When well-known and witty garden writer Felder Rushing came to Columbia last spring, he drove into town in his pick-up truck. By his side was his dog, Rusty, and in the bed of the truck was a container garden planted in flowers and vegetables interspersed with bottle trees, rooster, and pink flamingoes. The scene was a miniature version of Rushing’s home cottage garden in Jackson, Mississippi, and a message to gardeners that it is all right to do your own thing and express yourself via your garden.
Rushing is a horticulturist who has worked for many years as an extension agent dispensing “left brain” information on plants and crop production to farmers and home gardeners. But as an enthusiastic home gardener he feels gardening is a “right brain” activity done for the love of it. Every garden should be a gardener’s unique personal statement.
To encourage the public to enjoy gardening, he has penned the “Gardeners Bill of Rights,” a series of humorous statements designed to release some of the stress of gardening. For example, gardeners have the right to cultivate plants their neighbors consider to be “weeds” or to use as many wind chimes as they can afford. Gardeners have the right to work in the garden at any hour of the day or night, to grow way too many tomatoes every year, and to plant food in the front yard as well as the back.
Slow gardening, patterned after the slow food initiative, is Rushing’s philosophy of no-stress gardening, an approach that tickles and teases the senses throughout the seasons while savoring every moment outdoors. Whereas an extension agent might produce an eight-page booklet on composting, Rushing applies a simpler formula – “stop throwing stuff away, just pile it up and let it rot.” His no-dig approach to forming new garden beds in thick lawn is to cover all with layers of cardboard and fallen leaves. In weeks the grass and weeds are gone, and the area is ready to plant. He recommends replacing the upkeep of formal lawns with meadow lawns, a mixture of low-growing native wildflowers and grasses.
Gardeners are a generous bunch who multiply and share plants with others. Rushing encourages saving seed, dividing plants, and rooting cuttings along with layering and grafting. Plant propagation is a way to preserve garden favorites that won’t live forever and plant lifelong memories among friends and families.
Rushing’s laid-back philosophy of gardening was published last year by Chelsea Green under the title Slow Gardening. Sit back and relax with Rushing’s garden therapist style.