Book release party and giveaway: The 20-30 Something Garden Guide

It’s the season for garden book releases, and today I’m helping to celebrate my friend Dee Nash’s brand-new book, The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No Fuss, Down and Dirty Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff. I met Dee, an Oklahoma garden writer and blogger at Red Dirt Ramblings, six years ago at the first Garden Bloggers Fling. She’s an experienced gardener of both edibles and ornamentals in her own country garden.

Dee wrote this book for newbies, particularly those who want to grow edibles sustainably and organically. Her friendly, conversational voice offers plenty of can-do encouragement, and she’s quick to remind the reader that no one is born with a green thumb — or a black one, for that matter. Gardening, like anything else, is a skill that is honed with practice, mistakes, and failures.

But as she shows throughout the book, the rewards of success are sweet — and can be tasty too! If you’re ready to start growing your own food, or if you’re already doing that and want to add ornamental plants to your garden to make it more attractive to wildlife, and to yourself, Dee’s book will show you how.


Bee Preserver

And now, since this is a book-release party, on to the giveaways! Dee has rounded up some cool gardening prizes for each participating blogger to give away.

Here at Digging, I’m giving away a trio of small Bee Preservers from Glass Gardens NW. These colorful, textured glass floats for your pond or container water feature are designed to save thirsty bees — your garden’s valuable pollinators — from drowning. The textured surface gives bees a safe place to land and something to hold onto while they drink.

Bee Preservers

If you don’t have a water feature of your own, go ahead and enter anyway, and if you win you’ll have a nice gift to give to a water-gardening friend. Be bee-friendly!

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post. The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Sunday, February 23. Check back here on Monday, February 24, to see if you won!

The fine print: One comment per person. Due to shipping costs, this giveaway is open only to residents of the continental U.S.

Update 2/24/14: Congratulations to Sara B., whose comment #41 was chosen at random! Thank you to everyone who entered.

Visit the other bloggers in Dee’s book-release party to enter their giveaways too:

Disclosure: A review copy of the book was sent to me for free. Garden photographs courtesy of Dee Nash. Bee Preserver images courtesy of Robin Haglund.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Read This: The Bulb Hunter

The Bulb Hunter

Flower bulbs — those turnipy looking, husky things in mesh bags, crowded into crayola-bright display bins at the big-box stores — suffer from granny’s-garden syndrome: they’re seen as old-fashioned, fussy, and patience-straining in today’s want-it-now culture. Unlike a flat of annuals, they don’t offer instant gratification; you may have to wait a year or more after planting a bulb to see it bloom. Southern U.S. gardeners are even more discouraged from buying bulbs because many readily available varieties don’t perform well in our hot climate, requiring a longer, colder winter and more moisture to reliably bloom and multiply.

Innocent of all marketing and production difficulties for bulb sellers, Texas A&M horticulture student Chris Wiesinger — already nicknamed “Flower” by his fellow corpsmen — came up with a business plan for a senior class project that involved selling to the public heirloom bulbs that grow well in the South. Upon graduating he decided to put his plan into action. He soon discovered that there weren’t any bulb growers in warm climates around the world and hence none of the bulbs he wanted to broker. Still, he knew that plenty of flowering bulbs for Southern gardeners exist because he saw them thriving in the passalong-plant gardens of rural homes and small towns and even without irrigation or care in pastures and at abandoned homesteads along back-country roads.

Chris Wiesinger & spider lilies. Photo courtesy of

Wiesinger realized he’d have to become a plant collector and — a more intimidating prospect — a farmer in order to have bulbs to sell. He honed his idea through meetings with growers, horticulturists, and other mentors around the state and eventually obtained $25,000 in seed money. Understanding that bulbs would be best farmed in sandy loam soil such as can be found in northeast Texas, he cold-called a sweet potato farmer in the area, explained his idea, and stammered out a request for a few acres of farmland. To his surprise the farmer granted the use of 10 acres that included a primitive fishing cabin by a lake.

In the fall of 2004 Wiesinger moved into the cabin and started what would become The Southern Bulb Company. Two years later he got a lucky break with a New York Times story about him and his work, which not only garnered him a new, more flattering nickname, “The Bulb Hunter,” but also speaking invitations from around the country and a raft of publicity for his company, which, after some setbacks, began turning a profit.

Wiesinger’s dog Fischer nosing a crinum. Photo courtesy of

These days Wiesinger spends much of his time on the road, traveling to speaking engagements and crisscrossing the South’s two-lane highways with an eagle-eye out for promising stands of flowering bulbs. When he spots one he tracks down the owner via tax office records or simply knocking on doors to get permission before digging. Few ask him for anything in return except, perhaps, a sympathetic ear for their life history. In the process, Wiesinger has become a collector not only of bulbs but of people’s stories. Like an anthropologist of the small-town South, he shares some of these tales in his 2013 book The Bulb Hunter, which he coauthored — each wrote a separate section — with his chief mentor, horticulturist William C. Welch.

“[M]y story is not just about the bulbs but about the people,” Wiesinger writes in The Bulb Hunter, and that’s half the pleasure of reading it. Far from a dry description of the bulbs he grows, the book tells the story of his adventures — of starting a business, of living an unexpected life, of encounters with charismatic and eccentric plant nuts, even of falling in love. Sprinkled throughout his tale are snippets of information about certain bulbs and a generous helping of eye-candy photos of bulbs in bloom and, even more interestingly, of his co-workers, friends, and family who helped him along the way.

I will tell you that Wiesinger’s writing style is uneven, with his subject matter jumping all over the place, even within paragraphs. At times the story is confusing to follow, and one wishes he’d had the benefit of a strong-handed editor. And yet I found myself drawn to his tale nonetheless. Reading it is like overhearing a scattershot conversation about his bulb-hunting adventures. More than that, you get a sense of Wiesinger himself: his old-fashioned Southern politeness, sly sense of humor, and somewhat timid disposition (he approaches homeowners with trepidation, and he shyly declines to be set up on dates with the daughters and sisters of admiring garden club members and nursery employees, although he eventually relents, falls in love with, and marries one). You get glimpses too of the camaraderie, loneliness, and sacrifices that come with starting a new business. Wiesinger initially believes his job will be selling bulbs, but it morphs into plant-collecting and farming before ultimately coming back around to selling — selling, via the garden-talk circuit, his charming self and his passion for getting more people interested in these heirloom and forgotten bulbs.

Texas tulips on the farm. Photo courtesy of

Bill Welch’s section, which makes up the second half of The Bulb Hunter, is also written in a conversational style, yet it provides a detailed picture of the bulbs and companion plants that grow well in the South. Welch is an able writer and a knowledgeable plantsman, and his section offers solid information for those interested in growing bulbs in the South.

I recommend The Bulb Hunter for any warm-climate gardener, bulb nut, or anyone who enjoys a behind-the-scenes look at starting a garden-related business. It’s also for those who love stories about people who are passionate about plants.

Disclosure: I met Chris Wiesinger at the Antique Rose Emporium last month, where we both were giving talks. Texas A&M University Press sent me a copy of The Bulb Hunter for review at my request. I reviewed it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my own personal opinion.

All material © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Lawn Gone! giveaway and gift for the holidays

The editors at Amazon have put Lawn Gone! on their list of best gardening books of 2013, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

LAWN GONE! The perfect holiday gift

I may be a little biased, but I do think Lawn Gone! would make a great Christmas, Hanukkah, or other holiday gift — for the non-gardener who wants to get rid of the lawn but isn’t sure what to put in its place; for the new gardener who needs ideas and how-to information to get started; for the devoted gardener who wants to be inspired by images of beautiful, lawnless gardens; for the environmentalist who wants to create an earth-friendly landscape; for the wildlife gardener who wants to attract birds, bees, butterflies, and other creatures to the garden; for the senior who wants simple groundcovers that require less maintenance than the lawn; for the family who wants to create a yard that’s alive and enticing to explore with the kids.

Therefore I’m giving away TWO copies of Lawn Gone! to ONE lucky reader: one for you and one to give away as a gift. Just leave a comment on this post telling me why Lawn Gone! would make a great gift for someone in your life. I look forward to hearing why you think your friends or family members would enjoy the book. And if you already have a copy, you can give them both away as gifts! Since they’ll be coming directly from me, I can also inscribe them however you’d like.

The giveaway will run through next Monday, Nov. 18, at 11:59 pm. I’ll randomly draw the winner’s name and announce it here next Tuesday. Good luck!

Note: Due to shipping costs, this giveaway is open only to residents of the continental U.S. Thanks for understanding.

UPDATE 11/19/13: WE HAVE A WINNER! Congratulations to Meredith H. Meredith, I hope Lawn Gone! inspires you and your dad in your gardening adventures! I’ve sent you an email with additional information.

Many thanks to everyone who took the time to enter and especially to each of you who shared your hopes and dreams for your gardens. Happy digging!

All material © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.