An evening with Armitage

Allan Armitage - photo discovered while 
searching Google images for Crazy Gardeners!
Coincidence or fate. A week after I posted 'America's Most Influential Gardeners' I found out that one of my top nominee's was slated to be speaking nearby!  That person was Allan Armitage, a Perennial plant guru among other titles, and last Tuesday evening he lived up to his 'Most Influential' status!

'Crazy Plants for Crazy Gardeners' was the subject for the evenings presentation.  It was based around plants only a gardener would love.  His story of sitting in the garden at dusk with a bottle of wine, watching the blooms of an Evening Primrose to begin to pop open wasn't lost on me.  It's an event that any gardener can relate to, but to the uninitiated it sounds bizarre.  I've seen someone else doing the same with a bottle of Champagne and a night blooming Cactus, but I think she would of found the excuse to have a drink regardless of the event.

Lets face it, we gardeners are in fact a 'crazy' bunch.  We're fanatical, passionate and obsessed and often do the most bizarre things.  I've been known to garden during a full moon, not for some astrological significance but because the light of the moon allowed me to see outside and carry on gardening. I'm sure the neighbors all think I'm nuts digging in the dark, or maybe they think I'm up to something more menacing? Obsession can be a curse when it comes to lawns too.  We've all seen the signs not to walk on the lawn in fear that are shoes would cause it some harmed.  But, if you step back and detach yourself from the world of gardening, what other pastime recommends you to buy bags of poop to increase your enjoyment of the subject matter!


Allan kicked off the evening with what seemed like a collection of thoughts.  Some geared towards the garden center, who was hosting the talk, and some for the group who was attending.  But, what resonated the most was his concern that ordinary people had developed a disconnect from the outside world, favoring instead a world of high-tech gadgetry.  I have written past posts regarding this subject in 'What happened to gardening', but to hear someone of his standing echo the same sentiments is alarming.

Legends in the Garden
One way he suggested we might change peoples opinions about gardening is to tell them the stories connected to the plants we use.  Many of the plants in our gardens have remarkable stories that have changed history, whilst others have gone as far to of built empires.  If you get someone to see that plant are more than just some pretty flowers in a pot, they'll have a greater appreciation of what that plant really means.  Many fascinating stories can be found in the book 'Legends of the Garden, Who in the World is Nellie Stevens', that Allan coauthored with Linda Copeland.  A well recommend read for anyone interested to learn more.

A side effect of gardening, that any don't think about is how it affects are health.   Allan remarked how you'll never find an old gardener.  You'll find broke gardeners, sore gardeners, good and bad gardeners but never old gardeners.  Why not?  Because a gardener is always looking towards the future in anticipation.   Gardeners are the optimist of the world, never letting one years failures hold us back.  Instead, we build on our experiences each year and look forward to see what the next year will bring.

No hair out of place
The term 'crazy' is a little misleading as its our passion for growing gardens that makes us this way.  This perception could be one of the reasons people get turned off from gardening.  Let face it were not exactly 'Hip' or 'Cool', but the deep sense of connection I have with my environment far transcends the fashionable tags we put on things.

For my two year old, watching the bees was captivating 
Maybe the answer could be found in Allan's last photo of the evening.  It showed a young child in his garden running off with his famous Tilley hat in hand.  My interpretation of this picture as gardens were not just for growing flowers but future gardeners too.  Encouraging children to explore the garden gets them interested early.  I excepted that my children will decorate mud pies with flowers they pick from the plants I've nurtured, or that when a plant gets crushed in a game of tag it will grow back.  To see how easily they become mesmerized by the wonders of gardening gives me joy beyond the anticipation of that Paper Bush beginning to bloom.  Thanks to Allan's talk my daughter is now obsessed with wanting to grow a Giant Jack Bean this summer and I'm sure my son would love a dinosaur gourd too. We all need to embrace this awe they have for nature because if we don't they grow up only cultivating their Facebook status instead of their own small piece of this planet.

But that's just all 'crazy' talk......or is it?