Gardening is no different from any other human endeavor. Whether you want to repair your own car or cook a fancy meal, you must understand the information and techniques that have to be learned and done properly.
If you want to be a successful gardener, you have to be willing to take the time to learn about the plants you want to grow, how to keep them healthy and how to use plants and other materials to create a landscape you find functional and attractive.
Over the next several months you will find excellent opportunities for gardeners in Louisiana to participate in gardening activities designed to educate and inspire. Many plant associations, gardening organizations, public gardens, Master Gardener associations and the LSU AgCenter have garden-related lectures, classes, demonstrations, symposiums, garden shows, plant sales, garden tours and a variety of other events coming up this spring. Make every effort to take advantage of these opportunities while they are happening.
Learning how to garden in Louisiana is really one of the most important reasons for attending these events. We obtain gardening information from TV, print and the Internet, but it’s important to understand that gardening is very regional. The information from these sources frequently relates to a different part of the country altogether and is not appropriate for Louisiana gardeners. Even information for “Southern” gardeners needs to be looked at with some caution. The growing conditions in Virginia are very different from those in Louisiana, yet we are both part of the South.
Yes, I know it’s a very busy season in the garden, and you are loath to put down your shovel, take off your gloves, get cleaned up and go to a lecture when there is so much to do. But, honestly, your garden will be there waiting for you when you get back. The benefits you will receive are well worth the time spent and the money it might cost to attend.
Educational programs done by speakers from Louisiana (or those that approach a subject from a Louisiana perspective) provide you with the appropriate gardening information you need. Local speakers will often provide information that relates specifically to the region of the state where the program is being given and where the gardeners attending live and garden. This is critical to proper plant selection and the timing of when garden activities are done through the year.
Another reason for attending is to meet other gardeners and talk gardening. I’ve always believed that when it comes to gardeners, there are no strangers. A wonderful quote from garden writer Louisa King (1863-1948) expresses this beautifully. “If my eye lights upon a carefully tended garden, at once I experience the warmest feelings of friendliness for that householder, and wish to know and talk with them about their flowers. For at the bottom there is a bond which breaks down every other difference between us. We are Garden Souls.”
Most of us don’t have unlimited garden budgets (wouldn’t it be wonderful if we did?), and we tend to hoard our precious gardening dollars to purchase all those wonderful plants we want to grow. But given the benefits received, the money we use to attend these events is well spent. The money you spend on classes will help you learn how to properly care for your plants. This helps you protect your investment in plants by doing a better job of keeping them alive. And that saves money in the long run. These events also help you learn which plants grow well in Louisiana, preventing you from wasting money purchasing plants that will not thrive here.
Don’t be shy about introducing yourself to other people at these events. Mention something said in the lecture or plants that you particularly like to grow, and I can just about promise you a great conversation. Also, don’t hesitate to ask the speakers additional questions either during or after the program. After all, that’s why they are there, and that way you gain information you can directly apply to your own garden.
Finally, I often leave a class or symposium feeling inspired, and that is a benefit more difficult to define yet no less important. The old meaning of the word inspire is “to breathe life into.” Between the programs that make me a better gardener and great conversations with fellow gardeners, I do often feel reinvigorated.
Today we use the word inspire to mean to influence, impel or arouse feelings or actions. And indeed, I tend to leave these events motivated and determined to get into my garden and try out new design ideas, garden products, growing techniques or plants.
Take some time out of your busy schedule this spring and make it a point to attend as many of these events as you can. Get some friends together and make it fun. But be sure to take advantage of these educational events. There’s no use struggling to learn alone when so many opportunities are waiting.
Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter. He can be reached at DGill@agcenter.lsu.edu