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GARDEN OF ED

Thoughts from the Garden of Ed(en) Turns 100!
updated: Mar 31, 2012, 9:30 AM

By Billy Goodnick

This blog just hit the century mark. No, not 100 years old, silly - Al Gore didn't even invent the Internets until World War II. But this is my 100th blog post here at Edhat.com. (It's even more impressive in binary code: 001100010011000000110000.)

If someone had told me when this blog launched in June 2008, that I'd someday fill the screen with 100,000 words and more than 600 photographs, I'd have told them, "I don't think I really have that much to say." In retrospect, after reading the five-year body of work, some might agree with that assessment. Nonetheless, bull-headed perseverance and sheer volume have to count for something.

I couldn't imagine pulling off a bi-weekly column. I had no training as a writer, but Ed motivated me to step up to the plate: He offered advertising for my landscape design business in exchange for a few hundred words every other week. "Piece of pie," I declared. "Easy as cake!"

I'd been teaching landscape design for almost two decades, so maybe, I thought, I could use this platform to tell readers about cool plants, the principles of sustainability, and share new landscaping ideas. I could give folks a behind-the-scenes look at Santa Barbara's luscious public spaces and devise fun contests.

In recent weeks, feeling the overwhelming pressure of this landmark day looming on my calendar, I wondered what I'd write about today. What would be a fitting topic for this auspicious event? To avoid repeating myself, I skimmed through the previous 99 pieces. Realizing I still couldn't think of anything monumental to write about, I'm taking the easy way out: A digest of some of my favorite articles, with links.

Horticulture and Design

Just like this year, moths were denuding oak trees around town in 2008. A drive through Montecito on the 101 freeway looked like a scene from a Tim Burton movie. I called a few certified arborists and found that oak Armageddon was not imminent. I tried to put everyone's mind at ease, sharing that: A) Once you noticed the damage, it was too late to do anything about it; and B) healthy oaks would shrug off the attack and recover by summer. With oaks again under attack, it's probably a good time to reread that one, cleverly titled Oak Moths.

Like much of the West, Santa Barbara has experienced some horrifying wildfires, so I used this space to teach gardeners in high-fire areas how to design with defensible space in mind. With this year's lackluster rainy season and summer on the way, the Firescape for Edhat article might be worth another read.

But my favorite subjects to share are the secrets of creating beautiful, useful, sustainable gardens. One very popular article was the February 2011 Really Fine On-line Garden Design where I introduced Edhatters to the slickest, coolest plant and design website this side of New Cuyama. In an act of selfless generosity, I wrote, "I'm not sure I should be sharing this with you. Besides writing, I earn some my income designing residential gardens. And here I am, about to hand you a great, free tool for doing it yourself." Call me Saint Goodnick.

And when my imagination ran dry and my deadline loomed, I'd leash up Biff the Wonder Spaniel, put my camera in my pocket, and stroll over to Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden for beautiful images and inspiration. That's what happened in January this year when I wrote Go For the Gold. Alice was bursting with warm, sunshiny yellow and I thought it would be fun rub a pinch of salt in the wintery wounds of friends and readers in the snow-bound core of the country. In the words of Max Bialystok, "If ya got it, flaunt it, baby."

Chuckles, Titters, and Guffaws

Writers often warn to steer clear of humor - not everybody finds the same things funny. Some people eat up juvenile stuff like the Three Stooges or Jackass; others get their giggles watching the Republican primary debates. Me, I like making sh*t up, like my scholarly theory about the origins of the beautiful lavender vine blooming along the freeway near Modoc: I theorized about an ancient race who traveled through our area in Question Mark and the Wisterians.

Ed lets me get my snark on, especially when I witness the boneheaded stuff people do to their gardens. Hence was born the Santa Barbara Not-So-Beautiful Awards. This annual event exposed local instances of plant bondage, mutilation, and torture. The 2010 awards had such a great response (5266 hits, to date), I launched a Crimes Against Horticulture: When Bad Taste Meets Power Tools page at Facebook, where more than 1000 fans from around the country, and beyond, post their own sightings.

Visions of Loveliness

I'm not a heartless beast, seeing only the scabby underbelly of the world. Despite the disturbing things I witness in my travels, I'm reminded everyday that we live in paradise. I'm happiest walking in our parks and neighborhoods as early morning light musters magic for my lens.

I've extolled the horticultural richness of State Street, shared a photo essay celebrating red tile roofs and beaver weathervanes, took an intrepid adventure into the hort happenings in the hinterlands of San Luis Obispo county, and risked border crossings and check points to bring you the scoop from the Carpinteria garden scene.

Beating You Senseless with My Sustainability Stick

A lot of my criticism is fueled by the shear ignorance of garden owners and so-called green professionals who really should know better. We all depend on water for life, yet day after day I witness whitewater torrents coursing down the gutter because someone wants a patch of green grass adorning their parkway. I've railed about a local drug store blithely dispensing garden poisons an aisle away from the baby formula section, and made my case why people should pass a licensing examination before planting anything in their yards.

Feedback

Comments are the lifeblood of blogs. For the most part, I get lots of "give it to ‘ems", "thank yous", and "I didn't know thats". I have smart fact checkers who weigh in on correct botanical names and keep me on course.

But then there are the folks who wake up every morning looking for something to be pissed off about. Some days it's my turn in the barrel. I find it revealing that the readers who leave the most personal invectives also choose to remain anonymous. My initial response was to put my shields up and spring to my own defense, but more and more it's the readers who stand up and offer their support. And for that, I thank you.

Hats Off to Ed

Edhat has been very, very good to me, offering a launch pad for what's becoming a robust writing career. You might not know that I landed a national writing gig, first at Fine Gardening Magazine's website, then was made contributing editor at the print version. They "discovered" me after posting links to my Edhat columns on my Twitter feed. They were looking to inject some West Coast, sustainable, entertaining content to their site, started reading my ramblings from Santa Barbara, and invited me aboard. I also write for the sumptuous lifestyle magazine, 805 Living, using my work at Edhat as my "audition."

I don't think I'll get over the paralytic panic I feel on the Monday before the Thursday before the Sunday when my posts go live. I mean, what's left to write about that would meet my three most important criteria: entertaining, educational, and requiring very little effort?

So, here's your chance to use the comment section to pitch some story ideas. Just make sure the topic has something to do with plants and gardens, encourages planet-friendly principles, or gives me the occasional opportunity to rip a raging rant. And here's to the next hundred.

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