Reluctant Membership: A Gardening Oops

I’m a reluctant joiner… a characteristic that prevents me from jumping onto some fly-by-night bandwagon. But my hesitancy to join groups – I have many excuses: too chummy, too cliquey, no time – kept me from sending membership dues to a valuable organization. This is my December 2011 GOOPs, my Gardening Oops, when I confess/share a  mistake, an oversight, or a general faux pas I’ve made in my gardening life. There are many. This link to previous GOOPs posts proves it.

I share my GOOPs to prevent you from walking in my mis-steps or … to offer some camaraderie if you’ve already muddied your gardening shoes on the same path. Then I offer you a chance to share a GOOPs you’ve made, if you are willing and comfortable enough in your gardening skin to confess a blunder.

First, my GOOPs.

What’s the valuable organization that took me too long to join? The Connecticut Horticultural Society (CHS). After being a member for just a few months I wonder why I waited to join.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The mission of the Connecticut Horticultural Society is education. CHS’s goal is to encourage enjoyment, appreciation and understanding of plants and the art and science of growing and living with plants and their/our environment. They do so through newsletters, presentations and programs during regular meetings (open to the public for a small donation), and separate educational events, garden tours and an annual symposium.

At the first regular meeting I attended, Margaret Roach (learn more about Margaret through her wonderful blog, A Way to Garden) humorously and thoughtfully discussed and shared photos of her 365-day garden. If you get a chance to see Margaret speak, don’t pass it up. I even purchased her book, and I shall have some peace there,  at the meeting. Love the book and super enjoyed listening to Margaret describe her gardening life. There are many days, Margaret, I would love to walk in your boots.

Subsequent and future speaker presentations include shade gardening (Judith and Dick Tyler who created a wonderful garden on their wooded Virginia land), soil science (Thomas Rathier), sustainable lawns (Tom Christopher), planting natives (Larry Weaner), water gardening (Tim Jennings), sustainable solutions for garden pests (Nancy DuBrule-Clemente) and autumn plants (Stephanie Cohen).

But meetings may also include unexpected presentations. For instance, November meeting attendees learned tactics to save storm damaged trees from immediate demise and when storm damage is tree-fatal … a timely subject following the massive, state-wide tree and shrub damage caused by tropical storm Irene and the snow of the October Nor’easter.

The program meetings alone make membership worthwhile. But, in my best cheesy TV infomercial imitation, ‘wait, there’s more!’ CHS sponsors garden-related trips, holds a plant auction, displays at the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, P9040313 Thumbsponsors scholarships and maintains a lending library.

It only took attending a couple of meetings for CHS to turn my reluctance into enthusiasm. I’m already signed up for the CHS-sponsored movie night showing of A Chemical Reaction (December 6 at the Portland Library, pre-registration through CHS) and I look forward to seeing the line-up of gardening gurus at CHS’s spring symposium (Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery, Kerry Ann Mendez of Perennially Yours, and horticultural educator and landscape designer Nan Sinton).

Why did I wait? This is my GOOPs.

No chiding needed, I’ve done ample self-scolding.

Are you, too, a reluctant joiner? Tell your tale in a comment below, or share a link to your GOOPs post – on this topic or any other – on your blog. Just be sure to leave a teaser in a comment below so we know how to find your GOOPs.

Garden thoughtfully and may my GOOPs not be yours.

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Gifts Gardeners Dig – 2011

I’m in an anti-large-chain-retail mood. It’s not even December yet and I’m already overloaded by the constant barrage of buy-me ads littering my mail (both snail and e-), the Sunday paper, and the airwaves.

Not trying to offend anyone here but … I’m repulsed by television visions of early shoppers shoving, fighting, pepper-spraying, mauling and even shooting each other to get a bargain. I suppose this would be an appropriate spot to insert a video of such antics, but why?

I don’t appreciate pre-Thanksgiving Christmas music and holiday decorations and I fail to see why intruding on Thanksgiving is worth a low-priced TV, video game, hot toy or cell phone. Thanksgiving and the following weekend is my time for relaxed reflection on life’s treasures, to relish family, and to tend to autumn tasks – managing leaves, installing deer fencing, splitting and stacking firewood.

I acknowledge my views may differ from the mainstream … I don’t start holiday decorating until December is fully entrenched on the calendar … but because I don’t want to miss the gifts for gardeners idea boat, here’s my suggestions for plant lovers on your gift list.

Gift certificates to a local nursery.
I don’t know a gardener who does not appreciate the opportunity to stroll through their local greenhouse during cold winter months or a garden center in spring. Trust me. Do some sleuthing to learn your gardener’s local greenhouse of choice and get the gift certificate from there. If your gardener has physical limitations, offer to accompany him/her on the shopping trip and help plant the new greenery. Your time will be appreciated as much as the gift certificate.

Subscriptions to gardening publications.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA For Nutmeg State gardeners I recommend two bi-monthly publications, Connecticut Gardener and the Home and Garden Newsletter.

Connecticut Gardener is written by and for … you guessed it … Connecticut gardeners. I’ve subscribed to Connecticut Gardener for years and, in 2012, I’m slated to be one of their contributors.

The Home and Garden Newsletter contains research, updates and expertise of the University of Connecticut and it’s eight Cooperative Extension Centers.

There are a few national magazines I find consistently packed with good gardening information. Fine Gardening is published by The Taunton Press which also publishes many fine gardening books.

Then there’s a new online magazine, Leaf. It’s inaugural issue, Autumn 2011, hints Leaf will be interesting, humorous and trendy. Purchase a print copy to wrap and be sure to suggest the gift recipient sign up for future issues online

Organic Gardening is ideal for food gardeners, Mother Earth News fits do-it-yourself types, and The Herb Companion is a thoughtful choice for those who love cooking with and growing herbs.

A gift membership.
The Connecticut Horticultural Society offers educational programs, garden tours and trips (read more in my next GOOPs post on December 1, 2011). Membership to The Connecticut Botanical Society – they focus on plants in the wild – brings a newsletter, notice of the group’s walking tours, and events and access to the society’s dried plant library of more than 36,000 entries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The American Horticultural Society, a national educational version of state-based hort education groups, sends their print magazine, The American Gardener,to every member.  It, alone, is worth the membership fee . Members can also take advantage of discounted entry to many botanical gardens and to some flower shows.

This idea list is mostly tallied from personal experience. It should get your creative gift-giving juices flowing but if you need more ideas read my Gifts Gardeners Dig article from last year or stay tuned for my upcoming post, Books for Gardeners.

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This gardener gives thanks

For the sunrise through winter trees.

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For autumn’s display.

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For a beech leaf on snow.

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For blueberry buds and opening ferns.

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For blooms and creatures.

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For photogenic fungi.

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For these few wonders and the millions more that wait for our eyes to behold, each day, each season, each year.

For freedom, family and friends; for health, home and harvest; and for you, dear readers.

Garden thoughtfully and, in the words of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (courtesy of The Quote Garden),

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

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