Born to Garden is my way of sharing my love and knowledge of gardening with anyone who drops in. It contains my personal experiences, including, I hope, some gardening wisdom and inspiration. I welcome your feedback.
What follows is some of my history, just so you know, as they say, where I’m coming from.
I worked in the magazine world as an editor and writer for most of my career–places like Weekend, Chatelaine, Toronto Life, City Woman, Vista (a business magazine, of all things) and, of course, Canadian Gardening. My career began when I was 40, after my four kids were all well ensconced in school. But I’ve been a gardener nearly all my life, since my teens, when I helped my Uncle Ren in his luscious garden in Ontario’s Bruce County. He was my garden mentor, although I don’t think the word had been invented yet–we’d never heard of it, anyway. Ren let me follow him around the garden, nipping off dead flowers and setting in transplants . I expect he sometimes put up with me, but he was a good teacher (he was in fact a teacher, of science and math in a local high school) and let me absorb his lessons in my own way and my own good time.
My father had been my teacher before that, letting me weed our vegetable garden in Winnipeg, where he also grew sweet peas so fragrant and big blossomed I can never forget them. Unfortunately he died far too young, necessitating our move to Ontario, where my mom had grown up. You can read about me and both my mentors and my years as a gardener and the first editor of Canadian Gardening in my memoir, My Natural History: The Evolution of a Gardener. An excerpt appears here.
My last full-time job, the Canadian Gardening editorship, where I stayed the longest, fell from heaven. I think I was perfect for the position: an obsessed gardener with many years of editorial experience. I loved planning Canadian Gardening‘s issues and assigning and editing the stories.
In the late ’90s the job also morphed into an exciting spot on TV, as host on “Canadian Gardening Television,” which aired first on the Life network and then on its sister network, HGTV. We taped about 65 shows all told, which aired for three years and then went into copious reruns. It was even seen in Japan. It was hard work and gave me new respect for the talents of people in TV, plus it was fun and it taught me a lot. One of the things I learned was that TV gives you a public persona you might want to preserve. I was caught several times early on Saturday mornings in the grocery store or a garden centre looking totally grungy.. “Aren’t you….um, Liz Primeau?” they’d say. I’m surprised they recognized me.
Since late 1999, when I left the magazine in the hands of its creative and capable managing editor Beckie Fox, who became its editor, I’ve been writing newspaper and magazine articles and books (more about them below) and giving talks and the occasional workshop to horticultural societies, at garden shows and festivals. Beckie, by the way, started her own magazine, Garden Making, a few years ago, and I’m green with envy. It’s gorgeous and, more than that, it gives gardeners the practical information they need. A real boots-in-the-dirt publication. Check it out here.
As for my other books, in addition to My Natural History, referred to above: Front Yard Gardens: Growing More Than Grass, came out in 2003 and quickly became a best seller. A revised and updated edition was published in 2010. It’s about taking out your lawn and replacing it with an ecologically friendly garden, and it explores the historical reasons why we’re so in love with grass as well as offering many stories of gardeners who’ve made the transformation.Click here to read an excerpt.
In Pursuit of Garlic: An Intimate Look at the Divinely Odorous Bulb is my ode to a favourite vegetable, one with an overlooked but unbelievable history, and delicious to boot. It has stories you’ve never heard, growing information, recipes, and where to buy the best garlic. Here’s a peek at it, too.
Just so you know, I have a wonderful husband, my second, who is willing to help me with the heavy lifting in the garden and has become a master pruner, and two darling and of course very intelligent cats, each with their own personalities. You will be hearing more about them in future…all three of them.
As for my garden, like yours, it keeps changing every year. Some of it just happens because of weather and the maturing of the plants, but some of the changes are at my hands. I’ll monitor these changes and tell you about my challenges and what I’ve learned from experts and my own experiences over the years. I hope my personal experience will be helpful to you, whether you’re a new or long-term gardener, like me.
You can share your experiences or contact me with this form or by commenting on a post.