So I was gonna hold off on this one until it hit new stands but it looks like Organic Gardening Magazine let the cat out of the bag early and has published an article I wrote for the Feb 2008 issue (“Grow Where You Are Planted”) on their website.
I really enjoyed writing this article. When they approached me about writing a piece the timing was good — I had been itching to write about the topics covered and needed the impetus to get off my butt and do it. It’s a short piece briefly outlining my overall experiences as an urban gardener. The article also addresses outsider feelings I have struggled with since entering the world of garden writing and publishing as a career: Where and how do I fit in to this world of gorgeous, expansive gardens, expensive hardscaping, and quaint early-life garden experiences? Since writing the first book, several interviewers have asked about my childhood and early experiences with gardening. I have stammered and fallen over myself every single time. There is no easy answer to this question. There certainly are informative early experiences but my feeling has often been that the answer they are looking for is not one I can provide. And as far as how do I fit into this world, well it seems that in every category possible I stick out like a sore thumb. I did not have quaint early childhood gardening experiences, there were no early-life mentors, I live in a small apartment, I have only lived in a house with an actual backyard for 3 brief moments through the course of my entire life, I still consider myself to be lower to barely lower-middle class, I have never owned land, I don’t drive a car, I do not have a degree in horticulture (I studied Fine Arts), I have a terrible potty mouth… shall I continue? When attending garden shows and giving presentations I have rarely felt comfortable with the other “Gardening World Celebrities” and have always felt a bit like an impostor accidentally admitted to the Country Club. It’s not a feeling of inferiority or insecurity so much as a feeling of strangeness and difference. And a feeling that sooner or later that membership is going to be revoked.
It has taken some time but I’ve finally hit on an answer to this issue that I bring up in the course of the article. The answer is in the tagline I’ve been using for this site over the last few years, “Gardening for the People.” I’ve been living out the answer all along. I just needed to get there in my own head, for myself, in a new way. Gardening is not just a homogeneous experience in which rich white people with big floppy hats and sparkling teeth increase their social standing and property value through proper plant and rock placement. Gardening is for all of us. Gardening is for anyone who loves plants, or wants to grow food, or thinks flowers are pretty. Gardening is for anyone who is scared to try but who wants to give it a go. We all come to this from different places, different backgrounds, different experiences (and experience levels), and different interests. My life is complicated. Your life is complicated. I’d wager a solid bet that the seemingly quaint life of every single “Gardening World Celebrity” is also complicated.
In the end I don’t care how different we are. The only thing we need to have in common is the love. And even that isn’t a prerequisite.