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The Future of Gardening

By Paul James

Since the middle of March, I’ve driven a whopping 27 miles — two trips to my 96-year-old dad’s assisted living center (he likes his wine), two trips to the liquor store pick-up window (like father, like son), and one trip to Southwood for some gardening essentials. Other than that, I’ve been working from home, answering questions on our website’s chat line, among other things. And the chats have given me hope for the future of gardening.

Why? Because of the incredible number of newbies I’ve chatted with who are eager to get into gardening. Most are willing to admit that they know next to nothing about plants, but clearly want to learn all they can. And their primary interest is in vegetables and herbs, which is precisely how I got interested in gardening over 40 years ago.

I’ve always thought of growing vegetables and herbs as the gateway to gardening, a sort of evolutionary starting point. It’s relatively inexpensive to get started, you don’t need an established garden if you grow in containers, and the rewards are both immediate and tasty. But most of all, it’s not that hard to be successful at it.

And with success comes confidence. And with confidence comes a desire to learn more.

That desire can send a young gardener in different directions. For me, it was shade gardening first, where I discovered the wonderful world of Japanese maples, yews, ferns, hostas, and toad lilies. Next it was ornamental grasses, which I fell in love with because of their ease of care and versatility in the landscape. Then it was shrubs, especially Viburnums, oakleaf Hydrangeas, Fothergilla, and Virginia sweetspire. And in the last 20 years or so, conifers and bonsai have been my jam.

So what about now? Well, now I spend most of my time growing vegetables and herbs. I’ve come full circle, and the journey has been a joy. I hope today’s young gardeners have the same experience. I’m pretty sure they will.

Happy gardening, ya’ll.

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8 responses to “The Future of Gardening”

  1. Colleen Jones says:

    I have scale on a Vanderwolf Pine, how do I treat it?

  2. Debra Rhoads says:

    Do I need to continue to protect tomatoes when night temps are between 45 and 50 degrees?

  3. Greg says:

    Hi Paul, a bit off topic…but, wanted to tell you I watched your shows for years, and it inspired me a while back in my early 30s to get into gardening, albeit in a small space (townhouse yard). I stepped away from doing a lot of gardening due to my schedule, as a super busy job, a bigger yard, and the birth of three sons will do. With all thats going on this year and more time at home, my old passion in the garden has been reignited. I’ve even started rewatching your old shows! My sons watch them, too. They love you! In fact as I type this, they are outside poking around in the yard. I was very excited to find your blog. Thank you for all of your straight forward and simple advice over the years. And for helping me to get my kids into, and me back into, gardening!

    • Paul James says:

      Greg — what a nice comment! Hearing stories like yours lifts my spirits, especially knowing that you’re inspiring another generation of gardeners (I’m doing likewise with my grandkids). Give my best to the family. And stay safe.

  4. Dutch Riley says:

    Hello Paul! I have been a fan of yours for years! My grandchildren have developed a love for gardening and that makes this PawPaw very happy! I hope you and your family are doing well. Oh, and a quick question! Whats your favorite bourbon?

    • Paul James says:

      Hey Dutch! My grandchildren call me Pappy. Happy Pappy! That’s what I was drinking when my son asked me what I wanted to be called. My house bourbons are Elijah Craig and Bulleit. But my stash includes lots of good stuff, including various Four Roses, Michter’s, High West (especially the ryes), Russell’s, E.H. Taylor, and lots more.