The Hazards of Turning Your Passion Into Your Profession


This just in from the always fascinating and usually wacky Daily Mail, concerning UK garden expert and writer David Hessayon:

…Despite teaching millions how to get the best out of their garden,
he admits that tending his own roses and shrubs no longer gives him

‘I’m fortunate enough to have all of the plants
featured in my books…But I feel that I
know too much for it to be therapeutic. I can see problems about to
happen…. I don’t quote gardening as my hobby. It
isn’t. It’s my job.’

Well, that’s a pity.  However, being described as the "best-selling non-fiction writer in the world" by none other than the Daily Mail has got to be some consolation.  It’s a curious fact, especially considering that we here in the US have hardly heard of him.  So I did a little research and turned this up from the University of Leeds, where he received an honorary degree:

Over half a century, sales of his ‘Expert’
        guides to plants and gardens – some 25 titles in 22 languages –
        exceed 50 million. His books are on the shelves of one in two households
        in Britain, and he holds the Guinness world record for non-fiction sales.

You’ll find his books under the name DG Hessayon, and although he doesn’t seem to have his own website, he does have a Wikipedia entry that could use a little work.



  1. sounds like a bummer perspective to me.
    ” Oh, crumbs, I know too much about plants which makes me unable to see the beauty in them”.

    This reminds me of one of the recent buddhist dharma talks I attended that mentioned that we contribute to our own suffering.

    It doesn’t have to be so.

  2. There was a young man from Leeds,
    Who swallowed a packet of seeds,
    Asparagus spears,
    Grew out of his ears,
    And his head was all covered with weeds!

    I knew this poem sitting in my head with all types of other useful trivia would come in handy one day. So today is that day!

  3. That is so sad! How awful to think that what brings you joy today may fail to do so in the future.

    A few years ago, I met a gardener suffering from a similar affliction. Her garden had been featured in books, mags and such so our group was thrilled to see it in person. Unfortunately, her bored-with-gardening attitude was so obvious, so palpable – I swear she dripped with it – it detracted from the visit. I don’t remember much about the garden anymore but her ennui is firmly planted in my memory. Pity.

    Funny, funny poem, Ginny!

  4. Actually those of us who work in the industry are very familiar with DG Hessayon. I own and sell many of his books – he’s pretty much a staple. However, you do have to take his gardening books with a tad bit o’ salt due to the climate differences. Living in Texas, there is much that does not translate. But his houseplant book is on most horticulturist’s bookshelves. I can imagine, spewing out so much technical info, over so many years, can take a little of the sparkle out of the subject matter. Tis a shame. But, I do know how that goes…

  5. Tis like the carpenter who’s kitchen drawer is always stuck, or the auto mechanic who’s car never runs right, the painter who’s house needs painted… You get the idea.

  6. That has happened to me in the past – too many 10+ hour days 7 days a week doing the same thing will kill a passion for it, no matter what “it” happens to be. Has nothing to do with knowing too much – it has to do with not taking a break.

    On the few years it has happened, having time off during the winter to reconnect with my other interests has brought back my passion, thank goodness!

    Hasn’t happened in a few years now – I have cultivated a few non-gardening friends and I force myself into doing non-gardening hobbies during the busy season, even when I don’t feel like it, and it really helps gardening stay fresh and thrilling. I think there is really just a saturation point with anything that can sap the delight – but I don’t think it has to be a permanent state.

    I’ve heard a similar thing from my gardening pals – one friend stopped doing it for a living because it ruined her number one hobby to be breathing gardening all the time. Once she had a new job, she got her joy in it back.

    Perhaps Hessayon needs to retire. I do have his houseplant and rose books and find them delightful – I like a reference writer who knows how much is enough and has the grace to stop there.

  7. I guess I really don’t understand this concept. If you have a passion and you have, somehow, turned it into a chore because it has become your job, then quit the job! Now, a hobby that becomes a job is another thing. PASSION, on the other hand is not something that should be so easily toyed with. Once one looses one’s passion… what else is there.

    I also agree, however, that it is possible to have your passion and career in the same place. It is all how you manage it that become the issue.

    Just my opinion…

  8. People need change. They get tired of doing even what they’re best at. I’ve seen that happen with many of my friends.

  9. Give the guy a break. It’s time for him to sit back and reap the rewards of his hard work. He might need volunteers to pull weeds or do some pruning to keep up his garden. Give him the easy chair to delegate his knowledge to energetic youth. I got a garden high when I was young and still do when I’m pulling weeds at 5 am. Great gardens need a lot of labor. Weedy, neglected gardens look aweful, especially for the designer. Great gardener’s need some more help as they age.

  10. Burn out can happen to any one of us – no matter how hot our passion was to begin with – I’m always on the look out for it in mysef knowing how I throw myself into things and become fully immersed, but I’m also easily bored and have little patience for repetition, so it is something to be wary of and you need to creae other diversions for yourself.

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