Sunday, February 17, 2013

Stop Wasting Paper and Become a Better Gardener

River Birch (Betula nigra)

This winter:

A couple of weeks ago some architectural stuff was torn from the roof of my house by cascading ice. Said stuff (dangerously heavy) rocketed through a kitchen window, unleashing an explosion of broken glass. Everywhere. 

I discovered a twenty-foot section of rain gutter dangling by a thread after heavy snow had pulled the gutter's support screws from the overhang.  

The door to the chicken pen was frozen shut. I had to take the whole thing off its hinges to let the hens out that morning.


Cattail Flower in Winter

But it is nearing the end of February, when our hopes stir again for what we will make of the 2013 gardening season. Or more accurately what the 2013 gardening season will make of us.

First, seed companies unleash truckloads of paper catalogues beginning the day after Christmas. I've mostly gotten off their mailing lists. If I need pictures the internet works fine, and that's where I order my seeds anyway. Honestly when Saturday mail deliveries cease this summer I'll rejoice in one less day of junk.

Next comes the deluge of emails and invites offering gardening classes, workshops, symposiums, conferences and lectures. The best of these presentations bring together urgent environmental concerns, aesthetics and practical knowledge (Doug Tallamy and William Collina come to mind); the worst of them show a slide set of 50 new varieties of annuals and read aloud from their handout. No intelligent gardener should have to pay a $65.00 fee for a list she can get for free, and then read it quietly to herself.

Ice Crystals in Little Deer Creek

Speaking of handouts, what is it with audiences and piles of paper? Historically, when exactly did the handout become a binding agreement between the speaker and the listener? For twelve years I've been fighting this assumption, that a lecturer owes his audience a handout. 

Most handouts are glanced at and then tossed in the trash. This is an area of waste that garden speakers (and their audiences) ought to be more responsible about. I purposefully limit my presentations to a page or two whenever I can. If I'm feeling radical I'll forgo supplying a handout to my audience, but I'm guaranteed to receive a few complaints. 

(Please don't be one of those types. You can easily get these things called pens, which you can write on with something called paper, both of which can be conveniently carried into the presentation in something called a purse or a pocket.)

Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea

Another opportunity for restless gardeners in mid to late winter is volunteering. Many nature centers and botanical gardens are in great need of help at this time of year. I belong to an organization called CFI. Last spring our service committee helped Blandford Nature Center plant hundreds of native shrubs. This March we'll be assisting Blandford with its annual Sugarbush Festival--tapping the Sugar Maples and making syrup.

It's too early to dig, but there's plenty of time before planting season begins to teach yourself, and others, new ways to think about gardening.

1 comment:

Sue said...

Hear Hear! And you don't have to bring handouts to the seminar that I hope you will do for us. :-) Certainly just a reference to your blog or other sites you recommend is adequate for most, I would think.