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Farewell from the Columnist of Between the Rows Corner

Pat at the computer

As I write this morning (Saturday, October 17) I am in my so-called office enjoying the view of my garden from the western window, and the lush asparagus fern hanging in the sunny southern window. In this part of the week I am usually trying to make sense of any notes I have written, or finding a whole new topic. Time is running out and I have a deadline.

However, today I have a topic but having trouble imagining how I will express it. Today I am writing my Farewell column. In May I wrote a column, actually three columns, giving some form to the 40 years I had been writing for the Recorder. Even as I celebrated my 40th anniversary, I was thinking that it was getting more difficult to find a topic and get it written before the weekly deadline. Even so, it was spring and there was so much to do in my garden, so many people who invited me to their gardens, so many pleasures to enjoy that I put the idea of retirement away.

Now it is fall. Gardens are being put to sleep. Trees are getting tired and leaves are falling, more energetically every day. It is time for me to retire from this column, but I want to say few words of thank you – and tell you what comes next for me.

The Recorder did have a garden column before I made my proposal to Bob Dolan. It was written by the wonderful Henry Mitchell who wrote delightful garden columns, and did substantial news reporting, for the Washington Post. I should tell you that I have and treasure Mitchell’s wonderful book The Essential Earthman, a collection of his columns. The problem I saw was that Washington, D.C. had a very different climate and it would be helpful to have a local column that could give local advice.

So I begin my thank yous with Bob Dolan. I confessed that I didn’t know a lot about gardening, but I would turn to people who did have skills. Dolan gave me that chance. Over these forty and a half years I have had several editors from Denny Wilkins who started teaching me the newspaper business with his big red pen, Rob Riggan, Adam Orth and now the multi-talented Andy Castillo. A special thank you to Paul Franz who took the beautiful face shot of me.

Pat among the hydrangias

Although I may complain about what will I write next, the truth is that many suggestions fly right into my lap. I thank all the readers who have sent me happy notes and made suggestions for new columns. I thank the readers who stopped me on the street, to say they enjoyed my latest column, asked questions and made suggestions. I thank all those who have invited me to their gardens and shared their ideas, their mistakes, and their innovations. There are a lot of mistakes in the garden, which means there is also a lot of laughter in the garden.

I have been a longtime member of the Greenfield Garden Club, and for some years a member of the Bridge of Flowers committee. Working with the other members of these organizations has been an education I have treasured. It is very stimulating and exciting to work with people who really know what they are doing. I thank them all.

Having talked about ideas, and the people who gave me those ideas, we get down to the job of actually writing. First I liked to read. I was an early and enthusiastic reader, and then I started liking to write. I liked writing reports and essays from elementary school through college. I wrote letters. My Between the Rows column gave me a way to continue doing something I enjoyed, made me pay attention to grammar, spelling, form, and allowed me to be myself. It also gave me a Personna. Sometimes people would be talking to me and then they would ask, are you the person who writes that garden column? What pleasure!

Newspapers are important. We need the news, and the thoughts and insights that others give us. Columns are important. They keep us up on what is new, and what needs to be attended to. It is an honor to have been a part of the columnist tradition, but it is time to retire.

However you are not done with me yet. After talking to Joan Livingston and my editor Andy Castillo about retiring, they invited me to continue at the Recorder as a freelancer. I am looking forward to this position which will allow me to write articles from time to time when I have an interesting topic. Watch for me.

In the meantime, I invite you to visit my commonweeder garden blog. It contains more than ten years of Recorder columns and other adventures in the garden. Just go to www.commonweeder.com and you’ll find columns and other writings.###

Between the Rows  October 27, 2020