Holly Hayes, Garden Reporter Extraordinaire


I only just found out that San Jose Mercury-News garden writer Holly Hayes died of cancer in early April. Her obituary is here, but I suggest you read her husband's loving tribute as he chronicles his efforts to keep her garden going.

I've read Holly's garden coverage on and off for years in the Merc–it was never my hometown paper, but I picked it up whenever I was coming through town.  She was a true reporter, writing in-depth and thoughtful pieces and covering the whole of the Bay Area, an enormous region both geographically and in terms of climate and gardening sensibilities.  She truly picked up the slack for all the other newspapers in the region when it came to garden coverage.  Proof of her dedication can be found in the fact that she filed her last story a week before she died.

Here are just a couple of the kinds of stories you could count on from Holly:  a run-down of sculptures made by local artists, and a nice bit of reporting on the impact of an unusual freeze on the local nurseries.  She also followed the medfly quarantine and other critical pest issues that have cropped up in the Bay Area of late.  It was solid, reliable journalism on subjects that mattered to the Merc's readers. Her absence will leave a hole in the Bay Area's garden coverage that will be difficult to fill–if the Merc even tries.

If you appreciated Holly's work, a memorial fund that benefits the zoo has been established in her name.


  1. Amy, thanks for sharing this. Holly will be missed by her many friends and readers in the Bay Area and beyond. I met her when she wrote about the garden I was doing for the SF Garden Show in 2005; she got so excited about the cool glass mosaic tiles I was using that she went right out and ordered some. She was interested in everything and everyone, but also didn’t suffer fools. I liked that about her.

    Two years later she wrote about the new garden I was building on my own, post-divorce, with all the symbology that implies. We had planned for her to visit my new lawn-free front garden this spring, but time ran out. I was fortunate to be able to help with her last big story about the SF Garden Show, and saw her a couple of times in February.

    We were not intimate friends, but she seemed to appear at key points in my life, and write about them. As one of my friends commented (regarding the tomato being named in her honor) “Makes me want to be the type of person that gives people a reason to name something after me.” And exactly. Thanks for lending your voice to her eulogy…

  2. Thank you for the link to her articles. I thought that she wrote beautifully. I am sorry that I did not know her writing sooner. I am sure she will be missed.

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