What's New and Book Giveaway
Graham Rice is one of gardening's most prolific and prize-winning authors, and we're lucky to have him – on both sides of the Atlantic. After more than 20 books, including the behemoth Encyclopedia of Perennials that he's holding in this photo, his Planting the Dry Shade Garden is a great resource for the site-challenged gardener. To win a copy – signed by both the author and the photographer, Graham's wife Judy White – just leave a comment and I'll select the winner at random. (Entries close Friday at 9 p.m. Eastern time.)
But really this whole post was an excuse to catch up with Graham, with whom I've had the chance to hang out a few times in gardens around the region. He told me about the terrible vole pandemic his Pennsylvania garden suffered this year – the worst ever. He says voles are more destructive than deer because they don't just mulch on hostas; they eat the centers and kill the whole plant. At least the family cat had a good year – it bagged over 50 voles over the season, more than earning its keep in kibble.
Of course I asked about Graham's next book and I wish I could report on the answer but he's keeping the details under wraps (Here's his big tease about it). And he's still pondering what the one after that will be but he tells me he never runs out of book ideas. Or blog post ideas. Or magazine article ideas. Can't imagine that.
And Graham's a Twitterer! (@Graham_Rice). Facebook, not so much.
Transatlantic Media Commentary
Graham is my go-to guy for U.S.-U.K. comparisons, and this time he enlightened me with these tidbits:
Digitally, there's a lag, with garden blogs catching on here first. He believes he was the first British garden writer with his own site or blog.
Asked to name his favorite garden writers, Graham (cautiously, wisely) named Christopher Lloyd, whose book about foliage made him laugh out loud. Another source of laughs was Reginald Farrer, now long gone. And Pat Stone, editor of Greenprints and the Weeder's Digest, is also known to be funny.
I was sad to hear that English gardening magazines, admired by so many American gardeners, are shrinking in number. Still holding on are the top guns – BBC's "Gardens Illustrated," and the Royal Hort Society's "The Garden," but other mags have stopped paying for photographs – at all. The cause is the same challenge faced by all print media, of course – having to compete for advertisers with online media outlets that can track results to the exact number of eyeballs.
Speaking of garden writers, the U.K. has no equivalent of our big Garden Writers Symposium – because they don't need it; they see each other all the time. It's a small place – the country, and the world of garden writing.
Transatlantic Hot Topic Comparison
Organics are a hot topic in the U.K., as here, but natives and invasives, much less so than here. Of course I had to ask about lawns. We complain about boring, resource-intensive lawns here but what about the homeland of the greensward, where supplemental watering is rarely needed? Graham can't remember seeing anything on the topic in the British press or other media – zip. He thinks that's because they have such tiny lawns, anyway – or none at all – on their much smaller properties, especially in or near cities. They're much more likely to use decks or paving for their outdoor rooms, and no lawn at al. And maintaining the lawns they do have rarely involves the use of pesticides like grubkillers. Just a bit of fertilizer, thanks.
Honestly, my favorite thing to talk to garden writers about is what ELSE are they interested in? And in Graham's case he has an actual media outlet for his other passion – music, British music. He has his own radio show, fer crissakes – Brit Mix, broadcast on 90.5 FM Radio Catskill – that covers "British music right through from the 1960s to next week". I'm a big folk fan myself, so asked for a tip in that genre – that would be June Tabor, with her mix of traditional and contemporary.
Fun with Google Images
When I went looking for the book cover above I put "Dry Shade Graham Rice" into Google Images and got the usual interesting mix of responses, including this photo of some Graham at some bar (one of 365). Definitely not our Graham; ours is hip without having to try so hard.