I believe strongly that garden writing should both inspire and inform.
That’s what I attempted to do in my new book, The Shady Lady’s Guide to Northeast Shade Gardening (University Press of New England, 2014). It’s a regional shade gardening book for the Northeast based on a lecture I’ve been giving for the last 15 years. I decided to write the book for two reasons. First, in my lectures, my gardener participants always wanted more information…and I wanted to give it to them, but time didn’t permit. Second, existing shade gardening books disappointed my audiences in a host of ways.
Despite the hundreds of gardening books on the market, it’s amazing the gaps that exist in the gardening literature. The first and worst problem is that most gardening books are too general. They attempt to address a national audience, but that goal is an impossible one. We live in an enormous, environmentally varied country that contains every ecosystem from desert to temperate rain forest. Gardeners need regionally targeted messages expressed by local voices.
There’s also an unfortunate flood of English gardening books on store shelves. These works are little more than a cruel tease to all but a slim minority of American gardeners. If we all lived in Zone 7, didn’t have Japanese beetles to contend with, and anything below 20°F (-7°C) or above 70°F (22°C) on the thermometer was really just sort of academic, our gardens would look like theirs, too! The English have a wonderful gardening culture and tradition, but their gardens are largely irreproducible in the Northeast. As such, English gardening books might inspire, but they don’t inform the audience I’m trying to reach.
There are lots of other problems with existing shade gardening books, but I’m not going to list them all here—I wrote a book to address them. I hope soon to move on to my next writing project: a regional cottage gardening book (based on another lecture) that’s already in the outline stage.
I want to engage in a dialogue with everyday gardeners in order to constantly improve the accuracy, usefulness and inspirational power of my writing, so I’ll be posting excerpts from both books at this website on a regular basis. As always, let me know what you think!
I believe regional gardening books are on the verge of becoming the “next big thing” precisely because a large number of gardeners are fed up with the plethora of marginally useful to useless garden books that populate store shelves now. But if you want to make that happen faster, speak up.
If you, too, have been frustrated by gardening books that have disappointed because they are too general in their approach or authored by people (famous gardeners or not) gardening in climates or conditions too different from your own, let publishers know it. Nothing will change unless you write them a letter, pick up the phone, or dash off an email telling them you want regional books that are applicable to you. Or, you can leave a comment of support on this page.
I’ve been writing for a living (at least in part) for (gulp!) three decades, and writing about gardening for over 20 years. I began around the time I completed my Master Gardener training in the early 1990s, making contributions to lifestyle publications before I became a staff editor at Fine Gardening magazine. Later, I returned to freelancing, adding my voice to Reader’s Digest garden and home books and a wide range of magazines while running the garden design business I started in 1998. My garden writing has appeared in Yankee, Fine Gardening, Valley, Indoors & Out and elsewhere. I have two books to my credit and several in the works. For a comprehensive overview of my background as a writer and editor, please see my About Me page.