Throwing convention to the wind

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Charlotte checked on  Rusty while Felder made his way out of the Expo hall.  I’m not sure if Rusty is his dog or his truck!

If you can grow fungus in a coffee cup, you have everything it takes to be a great gardener.

So says Mississippi’s most unconventional gardener Felder Rushing, author of 15 gardening books.  I do love that man.  He thumbs his nose at all the hoity toity “Gardening by the Rules” horticulturists who cast aspersions on all us “break all the rules”, dirt and weed kind of folks.

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Felder wrapped up the Everything Garden Expo this afternoon with the sage advice: “When the world wearies, and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden.”

Felder, the writer, the broadcaster, the gardening authority extraordinaire, is somewhat of a maverick of the plant kingdom. He arrived in Starkville in his vintage pick-up truck with his dog Rusty in the front seat and a winter garden of parsley, cabbages and lettuce growing merrily in the back.

If he can garden at 70 miles an hour, the rest of us have hope, says Rushing who learned to garden from his great grandmother, Pearl, in the hot dusty Mississippi Delta.  He has a soft place in his heart for the old fashioned plants Mama Pearl loved, including larkspur, althea, and camellias.  He noted those tried and true plants don’t need “life support” to thrive, and do best without fertilizer, water or general babying.

He also shared a secret that caused some of his extension colleagues to grit their teeth. “You don’t have to have your soil tested,” he whispered loudly through the PA system. “Just throw some fertilizer out and have some fun.”

Felder inspired the crowd with slides of his personal garden along with some of the most outrageous plots he has come across in his travels.  He’s particularly proud of his rubber tree  which is a stack of different sized rubber tires he covers with Christmas lights – much to the consternation of his neighbors.

Wearing his trademark straw hat and dusty sneakers, Felder endeared himself to his fans, reminding us that our gardens are a personal expression of our individual tastes and there really is no wrong way to do it.

I’m hauling that old toilet back to the front yard to be planted with impatiens this spring.  It will be labeled “Flower Pot” and I dare Mayor Camp to make me move it again.  The mayor and half the city board were present so I hope they have a better understanding of the concept of “art in the garden.”

Footnote – the Everything Garden Expo was a HUGE success.  We ran out of arm bands the first day and when I finally sneaked away an hour ago, people were still coming in.  Best of all, the university was pleased and we WILL  be holding it again next year.

I was talking to Briar Jones, president of the Starkville Area Arts Council, which spawned the whole idea of a garden expo for north Mississippi. He was talking about how happy all the vendors are with their sales.  People were spending money like there’s no recession.  They were buying plants, furnishings and accoutrements made of twigs, stained glass and antiques – all those things that are reminiscent of a gentler time and place.

“You know,” he said.  “This is what this country was founded upon.  Entrepreneurs doing what they love.”

“And satisfying a hunger for a simpler life,” I added as I sat petting my huge basket of purple cane which was stuffed into a vine wreath for my front door.

I also bought a “rooter” which is nothing more than a colorful glass container you can hang on your porch and root cuttings from your favorite plants.  You can see one below with one of the Expo bags we gave out to the public.  The bag was made from recycled auto tires and it will be going with me to Kroger each week.

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One thought on “Throwing convention to the wind

  1. I am so glad that the Expo was a huge success! And I am disappointed that I could not come…..when will it be held next year? I hope not on my grandson’s birthday! I know that everyone had a fun time. The weather was certainly perfect!

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