her knowledge with the parties who are interested in exotic plants through the Amateurs Digest.”
There are several things to note here. Firstly, how can they possibly know what your mother’s intentions in respect of her plants and website were? Both websites and plants cost money. Calling something a “hobby”, again, devalues the activity; it relegates its economic significance. The crucial point here surely is that even if it were true that it were a ‘hobby’ (which it probably was in one sense) and she wanted to share her knowledge with others, that does not mean that it was not also a commercial enterprise which just happened to be one that she also enjoyed. This would be true for a lot of businesses. ‘Hobby’ and ‘business’ are not logically exclusive / incompatible terms.
Another point here, though not explicitly drawn out, is the name of your mother’s publication ‘The Amateur’s Digest’. Yes, ‘amateur’ does have connotations of being something that is less serious (in contra-distinction to ‘business’). But that was what she chose to call it. My own feeling based on looking at the contents, the material it contained, is that it would appeal to a particular sector of the market for succulent growers that was not catered for by other publications. Additionally, the fact that some of the contributors were actually academics and persons with considerable knowledge / standing in the field would seem to beg the question – why would they bother writing for a publication that had no serious merit (i.e. was simply someone’s fantasy ‘hobby’).
“Your mother had to rely on other people’s contribution to keep the website running.”
Well of course she did. It was a journal (which by definition relies on contributors submitting material), not a book written by just one person. The logic of this would be to say that because all journals, high or low-brow, have “to rely on other people’s contribution to keep … running”, they ought therefore be relegated to the status of ‘hobbies’.
“It’s the sharing spirit that counts, not the monetary value of the plants.”
This is an interesting piece of rhetoric – as a blatant statement of how unimportant the monetary value of her plants and related materials were (in the eyes of the trustees, that is).
“The plants have been left to the new owners of the house, so that the plants can flourish in the greenhouse, a suitable place for them to grow.”
Leaving to one side the obvious lie, what a truly patronising statement!
Turning now to the second part of your claim for your mother’s estate, i.e. all the paper work – journals and correspondence over all those years which seems to have vanished, I wouldn’t have any idea of how one could calculate that value in monetary terms, except that any unsold publications would have an obvious value. The correspondence, however, it could be argued, might have been valuable enough to have formed some kind of archive – an idea not unfamiliar in academia. After all, that is what you are trying to do with your website.
1/ Did your mother make any profit on her enterprise (tax return forms / business accounts here)? This would certainly work against the idea of what she did being a mere ‘hobby’.
2/ Monetary value of the plants. If she had two hundred plants and if we assume that they were ‘basic’, i.e. easily available plants, and also that they were young specimens, then I would hazard a guess of say $5 for each one. So that would give a starting figure of $1,000. However, if they were less common species, that value would rise, possibly considerably. Additionally, plants grow and cacti certainly increase in value, considerably so for more mature specimens.
Indeed, great names in the field, such as Clive Innes, Charles Glass, and Gordon Rowley, thought well to publish in Marina’s journal. And yes, there was a business bank account. So, the “hobby” also was an economic endeavour. Thank you, Anthony, very much, for sizing up the situation. Your arm’s length and clear head are much appreciated, on behalf of Marina, and mys
The photo below was found by me in snapshots of Marina’s old website taken by the Wayback Machine. It gives an idea of how she kept her plants (much as Anthony describes above) in her second greenhouse, on the grounds.