Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mentors

Tina and I got to talkin about Felder Rushing the other day and I decided I'd give him a proper introduction here. I think most southern gardeners are familiar with Felder, but a few of you Yankees might not have heard of this Mississippi garden guru.

I met Felder several years ago when our county Master Gardener Coordinator contacted him for a speaking engagement. At that time he was promoting "Passalong Plants," a book he co-authored with Steve Bender and was giving talks throughout the country on garden art. It was five years ago, February 14, Valentine's Day, when my wife and I sat down in the front row in our local high school's auditorium. Felder walked on stage carrying a small shoot from a pussy willow shrub which I thought was strange (he heard me as I muttered rather loudly to my wife, "What's he doin with that stick in his hand?"). I'm not sure but I think he said pussy willows don't grow down in Mississippi. Felder talked about passalong plants and other ways gardeners do up their gardens, and to make a long story short, he was most entertaining throughout his presentation and heckling from a certain attendee didn't faze him at all.

I felt obligated to make amends so I purchased a book and offered an apology for my somewhat rude behavior during his talk. Felder humbly said it didn't bother him at all, and then asked what I was doin livin with a bunch of Yankees (at some point he noticed my Kentucky accent). After a short explanation, and a solid handshake, we bid each other farewell and I figured it'd be the last I'd hear from Felder, other than reading his published books and articles. Little did I realize what I was in store for.

After we got home that evening I opened "Passalong Plants" and read what Felder had said when he signed my book: "The Rules Stink (except of Ockham's Razor) Have fun pass it along!" At that time I knew nothing about William of Occam so I emailed Felder asking for an explanation. I really wasn't expecting to hear back from him but lo and behold I did, almost immediately. In his email Felder talked about the "KISS" rule and how it applies to gardening, and then asked if he could give me a call because he wanted to make me an offer. And this led to our becoming close friends as Felder decided to allow me to help with research on "Tough Plants for Northern Gardens" and I was honored further by being asked to author the foreword.


If you have a copy of the book, or decide to get one, you'll see pictures of my wife, her herb club lady friends, and myself, and tire planters (I helped cut) each of us decorated. I am still in touch with Felder and we were recently seen together this past March at the Philly Flower Show.

14 comments:

Susie said...

Very interesting post T.C. Thanks for sharing. Felder is quite a character isn't he? Next time I'm at the bookstore I'll see if they have the book. I'll probably only find the one for southern gardens but I'll check anyway.

tina said...

Great introduction of this super entertaining and amusing guy who marches to the beat of his own drums in the gardening world and who has mentored you and who has actually mentored all of us in one way or another with his off the wall gardening style and philosophy. Hats off to Felder! P.S. Don't have those tire planters yet but I just know I can find a spot or two:) Most likely right out front in my Tennessee redneck driveway! Thanks for the link-as always!

tina said...

And Felder, do say hello to TC and all his readers-make my day!

Cindy said...

Hi TC - I'll have to look for that book. Your mention of Pussy Willow brings me back to my childhood when there was always some around. It's not something I see too much of anymore.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Sounds like an interesting guy. His brilliant observation "the rules stink" has certainly been my motto in gardening and other aspects of life.
Marnie

TC said...

Susie: I have the book if you can't find it. And yes, Felder is "quite a character."

Tina: If ever I get a chance to visit, I'll cut a tire for ya!

Cindy: I know they grow here, but I just don't know exactly where.

Marnie: There's also the obfuscation rule that must be avoided while gardening. ;~)

tina said...

TC, You and your family are invited any time. Mr. Fix-it has tons of tires at the ready and I'll have a hacksaw available:)

Walk in the Woods said...

Well - I *am* one of those Yankees that has never heard of Felder! Thanks for the introduction!

Martha said...

Felder is coming to the next state in November and we are traveling there to hear his talk. (We are in NE Oklahoma and he will be speaking in NW Arkansas.)

We don't really even care what his topic is going to be, we just want a chance to hear him talk about gardening.

Great photos. Thanks for this post.

TC said...

Tina: I can't cut just any ol' tire. It has to be very pliable and preferably very old, and not too big. ;~)

WITW: You're most welcome. If he's ever up in your neck of the woods, go hear him.

Martha: Thanks for stopping and thanks for the compliment on my pictures too. That's very kind of you. I'm 110% sure you'll thoroughly enjoy Felder's presentation. If you get a chance, ask him if he's ever heard of TC Conner. ;~)

LK Hunsaker said...

You did the forward. Very nice!

The only famous gardener I've heard of is Paul James and always loved watching that when it was still on. But then, I haven't bothered to learn stuff about it the right way. It's pretty much trial and error and more error than I want to admit.

Cameron (Defining Your Home) said...

Felder surprised me by answering email, too. Actually, I've found that most of the garden book authors answer their own email.

"I never met a gardener that I didn't like" is so true.

Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing your link...where shall I link you on my blog? hmmm....you have a book, therefore you go on the Gardening Gurus list.

Cameron

TC said...

LK: That's okay; I still learn from trial and error, probably always will. It's a huge part of what keeps me gardening.

Ms. Cameron: You're welcome and I'm not the one with the book, that's Felder. I just wrote the foreword and helped out by showing Felder around my neck of the woods.

Gardener to Farmer said...

Love Felder! I listen to his podcast all of the time...met him at the last GWA Symposium...