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February 22, 2012

Garden humorist to speak this weekend

Felder Rushing’s gardening talks are always delightful. Despite being in the U.S. Navy and having a horticulturist position with U.S.D.A., in his talks he tells the audience to ignore the rules.

Now Rushing lives in England half the year and travels the U.S. doing speaking engagements the other half of the year. He has written 16 successful gardening books filled with his opinions about gardens, plants, bird feeding, water gardening and garden art.

“Gestalt Gardener,” his call-in radio show, has been on air for 30 years. You can listen to several shows at http://mpbonline.org/gestaltgardener and podcasts are available for download.

“Garden writers, experts, and books make gardening sound complicated,” said Rushing in a telephone interview. “OK has had some horrible weather — heat, blizzard, ice — and yet there are tough plants doing perfectly well at cemeteries and old home sites. Ride around. You’ll see 150 to 200 plants doing fine. Plant those in your yard.”

This weekend, Rushing’s talk on Saturday in Tulsa will be about Slow Gardening (www.slowgardening.net) and his talk Sunday in Oklahoma City will be about Passalong Plants. Both are titles of books he has written.

Rushing’s education and experience help his readers and listeners enjoy gardening more.

“People are tired of horticulture and its blow-dried, perfect landscaping,” Rushing said. “I want to help gardeners discover what makes more sense.”

Rushing said that if you want to grow fruit, grow elderberries, Chickasaw plums, and figs instead of peaches and grapes because they are easier to grow and have no problems.

“I grow peppers instead of tomatoes,” said Rushing. “They are more nutritious than tomatoes and easier to grow in hot, humid weather. I grow culinary herbs in pots hooked up to a drip system that waters them three times a week for an hour at a time.”

He pointed out that vegetables do not have to be grown in rows; they can be grown in buckets or tucked between shrubs, perennials and herbs.

“Plant vegetables as though they were flowers,” said Rushing. “Then, when you get tired of them you can just eat them.”

Rushing has spent a lot of time in Oklahoma and said that most of the photos he will use in his presentations were taken in Oklahoma.

“Experts have long lists of what to do and not to do,” Rushing said. “I specialize in deconstructing those ideas. Horticulture is producing a product. Gardening is what you do for the love of it, for the lightening bugs and the birds. Find out what you love about the garden and do that.”

Just say no to grass is Rushing’s way of telling gardeners that they do not have to spend so much of their lives spraying, watering and mowing a lawn.

“Wall to wall grass is not in the Constitution,” Rushing said. “A throw rug of grass can be plenty. Put some paths in your yard and let stuff grow alongside the paths. That’s a garden, too. Choose plants with good shape and texture and you will have a gorgeous garden.”

Rushing’s books include: “Slow Gardening: A No-Stress Philosophy for All Senses and All Seasons,” “Tough Plants for Georgia Gardens,” “Guide to South Carolina Vegetable Gardening,” “Can’t Miss Container Gardening” and “Passalong Plants.”

He gives an encouraging talk that invites gardeners to enjoy their yard, garden, outdoor space, balcony, or deck. Hang homemade art, put flower colors in tight lines, or land a flock of plastic birds on the lawn. Do whatever minimizes the work and increases the joy.

Rushing’s free talks are about an hour. His books will be available for sale and autographs.

If you go

WHAT: Gardening humorist Felder Rushing speaking.

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: Tulsa Garden Center, Saturday; Oklahoma City Zoo, Sunday.

COST: Free.

INFO: www.OKHort.org or stoutgarden@cox.net.

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