Friday, August 29, 2008

Garden Views: Garden Writing - 1

The Garden Writers of America conference is coming up soon and it got me to thinking about all of the different kinds of garden writing that there are. Of course, there are garden journals, records of the successes and failures in an individual’s garden. They help jog the memory of what to do when, why certain plants are chosen over others, and the thinking process behind a garden’s design. These rarely see the light of public scrutiny, unless the garden or the gardener becomes prominent in that field.

Garden writers may focus on books, blogs, magazine, web, and newspaper articles, radio and television scripts, catalog and seed packet copy, research papers, newsletters, educational materials, plant culture, photography, or a myriad of other special niches.

One of the most common types of garden writing is what I refer to as documentary. It documents what the writer saw in a garden setting. It describes the colors, shapes, types of plants, etc., the size of the garden, whether it is sunny or shady, and some details about why the homeowner gardens in this particular way.

Another conventional way of writing about gardens is a how-to approach that tells readers what the gardener did and explains how they can reproduce that look in their own gardens.
Some blog and newspaper columnists present a chronicle of what is developing in their own space during the growing season, offering readers inspiration, or a vicarious experience.

There are also biographies of famous plant collectors, breeders, landscape architects, artists who specialized in plants or gardens, founders of arboreta and public gardens, etc.

At first glance, it might seem as if these types of writing offer little in the way of creative expression, but creativity is where you find it. There are few synonyms for the words “garden,” and “plant” for example, so it’s always a challenge to craft an article or book that offers sufficient variety of language. For those who enjoy research, learning about unfamiliar plants in order to write about them can be a pleasure in itself. And for those who enjoy a sense of adventure, garden writing offers the perk that you actually have to go to a garden to write about it. Exploring OPG (Other People’s Gardens) is the most fun I’ve had in decades.

Lois de Vries' thoughts on gardening and environmental issues run the gamut from gardening in her own back yard to promoting land management practices that reconnect people to the Earth. Lois is seeking a publisher for her book, The Transformational Power of Gardening. Visit her blog at

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