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summer garden

It’s August and the first of summer was a long time ago (measured in COVID years). Therefore this summer newsletter is a bit late.  I beg your forgiveness but offer the following justification:

The manuscript for my new book Tropical Plants and How to Love Them is now on my editor’s desk.  In fact, the pre-order information has just gone up on Amazon.  But more about that in a minute.

This summer is unlike any most of us have experienced in our lifetimes.  In addition to normal life stressors, we are all dealing with a daily dose of trepidation and worry for many different reasons. To say “the garden can solve it” is not only trite, but untrue.

However, I do believe that our natural world can help us to remediate the emotional effects we are feeling from several months lived under a stress cloud.  Parks, gardens, hiking trails, lakes, ponds and other natural resources reconnect us to what it means to be human and of this earth.

chickens on lap, garden

One more ‘however’.

It’s impossible to fully absorb this medicine when we’ve got a back-pocket device keeping us connected to the very thing we need to escape.

I urge you to consider leaving your phone with all its alerts, notifications, alarms, texts, doomfeeds, step counts and other keep-up-keep-connected anxiety inducers at home when you head out for some forest bathing.

Pics or it didn’t happen? Take pictures with your eyes, your heart, and your mind.  The rest of the world doesn’t need proof that you’re unwinding, and if you’re showing us, it’s proof that you’re not.

For centuries human beings coped with being unreachable for a few hours.

Be brave. Be unreachable.

New Book

Tropical Plants and How To Love ThemThe manuscript for Tropical Plants and How to Love Them has just hit my editor’s desk, and I’m pretty excited about it.  For those who send me emails, DMs, and comment queries about how to overwinter that banana you saw in a recent post, or which tropicals to keep and which to compost, or how to use tropical plants in a way that enhances, not dominates your garden or your indoor space – this is the book for you!

It profiles many familiar and unfamiliar tropical plants and helps you build relationships with them that will suit your gardening life, not someone else’s.

Tons of information, plenty of plants, down-to-earth advice.  Tropical Plants and How to Love Them is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

New Tours

When the spring newsletter went out in March, the COVID emergency was just getting underway, but it had already become obvious that our CarexTours trip to the gardens of East Anglia and The Chelsea Flower Show would have to be cancelled and rescheduled.

Unfortunately, the same fate has befallen my Gardens of Normandy tour scheduled for mid-September.

walking stick, giverny, nasturtium archway

(Photo credit: C. Mullet, Carex Tours)

I am saddened not to share these gardens with you this year, as well as the joys of French food, wine, shopping and culture, but I very much look forward to guiding you through them next year. (And replacing the gorgeous French market basket my puppy Nessa just chewed up!)

Mark your calendars now!

Gardens of East Anglia & Chelsea Flower Show May 19-26, 2021

The Gardens of Normandy September 22-30, 2021

More information about these trips and other inspiring garden tours is available through the CarexTours website.

New Correspondence

Recently I became one of the six-person writing team on the wild (and sometimes wicked), long-running blog GardenRant by viciously attacking one of its writers, Scott Beuerlein of Horticulture Magazine and The Cincinnati Zoo.

Well, that’s not exactly what happened, but that’s no doubt how Scott would see it.

garden rant banner

I’m thrilled to officially join Garden Rant (for whom I have guest ranted over the years); and after a few rebuttals…and rebuttals to rebuttals…Scott and I decided to be more civilized and correspond through ‘letters’ posted on the site every two weeks or so.

Scott Beuerlein, looking deceptively sympathetic.

Neither he nor I see the letters of the other before they are posted, so we’re reading them at the same time you are (And often spitting out our morning coffee when the jabs begin.)

Scott’s from the Midwest. I’m in the Mid-Atlantic.  500 miles apart. We’re not facing the same things in our gardens, but we both look to them for inspiration, solace, and comic relief.

The response from readers has been fantastic, and I hope that you too will join us for this funny, often heretical, sometimes intimate, portrait of gardening and garden writing.  The fun begins here.

Well, not for Scott.

New Controversy

No, it’s not a sex scandal. Just an article I recently wrote for the July/August issue of The American Horticultural Society’s magazine The American Gardener, which asks garden influencers, writers, scholars and critics if the current trend of loudly proclaiming “Lose the Lawn!” is the right tack to take when helping homeowners with their landscapes.

Believe it or not, that’s a controversial position to take.

“In Defense of The Lawn” explores the many sound reasons for having a lawn, and urges experts to help homeowners care for them in more environmentally sustainable ways, rather than shaming them for having one at all.

If you love your lawn but are feeling increasingly like you’re doing something wrong, you might want to read this article. And, if you’ve been standing on a soapbox yelling “Plant a Meadow!” to anyone who wants advice on organic lawn care, I have a few counterpoints to share with you.

We’ve had a lot of excellent feedback and I’d love to know what you think.  You can read the first part of the article here, and use a link to a generous discount membership at The American Horticultural Society valid until 8/31/20. Membership not only gives you access to this article, but many other wonderful articles in their bi-monthly print or digital publication of The American Gardener – as well as free access to hundreds of public gardens nationwide.

New Puppy

Spurred on by cancelled travel and constant work-from-home schedules, we took the plunge and brought home the puppy we’ve been wanting (and talking ourselves out of) for at least three years.  I can’t say that Mungo the 17lb Jack Russell has warmed up to the 65lb-and-growing Irish Wolfhound he has been forced to share his life with, but he’s at least come to terms with it

Irish Wolfhound Puppy NessaNessa is a wonderful puppy as puppies go – chill, obedient and loving.  She also digs, whines, and eats anything that smacks of wicker.  That’s posing a problem in a house filled with antique baskets.

We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it’s easier than it could be (as those who have labs and boxers can attest).

You can see pictures of the dogs, ducks and other mouths that need to be fed on the Small Town Gardener Instagram feed below. Animals have the capacity to both make us crazy and keep us sane – and thankfully there is more of the latter going on around here than the former.

Keep Calm and Carry On

We’re facing a challenging period in history…but I feel strongly that we have the capacity to get through it.  My very best to you all as you navigate the days, weeks and months ahead, and I hope that your garden – whether small or large – has a hand in helping you carry on in the face of setbacks.

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