Gardening is now a fashionable-even glamorous-activity. Perhaps that's why so many celebrities are suddenly waxing eloquent about the joys of growing their own roses and runner beans.
Among them is Bette Midler. I was surprised to read recently that the one-time darling of New York's gay bathhouses has become a gardener. The Garden Writers Association of America even presented her with an award for persuading the Big Apple not to dismantle its community garden system and made her an honorary member. Then there's Mary Tyler Moore. Long gone from our TV screens, good old Mair is now "...gardening and tree pruning and learning the difference between an annual and perennial—all those things that aging actresses are supposed to discover," she told a newspaper reporter happily.
Across the Atlantic, celebs are also digging in the dirt like crazy. The British star Helen Mirren wasn't just acting when she recently appeared as a hoity-toity garden writer guru in a film called Greenfingers. She's a gardener in real life, too. "I have learned to love manure in a big way," says Mirren, who was at one time more interested in dallying with hunks such as Liam Neeson than in mucking about in flower beds. Another Brit, Michael Caine, actually moved back to Old Blighty from Los Angeles because, he says, "I got tired of the climate in California. You can't grow roses there." (You can, actually. But possibly not the big, blowsy blooms that a flamboyant actor would fancy.)
Back here, it's a similar story. After buying a house in an upscale area of Calgary, Tom Jackson, the aboriginal recording artist and actor who starred in CBC's North of 60, couldn't wait to get out his garden fork. "But I could swear that first day, when I was outside in my coveralls, I heard a neighbour say 'Oh look. Isn't that nice? They've hired an Indian boy to do the garden,'" he recalled recently with a wicked grin.
This trendiness of gardening is a good sign. With the rich and famous involved, serious issues, such as protecting the environment and growing organic food, will inevitably get more media attention. But it has a downside: everything's getting more expensive. At one nursery, small perennials that cost me $5.99 apiece last year have suddenly jumped to $8.99. Ouch. Maybe I should put in a call to the Big Apple. "Hey Bette," I'll say, "wanna champion another cause for gardeners?"
Our humour columnist Sonia Day doesn't believe in taking gardening too seriously. In her column called Down to Earth, she comments on garden fads, lampoons silly ideas and describes her own adventures.