Did you hear about the new BBC series “Great British Garden Revival”? Those of us in the garden businesses need to keep each other “cheered up” as we await spring, and a chance for the cash flow to start flowing our way again. So it’s off to Britain where everyone in the business of gardening is talking about it! We will have to wait to see what the target audience “the public” thinks later.
The Guardian reports that “A new gardening TV show hit our screens last night, but what did Twitter make of it?” To The Internet! The Telegraph’s Ed Cumming declared, “The series is hardly revolutionary, but there was plenty of sensible advice and lovely shots”. Another Twitter user says, “So enjoyed half of #gardenrevival tonight. It was marred by bad practice and ill conceived dumbing down as are most gardening programmes.” Everyone has an opinion and is willing to share it. If your interested you can follow the chatter on Twitter at #gardenrevival.
It seems that even in Britain gardening is less popular than it was in the past. That’s why the series is called “The Great British Garden Revival”. According to The BBC, “more and more front and back gardens are paved over – for development, for parking spaces, or because families don’t have the time or inclination to manage these spaces.” The first show in the series dealt with “Wildflowers” and “Front Gardens”. The wildflower segment seems to have helped “Seedball”, a company that promotes, “a simple way to create beautiful native wildflower gardens & help wildlife too.” Apparently “98 per cent of wild flower meadows in Britain have been lost”. The next segment “Front Gardens”, tells us that in” the past, our front gardens were highly valued and we used them to show off our gardening prowess, but sadly over time, front gardens have been paved over for parking and turned into a no-man’s land between the street and front door.” Good luck!
As one person on Twitter expressed, “Thanks all for horti tweets this eve, had trouble keeping up w/ them all! At least #gardenrevival has got us all fired up again”. That’s what I see as the greatest benefit of the series. It keeps those of us in the trades excited and talking during the off season. Really, I don’t think a garden revival is in the cards for Britain, or here for that matter. There are just too many other things for people to do with their time and money. However, if those of us in the trades can reach the enthusiastic few through our passion and social media, it can make a difference. It should be enough to keep those of us still in business, in business. Seeing that passion expressed did put a bounce in my step this cold, bleak morning. As for TV shows about gardening? Not so sure, but we can always go to The Internet to find out.
I came across an article today in The Guardian titled, “Why are garden books so boring?” This seems to be of great concern not only in The UK, but here in The US. Is it also of great concern in other countries? Not surprisingly the people most concerned about boring garden books seem to be authors who write about gardening.
One common thread is comparing garden books to cooking books. The author of The Guardian article, Lucy Masters says, “I look at cookery books and the photography is amazing, the layouts are appealing and interesting.” Are there no boring cooking books? Do cooking book authors have these same discussions, but reversed? Wondering when someone else will come out with yet another beautiful picture book of dinning in Tuscany?
Recently I reviewed a garden book which I didn’t find boring. The book seemed to have just enough photography, and interesting ideas to suit my tastes. My taste in most things runs a bit counter to the masses so tell me, is this the kind of book we are talking about as being boring?
Take a look at The Amazon top seller list in gardening. Are these books boring? I haven’t read most of them, so I really don’t know. What kinds of books would we expect to see filling this list? Seems they run the gamut from, “Vegetable Literacy, Cooking and Gardening”, “Marijuana Horticulture”, “Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life”, “The Flower Recipe Book”, and a bunch that help people learn to feed themselves. In the case of “Aquaponic Gardening”, it might help feed people in impoverished countries one day. That doesn’t seem boring. There are also a bunch of “how to” books on growing your own food. It seems that if you’re concerned with GMO’s, pesticides, and corporate farms, you might want to know how to do this.
According to Lucy Masters article, nothing refreshing or novel has been published since, “Andy Sturgeon’s book Planted came out in 1999. On the front cover it had a man’s bald head with a terracotta plant pot and seedling balanced on top. It’s was such a striking image. Everything about the photography in that book was refreshing, ground breaking! That was back in 1999.”
Why do we hear so much about the decline of gardening books? What do you think is going on here? Is this just a case of bored garden book authors? How do you find the current selection of gardening books available? What would you like to see more of? Less of?
Monrovia Nurseries has come up with yet a new scheme they hope independent garden centers (IGC’s) will jump on. According to Garden Centers Magazine,“Monrovia Nursery is launching an e-commerce website by mid-January 2014, and consumers will be able to buy plants directly from the company. But Monrovia won’t ship the purchased plants to gardeners’ homes. Instead, the California-based nursery will deliver the plants to participating independent garden centers, which will then distribute them to customers.”
The customer chooses the plants at the Monrovia website. The plants are pre-priced according to what Monrovia feels is an “appropriate retail price”. The plants are then shipped to the local IGC for pick-up by the end customer. According to David Kirby, vice president of sales at Monrovia,“The plants will be delivered directly to the stores, and the garden centers will receive the normal retail markup from the sale. Once consumers purchase the plants, they’ll receive a message indicating that Monrovia will ship them to the local IGC once they have finished growing and are in prime condition. The plants will be delivered between March and May, have a label with the gardener’s name, a thank you tag and a fresh, clean container.”
Of course Monrovia hopes IGC’s will jump on board with this. It was IGC’s who tried to help Monrovia out of a jam just a couple of years ago, but to no avail. Monrovia threatened to go out of business or into the chain and box stores if IGC’s didn’t buy more plants. Many IGC’s did buy extra plant stock, but to no avail. Turns out Monrovia had been planning on going into the chain stores all along, and used the IGC’s long standing relationship of support to sell a few more plants. Monrovia eventually headed to Home Depot. These day’s they sell their plants through Lowe’s. Why wouldn’t Monrovia eventually just sell and ship the plants directly to the end customer, keeping all the profit?
I have followed and reported on Monrovia for years. Monrovia is doing exactly what is to be expected these days as the horticultural trade continues to fragment, and shrink. It’s the future, and it would be unwise of them not to at least look into it. However, expecting the (IGC) to help them out again? Seems a bit of a reach. How does that saying go? “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”.
Often I receive well meaning advice on how to attract more readers, fans, or followers. I should measure incoming links, opt in’s, opt out’s, subscribers, etc. Those of us in the horticultural trades feel that if we write about something, it has to be for “someone” that will eventually send money our way (doesn’t happen that often, if at all). If we don’t write for monetary gain, “why waste our time?” For some that’s why they write in the first place. The act of writing is not where they find pleasure; it’s the results (monetary gain) of that writing that brings the joy. There is no harm in that, as they are fulfilling their needs, and measuring their success through the pocket book. Got to keep the lights on at the store.
There is a much smaller group of writers who want to write for the joy of writing, and if the money comes that would be nice. They would like to write about things that bring them pleasure, but may be ignored by the masses, or those who respond from advertisements. Someone wishing to write about “native plants”, or “16th century gardening”, might find themselves disappointed when it seems no one responds. In an attempt to gain more “likes” or “fans” they alter their writing, saying what they think the audience wants to hear. Sometimes that works, often it doesn’t.
We forget that sometimes the stuff we write from the heart does affect people, but in a slower and not so measurable way. We need to cultivate patience. I had this experience just the other day. A reader said that what I wrote “inspired” them to get back into writing about what they love. Great!
You can still write for an audience with the idea of “selling” your products, or business. Maybe you’ll just have to find a place for both methods. Perhaps a different platform or blog will work. However you do it, we need more writing about the stuff you feel passionate about. When you write from the heart you open yourself to finding others who enjoy what you do. That very small niche of people who enjoy what you have written sometimes can change your life. It’s the quality of you readership, not the quantity that truly matters.
“The Edible Garden. How to have your garden and eat it, too”, by Alys Fowler. This book from Viva Publications was recently published here in The U.S. after it’s initial debut in The U.K.
I can’t remember when I had first heard about Alys Fowler, but I am sure it was while surfing the web following a link. I don’ typically buy books concerning gardening, as there are so few that I really enjoy. It seems I do things a bit differently than most in that I find myself fascinated with the people and their ideas first, then find out about their works. Having been involved in the garden trades for over 30 years, I have become a bit jaded with the gardening publications offered these days. If someone interests me I will check out their blog to see what’s going on today. Alys blog is interesting. Check out her latest post, “One Bee and Me”.
Her book “The Edible Garden” is divided into three parts, Things to Know, Things to Grow, and Reaping Your Harvest.
“Things to Know” sets the stage with discussions on soil types, mixing edibles with ornamental plants, foraging outside of one’s garden, composting, green manures, and some other basics, and not so basics. I am not sure when I have read a book that promotes foraging as a supplement to ones garden. She cautions, “Don’t forage in Scientific, Interest and National Nature Reserves without the express permission of Natural England”.
“Things to Grow” discusses designing the garden using plants we are familiar with, as well as some which are more exotic, at least to me. Oraches, tree spinach, Oriental greens, salsola, landcress, and what she describes as “other curiosities”. Tomatoes and other more well know vegetables are mentioned, too. It’s not so much a list of varieties as an inspiration to try growing something different than the “same old same old”. Fruit trees and berries are also discussed, as well as an entire section on flowers, some edible, and some for show. There is also a short section devoted to flower bouquets. Let’s hope this catches on as the growing of, and giving of flower bouquets is a dying practice.
“Reaping Your Harvest” is concerned with how to prepare and enjoy what we have grown. Jams and jellies, pickles, and chutney, as well as how to preserve, or cook with your harvest. Included is some of her favorite recipes for lavender biscuits, raspberry jam ice-cream, and courgette cake. To round out the book the third section is devoted to homemade fruit liqueurs, and cocktails.
This is not a coffee table book thanks goodness, but it is filled with great photography and drawings of both Alys, her garden, and creations. With a slightly urban focus it would make a great gift for up and coming gardeners. Even somewhat jaded gardeners like me will get to view the garden, and gardening as Alys sees it. It is a welcome change, and has inspired me to try a few of her ideas and recipes.
I received a copy of The Edible Garden Book for review purpose. This in no way affected my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
What does a person interested in horticulture see these days when they look to the nursery trades for work? How different is it from the late 70’s when I stepped into the field? I know that when I began my journey on The San Francisco Peninsula independent nurseries dominated the landscape. There we’re no “box stores”. The only chain store completion was “K-Mart” and their hideous garden department. We didn’t even think of them as competition. The competition was independent in nature and included “Peters & Wilson” in Millbrae, “Burlingame Garden Center”, “Golden Nursery” in San Mateo, “Taylor Nursery” in Belmont,” Redwood City Nursery”, “Half Moon Bay Nursery”, and “Rogers Reynolds” Carriage Shop” in Menlo Park. I worked at “Christensen’s Nursery” in Belmont. Have I missed any?
If these places we’re competition, we didn’t notice. There was camaraderie of sorts that even included meetings together with The Peninsula Chapter of The California Association of Nurserymen. There were also the meetings held by another trade group, the 49’er association, which is the precursor of today’s Master Nursery Association. There was no drug testing back in those days. I can’t even imagine where they would have found workers if they did. The meetings we attended we’re “quite the scene”. However most of us survived, even if the nurseries we worked at didn’t. I believe all of the above named nurseries with the exception of Golden Nursery, Half Moon Bay Nursery, and Tyler’s are gone. I left for inland California in the late 80’s and have lived here since. What’s the scene like there now? Is it just as active, only different? Do most shop for garden supplies at Home Depot and Lowe’s now?
The bedding plant department was dominated with very young seedlings and cuttings sold in small “6 packs”. Rarely we’re they blooming. I remember when the first “jumbo packs” with blooming flowers arrived. Those we’re for the impulse buyers, while the more serious gardeners bought the younger plants. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but it seemed these younger plants grew better, and bloomed longer? Does anyone other than “Annie’s Annuals” still produce these younger, non- chemically treated bedding plants’ anymore? Seems so many now are treated chemically, and breed to bloom younger, so as to sell and ride in the trucking racks better.
There was no organic gardening department. I will say this is one area I am glad to see now. We sold stuff that has long ago been banned, and for good reason. There was really just no other option at the time. Rodale’s was the only publication I can remember promoting organic gardening. We lived and breathed Sunset Magazine. Our Saturday meetings included an advance notice from them on what they would be publishing that month. That way we could handle all the questions we would get concerning some article in the magazine. Time magazine finally bought out the Lane family who had owned the publication for decades. Never was the same after that.
Monrovia Nursery was only located in Azuza, California. Their logo, which hung on every plant, was a man wearing a fedora, smoking a pipe. I would love to see if anyone still has one, or a picture of one. Customers would come in smoking pipes, cigars, or cigarettes. Shrubs and trees we’re gown in metal cans which we had to cut down the sides so they could be removed. “Would you like us to cut those cans open for you? Talk about a liability! I remember one customer cutting their hand and bleeding on the seat of their Bentley. We gave them a towel and band aid, and off they went. People didn’t sue as often back then, or these things we’re handled out of court.
I don’t think things were better, or worse back then. It was just a different time and place. I do know we had lots of pride as nurserymen and women. Becoming a Certified Nurseryman was an honor, and at Christensen’s the uniforms we’re green and we had matching green pants. We looked like forest rangers, except for the long hair and ponytails on the guys. I thought we looked cool. I remember when we finally convinced our boss Jack Christensen to get with it, and allow us to wear shorts.
Never regretted my career choice. It is an honorable profession, and one that is even more important these days. I pretty much work by myself now, so interactions with fellow trades people is often only through The Internet. Since much of the above predates Silicon Valley, there is little recorded on The Internet concerning that general era in the nursery trade. I have connected with others after posting these history trips, so hence the purpose of my trip down memory lane today. It doesn’t matter whether it was The Bay Area, or “across the pond” so to speak. How has the trade changed since you first became involved?
I love to write. Not “garden writing” mind you. I just want to write. If it happens to be about gardening, the garden, or the garden trades, fine. It’s not an ideal way to make a living however. We can all name writers who have made fortunes based on their written word, but it’s a very rarefied group. I believe most writers barely make a living off their craft, if it’s a living wage at all. Still, I just want to write.
Recently a book was sent to me for review. The author would be labeled a well known “garden writer”. I’ll just refer to them as a writer, who has written a book about gardening. The review will come later this week. I was pleased the publisher thought of me when they asked for a review. I have never reviewed a book before. Why me? Is it because I had asked one night just a short time ago to reveal in my dreams some direction? I do that now and then. It’s playful, and fun. You never know what your dreams will reveal. Suddenly everywhere I look writing opportunities are turning up. There is something at work here. Our “reality” springs forth from our dreams.
It would be nice to see more dreamers in the horticultural trades. I know it’s not very “practical”, but it would be nice. I think the dreamers are out there, and want to contribute. Often we are overly concerned with the practical stuff, and turn off the dreamers among’st us. The other day I was reading at a trade discussion group where someone asked what where the qualities of a good “horticulturalist”? The very first answer from someone in the trade, ”We’re horticulturists, not horticulturalists.” “Horticulturalist” or “Horticulturist”, does it really matter? Instead of correcting people on their semantics, perhaps we should answer their questions? I see this all the time in our trade businesses. We wonder why people don’t want to be “helped” when the arrive at our stores? Or do they bother arriving at all?
Our trade is in need of independent thinkers and dreamers. Labels can be confining or liberating. Be sure when it comes to what you do you don’t let others trap you within “their” labels. Keep dreaming.
I am going to share an idea that has worked wonders for me over the last year. It started out very, very difficult, but has grown easier as time has passed. It’s not for everyone, but it could work for you.
We had accumulated a “boat load” of debt that was making it impossible to breathe deeply, or think clearly. We had accumulated this in an attempt to maintain a lifestyle that we had become accustomed to over the years. The interesting thing was the lifestyle really wasn’t as fulfilling anymore. When the economy tanked about 5 years ago we could see that the world had changed. It seems to me that many people I see are doing the same thing. They are trying to maintain a “world” that really no longer exists. For me, the time had come to create a “new, brighter world”.
Shed the debt! Doesn’t matter how you do it, but consumer debt is drowning people under its toxic weight. I am not talking about your mortgage (although we could). We’re talking about one of the most toxic kinds of debt, credit cards. In business it’s very easy to accumulate it since you can convince yourself that it’s necessary to keep the business running, maintaining an image, and thus putting food on your table. The problem is you end up working for the banks, instead of yourself. I know there is nothing worse in small business than working hard day in and day out only to see the profits, when there are any, head to the banks.
Tuck your pride away, seek help from professionals if necessary, and work a way out of it. It’s not easy, but its life changing. Some will tell me that it’s OK to carry some consumer debt as long as you pay off the bills once a month, or use the debt to grow your business. I won’t argue finance, since we are all different. However, in my now “new world” credit card offers that come in the mail are ripped up, and thrown away. Don’t even open them anymore, despite their offers of 0%interest. I find it amazing that after the economy tanked over five years ago the banks are still pulling this kind of stuff. It’s unethical, but when has that ever stopped them?
I write this in an attempt to help people I know who are crying out for help. Everything can seem so overwhelming these days. Where do you start? How can you possibly dig yourself out from under what seems to be a mountain of concerns? Don’t focus on everything right now. Start with just one thing, and watch as those other things start to come into focus more easily. Your new brighter world will translate into your business life, as well as your personal life.
After all, in small business your personal life IS your business life.
After raising chickens for the last 25 years we have come to the realization that we just don’t want to take the time to do it anymore. We love the delicious, fluffy eggs they produce, and use their manure to feed the garden. When we first started with chickens, finding fresh organic eggs was much more difficult. As a matter of fact, finding fresh organic grown food of any type was more difficult, hence part of the reason for starting our now very large vegetable garden.
These days driving from work to our home we pass an organic vegetable farm with attached “farm stand”. Just next door there is a lady who raises chickens and feeds them organically. Again, there is a little farm stand attached where you leave the money and retrieve the eggs from a small refrigerator. We also have at least 3 farmers markets within 12 miles of here. These places didn’t exist 25 years ago.
We have decided that once our chickens have stopped producing, we will not replace them. The garden is going to shrink in physical size also, but not disappear. We still find joy raising vegetables and fruit for fresh picking. What will happen is we won’t feel the need to fill up every square inch of garden space as we have in the past. It will cut down on the amount of time necessary to maintain what is a very large garden spread. We also want to support the people who have made it their business to grow fresh, organic food.
I think as we see more locally produced organic sources of food become available you’ll see this trend grow. Some people will always want to raise their own food, and that’s great. However, I think you will see more people doing what we are doing, and as such the trend of “growing you own” food will plateau, if it hasn’t already. That’s OK, since we have come so far over the last 25 years in making available organic, locally grown food. Some will still need to grow their own for a variety of reasons. We live in a very special place, and not everyone has this opportunity like we do. Still, I see this as a very positive trend.