February 3, 2010

How Do You Learn to Garden?


When I first started gardening in my early twenties, I learned from other people.

My friends, family and neighbors showed me their beautiful flower beds and gardens. Bearded irises, daffodils, daylilies and hostas were divided and shared with me. I appreciated the knowledge and inspiration that was passed on to me. I learned to garden from other people. I felt like an expert!

Then, I was introduced to gardens created in other places where I couldn't visit - a whole new realm of ideas, plants and gardening existed.

Print Media Plays a Role in Learning

In 1974, a family member gave me a yearly subscription to Southern Living® Magazine and that was my introduction into reading about flowers, shrubs and trees. And oh, what pretty garden pictures! Every month, I looked forward to opening the mailbox to find my glossy magazine.

Receiving that gift of a magazine subscription turned me into a more inspired gardener. I cut out articles and pictures to save in a folder so that I wouldn't lose the ideas and information.

With my expanded interest, I was soon receiving gardening books as gifts, too. That wasn't enough - I'd go search bookstores for hours looking for books to add to my collection.

I improved my gardening skills with reference books of in-depth chapters, plant lists and growing conditions, design suggestions and how-to sections to include everything from preparing the soil to managing pests to pruning branches.

The Southern Living® Garden Book, first published in 2004, is one of my favorite resources. That thick (and now well-worn) book sits in my garden room within easy reach as I gaze out my windows and plan my next garden project. The book's editor is Steve Bender and many photos were taken by Ralph Anderson.

The Web Plays a Role In Learning

Little did I know that one day, Ralph and Steve (the Grumpy Gardener) would walk through and photograph my gardens! We "met" through reading each other's online gardening blogs.

Through the Web, I have "met" so many other gardeners though blogs, forums and by reading published articles in online magazines and newspapers. Many plants are in my garden today because I learned about them in the online community.

It's not often that we get to walk through each other's gardens. But, with each piece of information shared, each introduction to a new plant or inspiration through photographs, we are sharing "how to garden" with each other.

Readers from all over the world can access what we write by searching for a topic, a word or a photograph. That information is being stored in electronic file folders somewhere, just like the paper clippings that I cut from print media.

We Learn From a Combination of People, Print Media and Electronic Media

My path to learning how to garden has been through a combination of people, print media and electronic media.

Will future gardeners begin the path in reverse - starting with an introduction through electronic media, then by reading print media to expand their knowledge and then by joining in-person gardening communities? I hope so.

The Web shouldn't be an exclusive path to interacting with people or reading magazines and books. Sure, it's easy. But, how much would have been missed by not learning in-person from each other, or not holding printed media in our hands?

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

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Defining Your Home, Garden & Travel

Home, garden and travel tips by Freda Cameron

Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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