Today, as part of this week’s giveaway, we have a virtual interview with Greg Grant, coauthor of Heirloom Gardening in the South. On Thursday, I’ll share with you some of his favorite Texas garden resources.
A prolific gardener and writer–in addition to being a horticulturist and lecturer, Greg blogs at ArborGate.com. His garden, farm, and plant introductions have been featured in a number of magazines and newspapers. His email signature file contains this quotation from Abraham Lincoln: “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
• My maternal grandparents were Rebel Eloy and Georgia Marquette Emanis. They were the loves of my life and I spent every holiday, vacation, and summer that I could with them at their old farm house in the rural Arcadia community of Deep East Texas. When my grandmother first told me that her old house used to belong to her grandmother and wondered what would become of it when she was gone, I promised her then and there, as a young boy, that I’d look after it. A promise is a promise. My granny passed away several years back and I kept my promise by having the old dog trot house restored to the way it was when my great-great grandparents lived in it and continue to live in it myself. It’s been (and will continue to be) a lifelong project, a true labor of love.
• Whether one notices it or not, it’s very easy to be tied to a place, by your culture, roots, view, regional plants, friends, memories, fragrances, plant collection, yard art, favorite colors, etc. My favorite way of all to establish a connection to a landscape is by surrounding it with “pass-a-long” plants that a person has collected through their lives. Then every trip through the landscape is like a trip down memory lane, watching home videos, or flipping through a photo album. I’m particularly fond of capitalizing on early life or early career deep visual impressions and bringing them to life in some form in a current garden. To be honest, the minute one sets foot in their garden, they’ve established a sense of place. Even if it’s brand new, you start building it from that very moment. I bond very quickly.
• I LOVE my granny’s old Celeste or “sugar fig”. Though I prefer them fresh, she always made fig preserves. I also love my papaw’s black crowder peas that I save seed of every year. I could eat them every day. I also save my own seed of purple hull peas, cream peas, and burgundy okra. I grow an old asparagus that I dug at the old Darnell Place where my parents now live and it of course thrives. I grow some pears from nearby old homesteads as well as pomegranates and muscadines. I do like my purple podded poles beans and heck what Southerner can exist without speckled butterbeans? Yum. I also grow and save heirloom strains of sugar cane, multiplying onions, and perennial leeks. Every time I see one, I take a leek!
• My co-author William C. Welch has been a long time friend and mentor. I first met him after he came and spoke to one of my freshman horticulture classes at Texas A&M on the history of roses. I was so interested I went to his office immediately afterward and we have been fast friends and partners in crime ever since. I soon joined the Texas Rose Rustlers that he helped found and went to work at the Antique Rose Emporium which he also helped establish. I later went to work for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service multiple times, the same organization he still works for. I have a strong interest in regional plants and history so he asked me to help write The Southern Heirloom Garden when I worked for the Extension Service in San Antonio. Heirloom Gardening in the South is a major revision and update of that earlier work. Dr. Welch literally altered my life and garden.