Welcome to Garden Study
What if: Cup of Jo, but for plants?
No one told me that aging would include gradual and then overwhelming obsession with Grandparent hobbies. What is a Grandparent hobby? Broadly conceived: Woodworking. Needlework. Specialty baking. Unscheduled comfy chair napping. Puzzles. Scheduled walks. “Visiting.” Golfing poorly. Block printing. Bridge or canasta or Mahjong. Smoking in the backyard. Word games. “Tinkering.” Fiber Arts. Driving people to medical appointments. Birding. Listening to baseball on the radio. Reading large-print history books.
A Grandparent hobby doesn’t have to have done by your Grandparent. It just has to be something that you do without mind towards optimization.
I have a bunch of Grandparent hobbies, but I really have one Grandparent hobby to rule them all: Gardening.
Nothing gives me as much quiet satisfaction as puttering around my plants. Sometimes I just go outside and look at them. When I’m falling asleep, I think of groundcovers for a newly un-lawned area of the backyard. Part of the joy is watching things grow, change, fail. Part of it is just being deep in beauty. And part of it, too, is the puzzle of it all. Gardens are patient teachers. They’ve got no where else to go.
If you’ve been reading Culture Study for some time, none of this will come as a surprise. Back in 2020, I wrote about my very ugly Montana vegetable garden.
Last year, I wrote about the secrets of my garden here on the island.
And this year, I’ve been cataloging some of my obsession over in my Instagram stories. A few weeks ago, I asked: Where are all the casual gardening blogs? Where’s the Cup of Jo, but for gardening? Who’s talking about basic stuff with good pictures in posts you read on your lunch break?
I don’t want another Instagram account (unsatisfying!!) and I certainly don’t want a YouTube channel. A podcast would be fine but doesn’t quite scratch this particular itch. I love Floret but I’m not a flower farm. Books are good but not the same. Yes I know about Monty Don, and PNW Icon Cisco, and Margaret Roach (whose website is about the closest thing to what I’m looking for). But still: not quite it!
I just want to talk about container groupings that aren’t boring or pretentious — and I want pictures of them, imperfections and all. I want to read interviews with other casual but joyful gardeners about what they’ve done with their small balconies and wild and weedy backyards and community garden plots. I want really great comment sections where people can ask questions and get non-condescending advice. I want a place where we talk about frustrations and experiments and hilarious failures — where we follow some gardening best practices and break other ones.
The particular place I want doesn’t exist. So I’m going to create it.
For the time being, Garden Study will live as a section within Culture Study. But it will be **opt-in** for current subscribers, because I know that my Grandparent hobby isn’t for everyone — and I don’t take even the slightest offense if it isn’t for you.
I’ll still be publishing Culture Study as I always have — Garden Study is just a bonus. For now, it’ll go out once a week. Sometimes it’ll be short and focus on a particular container or plant; other times it’ll be a longer interviews with others (including and especially readers) about their gardens. We’ll talk about plant stereotypes (why are hostas so preppy, I don’t make the rules, they just are), dealing with fuc*ing deer, and, when the weather turns, HOUSEPLANTS.
We’ll freak out over dahlias and figure out why your petunias look like that and make hydrangea pruning less intimidating. We’ll figure out “is that a weed” (depends!) and crowdsource what to do with a new space and demystify deadheading. Our official uniform will be the Duluth Gardening Overall but all are welcome, regardless of overall, including those without gardens of any form. (FWIW, I’m currently very into: containers, non-boring groundcovers, rescuing plants from the sale rack, figuring out shady areas, climbing roses, lupines, pollinator havens, sweet peas, tall perennial grasses, begonias, weird foxgloves, fighting blackberries, glaring at nightshade, double petunias, making secret sedum spaces, trailing geraniums, BIG HUGE HOSTAS, very gradually making my lawn disappear, hollyhock, Kenilworth Ivy, my 50 year old climbing hydrangea….I’m sure I’ll add another obsession before the end of the week).
The comments will always be a free-for-all for to crowdsource advice, and our guiding vibe will far less “master gardener” and far more “eager learner.” I’m working on my longterm project of getting fellow obsessive-yet-also- learning gardenerto join me on this endeavor after she recovers from book promotion, but we’ll also have guest contributors from all manner of gardening zones.
If you’d like to sign-up for Garden Study, it’s easy — but you do have to do it yourself.
Click here to go to your Culture Study account, and when you see this screen below, toggle “Garden Study” from “off” (grey) to “on” (green).
Once you toggle it on, you’ll receive all future Garden Study posts, including the first one (coming next week) about how to make a really great container flower combo from the sale shelf.
Comments will only be available and visible to paid subscribers — and I’ll be periodically using a paywall for the good stuff. As always, if you don’t have the means to be a paid subscriber — if you’re on a fixed income, a contingent worker, a student, un- or under-employed — just email me at email@example.com and I’ll comp you a subscription. But if you do have the means, and you want access to the good stuff, consider bumping up to a Paid Subscriber. Here’s how you do it. And if you’re already a paid subscriber: thank you. You make this work sustainable.
For now, I’d love to hear what *you’d* like to see in future installments of Garden Study. Who are the non-expert gardeners you admire (include yourself here!!!) What plant do you want to learn how to grow or want to talk about forever? What vexes you/your garden everyday? What very basic knowledge do you want? I’m such a Garden Grandma, I truly cannot wait to hear everything.
Just don’t forget to sign yourself up for Garden Study (you can unsubscribe anytime you’d like). And Subscribers: keep scrolling for This Week’s Things I Read and Loved.