Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Garden Bloggers Cross-Pollinate

A weekend in Austin, Texas, pitches three dozen garden writers together: let the hybridizing begin!


Writers ooh, ahh, click over the ‘Embroidery Garden’

at James David and Gary Peese’s home in Austin

Photo: Human Flower Project

Writing is solitary, whether it goes on in an ivory tower or a partitionless newsroom with a hundred jangling phones. So the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling that took place in Austin over the weekend felt strange and delightful – like an orgy.

There were 38 of us, thereabouts, gathered in the sunshine without so much as a paragraph to stretch over our private identities. Bloggers from Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Idaho, New York, Indiana, Oklahoma, Georgia, and all over Texas (yes, even North AND South Austin) spent a humming two days together. We visited a public garden for $8, and several private ones for free. We hung out at a local nursery, listened to an inspiring talk over fajita lunch, let our hair down at organizer Pam Penick’s house and garden, and gorged on a family-style barbecue dinner.


Carol of May Dreams Garden discusses garden blogging at Pam Penick’s house during the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling, April 5, 2008

Photo: Human Flower Project

After all that we’re not exactly “family,” but we surely cross-pollinated in ways that only our subsequent writing, thinking and photography will bear out.

There are already loads of interesting accounts of the event on the web, with a compilation to come on Pam’s site, Digging. Here’s some pollen we picked up, from bloggers and others throughout the weekend, delivered orgy-style:

There is such a thing as too-good drainage: Frances, who gardens on a slope in East Tennessee, swears that’s so.

People aren’t making money off their gardening weblogs – or if they are, they were mighty quiet about it.

The term “live oak” is fiercely contested; we witnessed a spirited discussion between a transplanted Texan and a transplanted Georgian, both natives of England and so, by birthright, experts in such matters.

Wordpress seems the blogging software of choice, though there were lots of grumblings about it. Kathy Purdy, who has her own blogging advice site, gave a tutorial on Pam’s porch and brought along the telltale Wordpress for Dummies.

imageSnow Melt, iris hybridized by M. Sutton at the Natural Gardener

Photo: Human Flower Project

Bearded iris really can grow in Austin. Really. We met a volunteer from the local iris society who was weeding a bed of 800+ varieties at the Natural Gardener. And the American Iris Society will actually hold its national meeting here in a week.

Several of the most enchanting garden writers we met are also historians, deep in to genealogy and regional research. We especially hope that Mary Ann Newcomer follows through on her study of Polly Bemis, a Chinese-American pioneer whose Idaho garden grows on.

imageFrom poolside, gardens of James David and Gary Peese in West Austin

Photo: Human Flower Project

REVOLUTIONARY PARADIGM SHIFT: Better listeners told us that James David and Gary Peese, whose imperial gardens we visited Saturday afternoon, are not so sweet on spring. Their favorite season is late summer/early fall. Let’s say that again, another way: Their gardening year revolves around the Texas summer because it’s the one reliable season here. As in, 112 degrees. As in, hasn’t rained for four months. This is samurai gardening!! Rather than dreading, moaning, and if possible running like hell from the facts of August, they face up, figure out, and work to make that time splendid. Honestly, just the idea sounds impossible—even nauseating—to us, but the thought has been planted. And our “endure” or “cut and run” approach hasn’t even been character building.

The way to pronounce “clematis” is klem-e-tis. One of the aforementioned English experts confirmed this—as gratifying an episode as we could imagine (since that’s how we’ve always said it).


Lucinda Hutson’s purple house and wonder garden, Austin

Photo: Human Flower Project

The Virgin of Guadalupe smiles on gardens, as proven by Lucinda Hutson. Her serendipitous invitation was the icing on the orgy Sunday morning. About a dozen of us wandered around waist high snapdragons, chard and poppies, sniffing leaves from her allspice tree as images of Our Lady—in stone, paint, tile, wood and beadwork—blessed our every step.

That plant we have tried unsuccessfully to kill for nine years is actually a treasured “native” – Twisted leaf yucca (Yucca rupicola) – on display at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Terrific – antipathy has turned to pride, and there’s one less thing on our garden hit list.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?”

The famous last line of Mary Oliver’s poem now has a context, thanks to Tom Spencer.

imageFearless leader and ace-pollinator, Pam Penick

Photo: Human Flower Project

And despite the bluster, everything is NOT bigger in Texas. One out-of-stater looking over a patch of bluebonnets Saturday morning quietly confessed: “I thought they would be much taller.”

To Pam Penick, the prime pollinator of this whole event, thank you. We’re also grateful to organizers MSS (Zanthan Gardens), Diana (Sharing Nature’s Garden) and Bonnie (Kiss of Sun) for all the behind the scenes work. You all make orgy-hosting tasteful and heavy lifting look easy. 

Posted by Julie on 04/08 at 02:51 PM
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