Author Felder Rushing leads slow gardening movement
Grand Rapids - February 27, 2011
Felder Rushing is not afraid to stick egg-carton “flowers” on his yucca spikes.
He gives pink flamingos the green light in his garden — 17 of them, in fact, and calls the plastic fowl “a poke in the eye to your neighbors.”
“I’m not saying they’re not tacky. Everybody knows they’re tacky,” he said. “You put them out there to let people know you have the ability to lighten up.”
His garden also boasts “trees” made from colored bottles and flower pots made from tires painted in primary colors.
His mother, he said, tells him his garden looks like a kaleidoscope having a stroke.
“And my garden has been on the cover of magazines,” he points out. “It’s not what you do, it’s why you do it that counts.”
Rushing, the leader of a movement he calls “slow gardening,” is the author of numerous gardening books and columns. He’s also a radio host (he’s the Gestalt Gardener on Mississippi Public Radio), television personality, lecturer and tender of what he describes as an “overstuffed, quirky cottage garden.”
But also know this: He has an extensive horticulture pedigree to back up his rebellion. That includes being an American Horticulture Society board member, national director of the Garden Writers Association and past president of Mississippi’s only chapter of the Men’s Garden Club (now Gardeners of America), to name just a few.
Rushing will bring his Southern-fried take on horticulture to the West Michigan Home and Garden Show on Friday. His 6 p.m. talk on the garden stage, “Getting Green in the Garden,” will include his take on composting, recycled containers, rainwater collection and how to construct a simple green roof on your tool shed.
But mostly, he said in a recent telephone interview from England, where he lives part of the year, he’ll talk about how heaps of gardening do’s and don’ts mean people bring stress into their gardens, rather than using gardening as a way to relieve stress.
“I’m going to poke holes like an errant shotgun blast through errant horticulture rules,” he said.
Case in point: You don’t have to have your soil tested, he said.
“Green side up, that’s the big deal. If you can dig a fairly wide hole, put something in it green side up, chances are it will grow.
“There are plants growing in cemeteries that are so choked, dead people can grow them. I can name 10 roses that will bloom spring to fall with no care. You can prune them with firecrackers and they’ll bloom.”
His only two rules for composting: 1. Stop throwing that stuff away, and 2. Pile it up somewhere.
West Michigan Home and Garden Show
When: Thursday through March 6 (3-9:30 p.m. Thursday, noon to 9:30 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 6)
Where: DeVos Place, downtown Grand Rapids
Four seminar stages featuring gardening, home improvement, cooking and hands-on/do-it-yourself
More than 350 exhibitors, most of them from West Michigan
Walk-through home-building exhibit from the Home and Building Association of Greater Grand Rapids
A garden and art market
Special appearances by Amazing Joey Green, flower design consultant J Schwanke and grill buddies Mad Dog and Merrill
Saturday is family day, with activities for all ages.
Tickets: $9 for adults, $4 for children ages 6-14, free for ages 5 and younger. Discounted tickets available at all participating area Home Depot locations. Discount weekday adult admission coupons are available at Wendy’s and online at GRHomeShow.com.
“There’s whole books written on composting,” he said. “It’s a leaf pile, folks. Let’s parse it down to the absolute basics. It takes a little longer than turning and feeding, but we’ve got time.”
And take a couple of items from his Gardeners Bill of Rights. Rushing said you have the right:
To own as many wind chimes as you can afford.
To plant any color flower next to any other flower. “I had someone tell me I shouldn’t plant pink and orange flowers next to each other. I hope he never sees a purple cone flower.”
To show your backside to your neighbors. “If they haven’t seen your rear end, it’s because you’re not gardening,” he said.
Rushing insists he’s not dissing horticulture as a practice.
“I love monochromatic gardens as well as the more untamed ones,” he said, “and I use both Miracle Gro and Roundup in my otherwise organic garden, with no qualms whatsoever.”
For the record, his favorite garden tool, besides Felcon pruning shears, is the drip irrigation system on a timer that keeps his potted tomatoes, peppers and basil alive in Mississippi while he is overseas.
His favorite rose, though seen as a cliche plant to some fellow horticulturists, is Knockout, “because it single-handedly got Americans to start growing our national floral emblem with confidence.” He says he likes the Stella D’oro day lily because it is so easy to share with others.
“It isn’t horticulture that stinks,” Rushing said. “It’s all the stinkin’ rules I dislike, stuff that we really know isn’t crucial for success. I’m saying, let’s forget about the stinkin’ rules and have some fun.”
Read the original article.