About Marianne Willburn

I’m a garden writer. Yes, it really is a profession …

Marianne Willburn

I had this conversation not too long ago with a guy renting me a kayak in Chicago.  He seemed unconvinced, in that dismissive, suntanned, WHATever way that made me want to point out that he rented kayaks on the shores of Lake Michigan for a living.

I didn’t.  Because mostly I’m a nice garden writer.


Working with and writing about plants allows me to experiment, think critically, create living art, connect with others, and always be reminded of how fulfilling it is to work with one’s hands.  I am fortunate to be able to share that with readers in magazines, books, online journals, and here on this website.

I’m a gardener. I’ll never forget being introduced to a garden writer (later, friend) for the first time and being asked “Do you have a garden?”

“Well, of course,” I replied. “How could I write about gardening if I didn’t?” He winked and said. “Oh you’d be surprised.”

I was.  So just in case this needs clarifying, I mention it here. I split my days fairly evenly between my desk and the soil; and I credit constant immersion in that soil as the reason I rarely stare despairingly at a blank screen.

I’m a self-taught gardener. My early training is in theatre and my degree is in a different kind of digging: archaeology and archaeological photography. I studied both at The Institute of Archaeology, University College London, and I credit those wonderful, challenging years for teaching me to research, write, argue, live on nothing, and find my way around a camera.

However, I have gardened and studied horticulture unofficially throughout my entire adult life. When I began to write about it over a decade ago, my life’s path changed and I followed it.  The more time I spend growing, reading, researching and experimenting, the more lifetimes I wish I had.

I’m a California native from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Things I miss: Four-season verandas, citrus trees, dry air, high-country hikes.  Things I’d miss if I left the Mid-Atlantic: Summer thunderstorms, fireflies, ephemeral spring blossoms in the woods.

I’m an American/British dual-national.  Like things weren’t complicated enough.

I’ve lived and gardened in many diverse places. I’ve had patio pots stolen in London, tomatoes dusted with exhaust in Pasadena, kept houseplants in a studio in New York City, and been told to get rid of my chickens in Mid-Atlantic suburbia. When you’re a gardener, you don’t wait for the perfect place – you just do it.

I now live in a small town within the commuting shadow of  a big city. Washington DC to be precise, which is why I have to spend so much time in the garden.

occupy2A river runs through it. Well, a creek.  Oldmeadow sits in a low stream valley which turns my USDA Zone 7 zip code into Zone 6b.

Yes, that’s a gnat hat on my head. It’s a Mid-Atlantic thing.  Natives try to pretend the gnats aren’t that bad. Except they are.  I keep spare hats for visitors and tell myself that all this green comes with a price.

Current amount of non-human mouths to feed: 2 dogs, 3 cats, 18 hens, 2 roosters and 2 ducks. And the bees. Guinea hens when they feel like it.

That’s Mungo. One of the best Jack Russell Terriers we have ever had. He’s scruffy and loyal and with me wherever I am in the garden, chasing flying weeds and dirt and keeping an eye out for groundhogs.  He has a ball fixation that borders on absurd, but it keeps children busy when their parents want to sit round the table for another half bottle of wine.

I’m a rabid proponent for getting off your device and into your garden. Gardening is hard work, but it’s some of the most spiritually and mentally rewarding work you can do. If we do too much of it in a virtual world surfing Pinterest boards and chat forums, we are in grave danger of losing the point. Let the garden connect you in a better way.

Images of rural life - Tomato planting at Oldmeadow

I’ve got two offices: My Garden & The One with The Desk

To ensure that you and I have time to get some work done out there, you won’t find endless updates on the state of my mesclun, mind or marriage  (for the record – fairly spicy, fairly sound, fairly stable).  Instead, you’ll find a collection of my columns mixed with tips, advice and resources for managing and enjoying your garden month-to-month. Gardeners on Instagram and Facebook can find more frequent tips and photos on those quick-to-post platforms.  X/Twitter users are out of luck I’m afraid.  Just. Can’t. Do. It.

If you’re a Mid-Atlantic gardener, consider joining our subscription service.  Each month I’ll send you a list of what you should be thinking about right now, along with a plant suggestion for color and beauty during that month. If you’re not a Mid-Atlantic gardener, join us anyway — understanding other zones and growing conditions can only make you a more knowledgeable gardener.  If you’re in Calfornia, you can laugh at us; if you’re in Nova Scotia, you can cry.

Subscribers are also sent a quarterly newsletter with new book reviews, garden tours, industry news and seasonal tips, as well as an email alert when new articles are posted.

So for the moments when you aren’t creating, maintaining or battling in the garden, grab a glass of something wonderfully terrible for you and explore a little how-to, a little how-not, and thoughts on the why-we-always-should-even-when-its-hard.

A garden doesn’t have to be perfect.  It doesn’t have to be large.  And in the middle of August, it doesn’t even have to be green.

It just has to be yours.

Your balcony, your patio, your rented city lot or ten-acre deer preserve.  Whatever you garden, wherever you garden – please join me as we plunge our hands in the earth and begin to reconnect.