From Margaret Roach to Niki Jabbour, I’ve been asked to do many podcasts and radio shows over the last few months due to the publication of Tropical Plants and How To Love them – opportunities for which I’m extremely grateful. I’ve enjoyed each one of them tremendously.
My kids would say that this is because I love the sound of my own voice, and they would probably be correct (and obviously scarred) on some level; but it would be more accurate to say that, I love the AHA! moments created by introducing temperate gardeners to the unfamiliar world of designing with tropical plants in their landscapes – as well as hearing about how some of these hosts all over the country are using tropical and subtropical plants in their own gardens.
Podcasts allow me to reach a listening audience that might not belong to groups that have invited me to speak, and get those listeners dabbling in a new gardening adventure – or simply answer the questions of those who have moved past dabbling and begun to downright frolic.
Into The Garden Gets Into The Weeds
However, several weeks ago I was asked by designer and garden consultant Leslie Harris to be a guest on her podcast Into The Garden with Leslie to discuss something a little different – my current opinion column with The American Horticultural Society’s member magazine The American Gardener – and particularly about one column in particular “In Defense of Plants Without Press” which discusses the unintended consequences and resulting options for gardeners when plant marketing companies increasingly dominate the marketplace.
I jumped at the opportunity. Leslie a wonderful interviewer and it gave me the chance to discuss this complex topic and several other topics in the series. Encouraging discussion is the whole point of this column and I’m thankful to Leslie for starting the [literal] conversation over the airwaves.
In any case we had a lively back and forth filled with laughter which could have just as easily been had across my dining room table (or hers!) over a good meal. You can find it here on her blog, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
Our discussion begins at 7:32, but I urge you to listen to the introductory minutes as Leslie gives some great information about the new invasive insect to watch out for, the Spotted Lanternfly, and the joys of the pass-along plant Begonia grandis. (Ironically, I came across my first sighting of the SLF in Winchester, Virginia the day the podcast dropped.)
For readers unfamiliar with my column with The American Gardener, entitled “In Defense Of”, let me introduce you. The column aims to take a slightly different look at various aspects of gardening and the horticultural industry, hopefully inspiring deeper reflection by readers, and subsequent discussion with gardeners and horticulturists when opportunity arises.
It is not necessarily intended to be confrontational, but merely affirm that there is room for discussion in all areas of horticulture, and that sometimes we overlook or avoid tough conversations. Leslie told me on the podcast that she considers me a “centrist politician” in the politics of gardening. I laughed at that descriptor and told her to keep politics out of it, but there could be a little truth in her words…
It’s a fairly new thing for The American Gardener to run an opinion column, and for the younger crowd unfamiliar with the rich op-ed tradition of the press, it should perhaps be noted that my opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the magazine or indeed of the AHS itself. David Ellis, the magazine’s highly respected editor, should be given a great deal of credit for creating a new energy within all of its pages this year without sacrificing the in-depth information that is the hallmark of this magazine.
Traditionally, The American Gardener has been a magazine devoted to the nuts and bolts of gardening all over the country, and it’s good at it. From expert-authored articles on how to successfully grow a four-season vegetable garden, to articles on specific genera, to industry news and happenings, The American Gardener is one of the best hort-focused magazines out there; and a wonderful bonus of joining the American Horticultural Society (along with many other benefits) is that you get it in your mailbox or digitally in your inbox six times a year. Not too much to overwhelm, but enough to keep you connected. Long before I wrote for the magazine, I admired it.
Getting the Convo Going
The response to the column has been fascinating – and invigorating. I have had readers send me effusive emails thanking me for a specific stance, and out of the blue phone calls from respected garden writers supporting my efforts to engage in tough conversations.
Last week I had a Connecticut reader send me a carefully clipped column from her local newspaper as Exhibit A in the case for why she felt my stance on a particular topic was correct. It warmed my heart to think that she would take the time to send it to me in this too, too busy world. (And that she still had a newspaper from which to clip.)
I’ve also had push back – both from readers who feel I’m way off, or more recently, from a large firm who felt I was “unkind” (insofar as an individual can be unkind to a multi-million-dollar industry I suppose).
Though I may disagree, I welcome these thoughts too, as the point of the exercise IS discussion and engagement – even if it means around your own dining room table with other plant people late into the wee small hours. In any case, The American Gardener welcomes all letters and comments and endeavors to print as many as there are room for.
Topics covered so far are:
- In Defense of The Lawn
- In Defense of Botanical Names
- In Defense of Inclusive Biodiversity
- In Defense of Boundaries
- In Defense of Quieter, Healthier Neighborhoods
- In Defense of Plants Without Press
- In Defense of The Freedom to Garden (to be published in the Nov/Dec 2021 issue)
Non-members have access to some of these articles which have been given public access, otherwise they are available only to members. Membership is just $35 a year and comes with a host of benefits including the Reciprocal Admissions Program to gardens all over the United States.
And no, I wasn’t paid to tell you that. 😊
I hope you will take some time this weekend to catch Leslie’s podcast (available on her website or your podcast player) and please consider joining the American Horticultural Society and receiving the magazine and joining the conversation. I’d love to have your thoughts! – MW