I can’t remember a time when the Houston Chronicle wasn’t a part of my life. My parents were faithful subscribers, just as my husband and I have been since we married in 1983. I was fortunate enough to be a contract employee for a while, working with garden editor Kathy Huber (now retired) and Laura Haynes Weisman, who headed up the garden website. Didn’t know there was such a thing? Ah, those were the glory days, brief though they may have been. I wrote plant descriptions for the plant database that was included in that website, doing my best to provide information that was specific to our challenging growing conditions.
All that is to explain why I’m disappointed, and occasionally incensed, by the Chronicle‘s trend over the past few years to use articles written by and targeted at gardeners in other areas of the country, with information that at best is minimally applicable to Houston area gardeners and could lead new gardeners to spend time, energy and money that will be wasted if they follow the advice in these articles.
My rant is prompted by today’s article, written by Adrian Higgins of the Washington Post, who is an acknowledged and reputable garden authority in his area of the country. [Only with great restraint did I not put those last 5 words in caps!] I am in no way criticizing Mr. Higgins, mind you, since I am certain he has no control over where the WaPo chooses to syndicate/reprint his articles. Writing about the shade garden, he focuses on the experiences of a gardener in Pennsylvania as well as his own. I’ll grant that the descriptions of the types of shade might be useful to a gardener in the greater Houston area and so might the information on paths and elements of design. Those are aspects of gardening that aren’t too different from one area of the country to another.
But when it comes to plant choices and watering, I beg of my fellow Houston gardeners – especially those of you who are fairly new to gardening itself, or to gardening in the Houston area – to ignore what you’re reading and instead consult local sources. Save yourself time, effort and money – not to mention angst and regret – and think about what you’re reading, the audience of gardeners to whom it’s truly addressed and just how applicable the advice really is to your garden.
When I first began to garden on my corner of Katy in 1997, I was just slightly less than clueless about what I was doing. That was also in the early days of the Internet, when American Online was the #1 provider and I was an enthusiastic participant in the AOL gardening forums. I was so delighted to find other people who were as passionate about gardening as I was that I took their advice to heart, regardless of where they gardened. But as I gardened more on this corner and learned more about plants and growing zones and the incredibly vast differences across the country, I learned that when I needed advice about my own garden, I needed to think locally. And over the 20 years I’ve been gardening here, that is probably the single most important thing I’ve learned.