Why grow THAT?

Author Andrew Keys

I have been very remiss in following through with a particular intention. I meant, weeks ago, to post a Save the Date! for a very special event this Sunday the 21st, from 1-3pm. Please tell me you’re not otherwise engaged or that you can change your plans to come hear author, blogger, podcaster extraordinaire, Andrew Keys speak (and show slides) on the subject of his first book, Why Grow THAT When You Can Grow THIS?: 255 Extraordinary Alternatives to Everyday Problem Plants. Because there are a few seats still available.

If you do not already own a copy of Andrew’s book, this will be the best local opportunity to remedy that situation and give yourself (or a friend) the gift of a signed copy. And you (and your friends) must have it. Here’s why I think so in a tiny nutshell: (What follows is excerpted from an East Bay RI column I wrote last Christmas when my poor scorched brain was cool as a cucumber and I had just read the book cover to cover.)

Andrew Keys is my kind of people and I’m not just saying that because he’s a friend [and fellow plant nut]. His first book, “Why Grow That When You Can Grow This?: 255 Extraordinary Alternatives to Everyday Problem Plants,” was just released [last November] by Timber Press and is the perfect the potting bench companion to every pretty coffee-table book we already own. The plants listed are eye-openers to the world of choices open to us, local and exotic.

But it’s his descriptions of the “problem” plants (some are invasive, others just high maintenance or boring) that make for wicked-entertaining reading. For instance, Henry Lauder’s walking stick, which we would plant for its sculpturally twisted branches, is, “at summer’s end … like a plant that just rolled out of bed, his leaves all shabby and rumpled.” Too true! Why not plant a contorted flowering quince instead?

What makes this book truly useful as well as inspiring is Key’s own nuts-and-bolts advice on how to choose the best plants for our gardens based on the kind of conditions (soil, light, climate) our garden has on offer. After all, the most inspiring gardens are full of carefully curated and edited plants that thrive under nature’s care. [Rather, I should have said, than requiring the life-support of excessive supplemental watering, fertilizing and applications of pesticides.]

I’m proud to say that Andrew drew some inspiration right here at Blithewold and some of our plants are right there on his pages and in his slides. (Never mind that some of the photos he shot here he used for the “Why grow THAT? side of his argument. Ever the gentleman, Andrew will be the first to acknowledge that Blithewold is blessed with some of the handsomest specimens around, whether he considers them garden-worthy or not.)

Personally, I don’t need any more plants for my garden — not a single one more — so I’m a little nervous that I might come away from his talk with a wishlist… But I wouldn’t miss it for all the plants on Avant Garden’s sale table. In fact, what better way to spend a hot weekend afternoon that in a cool, dark room looking at beautiful pictures and laughing along with one of the funniest plantsmen you’ll ever meet?

Tell me you’re coming. Check out the event details here and follow the link to register for it. (Again, it’s this coming Sunday the 21st, 1-3pm)