Memo to CSM: Hire someone else to write garden column, too.


This from an actual article published in the Christian Science Monitor.

Jane popped up in my backyard seven years ago, my second spring in this house. We both seem to recall that she arrived via a listing at City Hall for someone seeking garden work. I needed weeding. She needed eating. Ah, synergy, if ever mutual interests could be served on beds of freshly hoed soil.

"I love everything about gardening," I told Jane when we met, "except the work. I don’t like preparing the beds, don’t like digging the holes for the plants, don’t like hoeing furrows for the seeds, don’t like thinning the sprouting seedlings, don’t like dealing with dandelions and crabgrass, don’t like staking the beefsteaks, and as much as I love eating grape tomatoes, that’s how much I dislike tying them up and picking them."

"What part of gardening do you like?" Jane was looking at me with curiosity, perhaps even a fear of some subversive leanings I might have.

"I like showing it off," I answered. 

And so, the whimsical little tale goes, writer Norman Prady’s garden is simply delightful now that he’s farmed out the work.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Of all the things that a non-gardener could spend money on, why not have them spend it in the employment of a hard-working horticulturalist like "Jane" who will rip out the boring old lawn and plant a vegetable garden or a butterfly garden or cutting garden or whatever else you might desire?

And then you can stroll around and enjoy it and show it off to your friends and harvest some fruit or some flowers.  Sure beats watching TV.

But really, is this the best garden writing the CSM has to offer?  Why not farm that out to a real gardener, too?  Reminds us of this quote about writing:  "I love being a writer.  What I can’t stand is the paperwork."

Other recent garden coverage includes this story about how pretty the little flowers are, and this story about how yummy the tomatoes are, which includes this memorable line: "Fuzzy stuff on the stems and backs of tomato leaves stuck to our skin."


  1. There’s probably some small piece of the gardening that each of us would rather NOT do….my back would prefer I not dig deep holes but alas, I must. Can’t imagine calling oneself a gardener if you’re little more than a general landscaping contracter. I love the dirt under my nails (couldn’t much relate to your glove column). I can always be found sitting on the washer with my feet in the laundry tub after gardening because my feet get as grubby as my hands (I tend to wear zories or funny clogs with holes). Spider webs in my hair…the smell of herbs up my nose…what’s not to like?!

  2. Yeah, what IS it with these publications – like notably the CSM and the NY Times – that don’t take gardening seriously, even though gardening is about how we take care of the LAND WE OWN.

  3. Both of the linked stories were sweet memoirs of family life. That’s something many bloggers like to sprinkle on our pages, but it sure doesn’t seem like a garden post for a national newspaper.

    I’m not sure what category the Norman & Jane story falls into – maybe it belongs on the same page with bragging-veiled-as-complaint stories by women who have trouble finding shoes to fit because their feet are so aristocratically delicate. It doesn’t make you envy them, but you might enjoy smacking them.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  4. Weird, that’s the second time I’ve heard that quote about writing today having never heard it before.

    Anyway, I can relate to the author. Now that my weekends are taken up with marathon training, my garden looks like the gardener of the house has died, and that makes me sad. I’ll get back to it in a month when the long slog is over, but for now, I wish I had the funds to have someone just come make it look nice.

  5. I keep hoping some neighborhood kid will come around and say, “Any chores you’d like me to do, Mrs. H?” I remember in my childhood we used to do that — try to make a little money by weeding or picking up branches, etc. But I guess those days are long gone. I’d pay good money to some kid to pull out Creeping Charlie. But not enough money I suppose to make it attractive to the kids.

  6. One of these days, I’m going to roll out a garden personality test I developed years ago but never got beyond preliminary testing. One axis was Planners (folks who garden mostly in their head) vs. Players (who garden mostly in their gardens).

    We all do a little bit of both. But judging from the GR manifesto (something about ‘gardening our asses off’) makes me think most gardeners who hang out here are on the Player side of the scale.

    Norman (obviously) is more Planner, willing to farm out what I consider the fun stuff. There’s nothing *wrong* with that, is there? It’s just different.

  7. I don’t know. To me, this sounds too much like so much mass media garden–and food–advice–everything has to be short cuts, maintenance free, real simple, or, best of all, don’t do it at all.

    What’s the point of running a gardening column? As someone in the magazine biz, one of my favorites is “people don’t read anymore so plan your articles accordingly.”

  8. There are to be A LOT of Rant posts that criticize the traditional garden media. I suppose it’s the blogger’s role to call ’em on the carpet when necessary. Still, do we need so many?

    I think the issue at the heart of the CSM article is interesting. If people only want to garden for two or three hours a week, that should be OK — and it should be OK for experienced gardeners to tell them how to do it.

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