Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Gardening and commitment

In my official life as a garden writer, I write a column aimed at beginner gardeners for Canadian Gardening magazine.

The editor, Aldona Satterthwaite, is a keen gardener and the magazine reflects that and does an excellent job of informing and entertaining gardeners (but, of course, I'm biased).

CG has an appropriate balance between gardening and what we magazine types call "lifestyle". Gardening = growing stuff, creating a garden. Lifestyle = buying the right teak bench.

This month (the May issue just out) in her editor's column, Aldona takes on the trend mongers and outdoor "decorators" who fall for one hot thing after the next, and who like to declare that gardening is over.

In her words:
"Of course, gardening isn't for everyone - it never was and never will be. But dead? Not any time soon. Sure, the human lemmings who flit from fad to fad may try it and move on, perhaps after finding out that buying an expensive, finicky exotic plant isn't quite the same as purchasing a designer sofa. Actually, it's a lot more like adopting a pet or having a baby, because we're talking three scary C-words here, folks - commitment, care and consistency. And whether you do it on a large-sized lot or a small balcony, that's pretty much the secret to being a successful gardener.

I have another bugbear. There's something afoot to try to make gardening synonymous with outdoor decorating. Outdoor decorating and outdoor leisure are two perfectly delightful and legitimate pursuits, but they ain't gardening. The best gardens are made with heart and soul and love, and owe little to fancy doodads (but a lot to the three Cs)."
Here! Here! I used to coordinate and write a lot of gardening articles for a women's magazine that shall remain nameless. We eventually fell out because of the very issue of exterior decorating: the editor I worked with actually said that they didn't want stories that necessitated getting your hands dirty.

I hated writing about exterior decorating, and that's mostly what they ended up wanting. The parting was mutual. After that, Canadian Gardening took me on, and I'm pleased that I actually get to write about growing things. By the way, I have piece on bearded irises and how to plant a tree in this May's issue.

To illustrate this post, I chose a picture of my four-square garden, which to me represents the epitome of commitment, as it is my most labor-intensive garden area. There are times when I'd like to rip out all the flowers and bulbs, and just plant a single crabapple tree with groundcovers in each of the four squares, but even doing that would be a huge task.

Then June comes, and my heart melts at this amazing thing of beauty that we have managed to create - and once again the three Cs see me through. That's gardening.


  1. You know, I used to be quite good at baking bread (probably still am). One of the good parts was to take a look at the steaming loaf, fresh from the oven and feel the satisfaction of a work well done. Since I'm a rational person we bought a bread making machine some years ago. It makes excellent bread, quite up to my own standards, but the feeling's lost - it's just another piece of bread.

    It's the same with gardening - if you don't have to work for it it you'll only have something colourful outside your house - or inside the house in my case :-)

    Happy Gardening!

  2. How lucky you are to work for/with someone like that! It is so so hard to find real gardening magazines...yes, I agree, they do seem to be about exterior decorating and for the same people who change their wardrobe every year, they have to have the latest patio table setting...boring!

    Someone on another blog noticed that some magazines were actually running the same articles over again! I have suspected that at the checkout line when I look at the latest offerings...or maybe they are just saying the same things over and over.

    I have will to remember the three Cs...perfect!

    Your four square garden is lovely. And worth it! You will know inside you when or if the time comes to change it...and then it will be right.

    Thank you for one of the best articles I have read in a while!

  3. I just received my issue of CG today so I'm looking forward to reading the article.


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