I think I might possibly prefer plants to people. That makes me sound a bit weird so I hasten to add, it’s not that I don’t like people, I just prefer the simplicity of plants. Plants don’t beat about the bush when it comes to telling you they’re not happy for whatever reason. They hold themselves differently, change colour, sometimes they go in a huff and refuse to display the way you want them to. And yet, despite their apparent simplicity, there’s something mysterious going on there in the way they communicate with one another, how they defend themselves and how they interact with other animals. We, who live our lives at a pace so fast we are unable to see the plants around us move slowly and purposefully in response to all kinds of stimuli, are still very much in the dark about the real secret lives of plants.
I started publishing my website Gardenzine in 2005, at the same time as I began lecturing in horticulture. I found it helped me delve deeper into the subjects I was teaching if I wrote about them for a different audience. As someone new to lecturing as I was back then, I found out very quickly it just wasn’t enough to simply teach my students what to do with certain plants at certain times. If I was to equip my students with the skills they needed to work things out for themselves when I wasn’t around, I had to focus on the why.
These days I’m more of a theoretical horticulturalist – that is, I think about and talk about plants more often than I actually get my hands dirty. I’m one of those lucky few whose job is also their hobby and I spend most of my spare time reading about plants – about new discoveries, new techniques and, sometimes, just strange and interesting behaviours. I love it when a student poses a question to which I don’t immediately know the answer. It gives me an excuse to trawl the internet and immerse myself in hours of self-indulgent research. Luckily for me, we rely on plants for our primary food source so there’s never any shortage of scientists and others who are prepared to invest time investigating new approaches. When I discover something interesting, I can’t wait to share it.
I’m not going to lie. This blog was created to unashamedly promote my Plant Listener series of books, the first of which – The Plant Listener – is out now and the next – The Plant City – I’m close to finishing. I like to compare plants to humans and some would think that’s a fanciful way of thinking but I’ve found, through my teaching, that empathy with your subject is a cracking way to learn. My approach is largely organic. Without plants, none of us would have come to be and, as such, I believe we should work with plants and not against them.
Whether you agree or disagree with me, please feel free to connect with me on Twitter. If you want to buy my book, it’s currently available on Amazon either in paperback, on Kindle, or you can read it for free on Kindle unlimited. Gardenzine has a whole host of ‘how to’ articles on various gardening, landscaping and garden design approaches written by a number of gardening professionals and you can follow this blog to read my own occasional thoughts about how plants connect with all of us. All the links you need are below: