I’ve been watching from the sidelines all the changes taking place at the IndyStar and was not surprised when an editor called me a few weeks ago to let me know they had decided to discontinue my weekly gardening column.
Though I expected it at some point, it still makes me sad.
There’s solace, however, in focusing on gratitude. First up would be David Powell, a former Indianapolis Star editor who hired me to freelance gardening columns in 1989. I remember writing that first column, about how a tomato plant can turn your thumb green. Writing about gardening changed my life. After a few years, I called the weekly column The Hoosier Gardener, a moniker I embrace.
I love writing about gardening in Indiana, bringing the readers along with me as I learn, sharing my experiences, successes and failures. The columns – about 1,560 of them – were my connection to the readers. I’m so grateful to and for them. They’ve shared their gardening experiences, successes and failures through emails and letters, and in person. As a garden writer in the paper, it’s not uncommon for people at parties and other events to ask you about their plants. I joke that I’m not a horticulturist. I only play one in the newspaper.
I’m grateful to the newspaper for essentially launching my career as a garden communicator. In the 1990s, at the urging of fellow garden writer Dick Crum, I joined Garden Writers Association, now Garden Comm: Garden Communicators International. Later this week, I will become president of this organization, which earlier this summer also recognized one of my columns with a Silver Award of Achievement.
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As a garden communicator, I’ve trialed hundreds of plants, the results of which were shared with readers, along with breeders and marketers. Trialing plants also guides recommendations to customer at the garden center where I work part time. The garden center customers provided many ideas for columns, too, from questions about plants to problems they were having in their gardens. It warmed my heart to see many of them come in with my column in their hands, looking for a plant I’d written about.
Writing about gardening took me to Great Britain, the Netherlands, Grenada, France, Mexico and Canada. I’ve been privileged to visit hundreds of gardens, private and public in 35 states.
The column opened many other doors, too. Freelance assignments from national and regional magazines, blogging or writing newsletters for corporations, television and radio gigs, and teaching garden- or nature-related programs and workshops. It led to being the founding editor of four magazines, editor of five and writing two books.
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These experiences inform the talks and programs I present to garden groups, landscapers and other green industry trade professionals.
All in all, it’s been a good row to hoe, as gardeners say. I’ve learned so much and anticipate continuing to learn and communicate about gardening. I’ve started a free, monthly newsletter that you can subscribe to here.
I’m sad to be leaving IndyStar, but I’m grateful for the opportunity. Mostly, I’m sorry to leave you readers.