Gardening Holidays

A New Year for the Laidback Gardener Blog

Ill.: Stick.png & depositphotos

By Larry Hodgson

Yes, it’s the New Year, and my little project of a simple daily gardening blog has been going on for 7 years now. It’s nevertheless remarkable that a small daily post from a passionate Canadian home gardener attracts so much interest, but the blog is now read around the world. There were some 2.8 million visitors (yes, millions!) in 2021 visiting the site 3.7 million times. That’s enormous! That’s almost 1 million more visitors that in 2020.

And there have been a few changes over the year. Thanks to my son, Mathieu Hodgson, the blog was completely revamped last winter, with a new format. The blog is now more modern, brighter and more user-friendly; at least I hope so. There is also now the possibility of making a donation to support the blog, something that wasn’t possible in the past.

Fragile Health

However, my health is failing. Although I’m “only” 67, it’s unlikely I’ll reach 70. I’ve never really discussed this in this blog before, as health is such a personal thing (and the last thing I want is pity), but I think I owe an explanation to my loyal readers (and so many people tell me they read the blog every day) about what’s happening to the man behind the blog, Larry Hodgson.

I have been suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, a degenerative lung disease, for several years now and the last 18 months especially have seen quite a decline in my capacities. I am now on oxygen 24 hours a day and I can no longer even count the things that I can’t do anymore. Getting out of my house, even to take a stroll around my garden, is now difficult and uncomfortable. Going out in public seems almost impossible. I no longer give in-person lectures and am no longer taking any reservations for videoconferences because I can no longer trust my voice to remain steady. 

But what about my garden? I’ve spent years trying to create a garden that required the least possible care, but never really thought I’d actually need it to be that way. Well, now I do! 

There is still a bit of lawn (my spring garden of naturalized bulbs!), but only a flat surface my wife can handle with our small electric mower. And even if she couldn’t, we could hire someone. The rest is (now) mostly trees, shrubs and woodland plantings of largely native plants. Not much to do there. I have a friend who can come in and do a bit of spot weeding where the natural cover isn’t yet thick enough. 

I still tried to keep a container vegetable garden going this last summer, but probably not next year. Just getting to it was quite a challenge, so it received little care.

I still putter about with my houseplants, though. 

Mostly, gardening is becoming a question of looking outdoors and enjoying the beauty of nature all around, something that makes me feel so relaxed and wonderful.

Writing Brings Great Comfort

One of the few things I can still do is write. And I certainly do! Oddly, the COVID crisis has brought me plenty of work: everything having to do with gardening is booming these days and I’ve picked up more contracts for articles (for magazines, Web sites, blogs, etc.) over the last two years than the five previous ones. I’ve always been a hard worker (that’s why I’ve always needed to be a laidback gardener, I have never had much time to invest in gardening) and still put in 60-hour weeks as I’ve done for nearly 40 years. And so, I continue to make a reasonable living as a freelance journalist.

My nurse (yes, I now receive home visits from a visiting nurse and and also an inhalation therapist while my beloved wife, Marie, is my “family caregiver”) seems amazed that I keep this up, as most people in my condition have had to give up working at the very beginning of the illness and now spend most of their time in a armchair, if not in a bed, reading or watching TV. I would love to read more and watch more TV, but I don’t have time for it.

My thought is: when you’re in declining health, the most important thing is to feel useful … and, with a blog read by millions, I certainly do!

Ensuring the Laidback Gardner Blog Continues

This blog has become my passion. Publishing a blog article every day is quite a challenge and keeps me on my toes (finger tips, actually). I love sharing horticultural information (hopefully correct horticultural information!) with garden lovers everywhere and blogging has become my primary way of doing it. And I would like to see the blog continue after I die.

My son Mathieu and I going through some family photos.

My son, Mathieu, has agreed to try to keep the blog going, perhaps not an article every day, but maybe one or two a week. On the other hand, I can’t ask him to do that at a loss, because he too has to earn a living. So, we’ve been working together to try to monetize the Laidback Gardener blog and make it profitable.

That’s why you’ve seen an increase in ads accompanying the blog. Already just the fact that there are ads indicates a fairly successful blog, as advertisers are very selective. Even two years ago, mine had none at all; there was no interest. But then a few ads came on board, now even more. Apparently, the Laidback Gardener blog is now more worth their investment. The ideal situation for me would be that the blog bring in enough money to pay someone to maintain it. Well, we certainly aren’t there yet, but we’re working on it!

Also, during the past year, it became possible to make a direct donation to support the blog thanks to the addition of a “donor box” to the site. This is something Mathieu figured out how to do last spring. It doesn’t bring in much yet, but every little bit helps. If you feel this blog has helped you over the years, feel free to make a donation.

Now, About Those &#@$% Gardening Questions

And now for the hard part!

I’ve always gladly answered questions appearing in the comments at the end on the blog as well as questions sent to me by email. Well, maybe I should say “generously answered” rather than “gladly answered,” as there were times when I wasn’t glad at all. Answering the questions now often takes more time than writing the blog. To say I’m often overwhelmed scarcely covers it. There were days last spring (always the big season for gardening questions) when I felt like abandoning everything. I couldn’t see how I could both write articles and answer questions. 

And don’t suggest I simply charge to answer questions. That way, I’d have even more work, as I’d feel a need to research each question more thoroughly. The one thing I don’t need is more work!

So, here’s the big decision. As of today, January 1, 2022, questions sent to me will be left answered, at least by me. I’ll still gladly accept suggestions and corrections, plus questions about the blog itself (how to access this or that); plus I’ll read everything that comes through, enjoying your comments, but your gardening questions will be met with either stony silence or a message saying I no longer answer gardening questions. (I’m not sure yet which is better.) I may well use a question that comes in as the basis for a blog article, but I’ll no longer set aside several hours every day to methodically answer questions one by one.

Don’t think I’ll enjoy this. I love answering gardening questions and I’m going to find it hard to stop … but I have to. Otherwise the stress is too great.

Fortunately, there are answers to most of the questions people ask in the more than 2,500 blog posts on the Laidback Gardener website. You can easily check this out by entering keywords in the Search box that appears on the blog. I’d say 3 out of 4 questions I’m asked these days can be answered by reading the appropriate blog article.

Become a Friend of the Laidback Gardener

If you’re a frequent reader (and so many of you are, thank you!), you can help me keep this blog running. You could answer in my place, as you would in a forum, becoming what I’m calling a Friend of the Laidback Gardener.

When you see a question in the comments that follow the blog and know the answer, you can write it there. Or if you see a reader slipping in false information (such a common problem because horticulture is so dominated by gardening myths!) you can, kindly, put the person on the right track, maybe be with a reference to a blog post or to a reliable outside source. You can therefore become a Friend of the Laidback Gardener. 

And share the news. Tell friends and family about the Laidback Gardener blog (laidbackgardener.blog). Invite them to read it. Share the blog articles on your network. The more traffic the site has, the closer it will be to financial security.

I know of no benefits to being a Friend of the Laidback Gardener, other than that of sharing solid horticultural information with other gardeners. Personally, I find that very satisfying.

The Future

I think I’m going to be well enough this year to keep writing daily. In fact, my goal is to continue this blog until the day I die. My death is not necessarily imminent and I might yet have a year or so, but there is no cure for my ailment. I know death is just around the corner.

Thank you for your understanding … and please realize that I am not depressed (I do not seem to have inherited the “depression gene”). It’s amazing to think that I still view life with such optimism, but I do. And each day is such a joy!

Long live the Laidback Gardener blog!

Garden writer and blogger, author of more than 60 gardening books, the laidback gardener, Larry Hodgson, lives and gardens in Quebec City, Canada. The Laidback Gardener blog offers more than 2,500 articles to passionate home gardeners, always with the goal of demystifying gardening and making it easier for even novice gardeners. If you have a gardening question, enter it in Search: the answer is probably already there!

82 comments on “A New Year for the Laidback Gardener Blog

  1. David Hobson

    Both sad and inspiring news, Larry. I have learned so much from your writings, and will continue to do so. You have my greatest respect. Keep on keeping on.

  2. Sending good vibes and energy your way. Thank you for your years of contributions to the gardening world.

  3. Deborah B

    Thank you so much! You have changed my garden and I talk about the good information from your blog to friends and family all the time. Thank you again for even more good advice on not only how to garden, but how to live a life well.

  4. Christine+Lemieux

    My garden taught me to balance research and letting go. To jump in and take risks and learn all the while. When I discovered your blog, I was overjoyed to find information I could completely trust, but it is your laidback ways that inspired garden changes and growth in me personally. The joy and healing that I find in my garden has skyrocketed and I thank you for that. It is good to know you lack the depression gene. I will keep sharing your blog with other gardeners.

  5. phillipa bessette

    So enjoyed your visits to the Brome lake garden club, and have some of your books.
    Your vegetable gardening book in French was given to my daughter after I purchased The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible recommended in your vegetables book – it is my best vegetable gardening book. Gave the softcover version of your Perennials for Every Purpose to my other daughter when I found a hardback version. Your work will live on with the next generation.

  6. Measmeandu

    As an happy amateur-gardener I mostly buy the plants before I even know exactly where to plant them, and oh-boy such troubles that have given me! Like on a certain tuesday early last spring 2021, I had a plan of bringing four certain schrubs (Cytisus x praecox ‘Allgold’) back home with me, but since that schrub was temporarily sold-out, I walked out of the nursery with Prunus subhirtella ‘Fukubana’; four larger cherrytrees instead (!!) simply because they were on my invinsible “what-I.want-to-plant-in-the-garden-list”. I chirped like a happy bird driving all the way home all the while I thought about where to find the perfect spot for them.. Came home. Placed them in their pots right next to the wall of our house and decided that I would plant them into the ground on the following saturday..

    Only…that did’nt happen because three days after I purchased them, the weather changed drastically and the temperature dropped like crazy, turning the ground into frost and ice. About two weeks later the temperatures rose but by then it was too late – those trees did’nt survive that sudden return of chilling wintertime temperatures… I was soo sad about those trees. And the fault was all mine – I should’nt have bougt such delicate trees that early into season. So, to compensate the loss of our four friends, I bougt a whole heap of other friends to plant in our garden with a common denominator that I learned the hard way; that they are adapted to the climate at 60° lattitude. I guess trial and error is something that can’t be avoided when it comes to learning new things – can only hope that it will make me better in the end at gardening. Can’t have too many friends in the garden!💖

    Dearest Mr Larry Hodgson; Long live the Laidback Gardener blog but most of all I wish that YOU will live way longer than you estimate your current capacity. I am a beliver in miraces. That’s why I always try to think postitive and hope for the best. And I will pray for miracles to come your way, Mr Hodgson✨💖

    Happy New 2022!
    Sending all my best to You and Yours🤗
    //Uli

  7. Paula Rennie

    Larry, sorry to hear of your health struggles, particularly as they prevent you from enjoying gardening activity as you once did. I read your blog daily and print out articles for my gardening book. You continue to provide me with a wealth of information for my newly planted garden (which has replaced almost all the grass in the back enclosed yard). I will keep reading The Laidback Gardener as long as it keeps appearing daily in my inbox. Thank you!!

  8. Happy New Year to you and your family! I really enjoyed reading all your posts and appreciate all the advice you gave me with my plants. Enjoy each day.

  9. The man who taught me more about plants then anyone.
    Said to me one day, his feet hurt, so he had to sit on the deck & watch the flowers bloom, instead of walking the garden.
    That’s the day I understand stood how lucky it is to out live the working days is a mixed Blessing.

  10. Dear Mr Hodgson. You are such an inspiration. Thanks for sharing all your knowledge. I really hope your blog goes on for many years.

  11. Joyce, Hamilton, Ontario

    What a beautiful blog this New Years Day. Thank you. Our gardens are our souls and looking at them and wandering in our minds being in them is so very special even if we can’t dig in them any longer. Take care SIR and see you tomorrow.

  12. Randy Evans

    Inspiring stuff, Larry! Happy New Year!

  13. C. McMillan

    You are, by far, one of my favourite garden “memories”. It was the second or third year of Canada Blooms. It was an inspiring lecture with a lot of enthusiastic gestures and Ed Lawrence had to follow you 😊 . I forget, at the moment, what Ed said but it brings a smile to my faces every time I think of it. I sought out your books and have sought out plants like Kiss me Over the Gate. I routinely learn something new from you in a timely manner like raspberry cane borers ( I could see the damage on my neighbour’s plant and went out and cut them back as you recommended ). I heard about your living wall long before they became trendy. Thank You.

  14. Veronica Sliva

    You inspired me to become a garden writer 30 years ago Larry, and continue to inspire me still. I often defer to your expertise knowing it will be spot on. You have encouraged so many of us to just do it, whatever that “do it” is for us. I am sorry to hear your health is failing, but glad you are continuing to live your life to the fullest. With much affection, Veronica

  15. Bill Russell

    Thank you for letting us know your situation. May Mathieu (a real Brick of a fellow) be able to continue your tour de force!

  16. Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life with all your readers. I’m relatively new to your daily posts – though I have read your work over many years. Recently, I’ve been re-reading past issues of Canadian Gardening magazine and enjoying your contributions there. You’ve made and continue to make a difference is so many gardener’s efforts (or lack thereof!). I wish you all the best in 2022!

  17. Jim Service

    I started following your blog after you were interviewed by Robert Pavlis. Every so often I see a posted question in a gardening related Facebook group and say to myself: the Laidback Gardener wrote about this topic so I’ll post a link. Take care Larry and Happy New Year.

  18. Alison Harris

    Thank you, Larry. I read every single post – even the ones that discuss plants I’ll never, ever attempt – or should never attempt. I’m a “tough love” gardener and careless to the point of negligence. I need to know about plants to avoid as well as the ones that will do well under my care in my coastal Maine, Zone 5b, garden. Your laidback approach suits me very well. “15 paces” is my new favorite mantra.

    I wish you well on your distressing health journey and am so grateful that you and Mathieu will be mentoring me for years to come.

  19. Jessica Crawford

    Thank you for sharing your personal story and your blog’s story. I appreciate your honest outlook and am glad you are an optimist at heart. Prepare for the worst and hope for something better. Please take care of yourself this new year!

  20. Your desire to keep moving forwards despite the challenges is inspiring. I am most grateful that you agreed to speak to our Master Gardening group about all of your travels. You have visited so many incredible places. Your eternal optimism and practical outlook are what make your blog a joy to read. I look forward to the coming year and wish you and your family all the best.

  21. I was so sad to read today’s post. I only recently discovered the blog, a fellow avid gardener sent it to me. I hope that you have a longer life than you expect and that you continue to enjoy what you do.

  22. Nora Cullen

    Dear Larry. I am so sad to hear about your lung condition that keeps you from fully enjoying your garden. I have learned something from you every day for several years now and my garden is spectacular. Thank you for enriching my life so much. Whenever you leave this earth, you will live on through your vast treasury of knowledge that you have shared so generously with us. Take care.

  23. I’m sorry to hear about your health issues. I enjoy reading your blogs, you’ve taught me alot. I wish all the best for you and your family. Thank you.

  24. Patricia Evans

    Your calm acceptance of your coming fate is an inspiration. Your never give up attitude and the hope to see the blog continue set a fine example for the rest of us. I lost my husband to a sudden heart attack in mid-October. You and your family are fortunate to be able to enjoy live to it’s fullest in the time you have remaining. Good luck to you.

  25. Goodness, I had no idea of your situation; obviously, since it was not mentioned. I get that too, since I do not share such personal information on my blog either. (There are other blogs for that.) I am barely keeping up with your posts, so, for the moment, can not be of much help to those who ask questions. You know I have no problem butting in otherwise. As I intend to eventually put more effort into my own blog, I will likely be more observant of yours and others as well.

  26. I’m sorry to hear of your poor health. I had no idea. I have really appreciated your gardening information geared toward cold climate gardening.

  27. Thinking positive thoughts for you. I need to tell you that I was recently invited to join a garden club and was assigned to be the assistant Horticulture chairperson and move into the chair position the following year. I was terrified because I practically had to look up the definition of ‘horticulture’. Any horticultural knowledge has been simply trial and error and some luck. Somehow I came across your blog and it has saved me as I have to give a Horticultural Hint at each meeting. THANK YOU for saving me!! You will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  28. Clara Miller

    Love your blog and very sorry to hear about your health challenges. But you are inspiring! Maybe just say that you can’t answer any questions individually but accept questions as a way to build articles later, and cite the questions. that way you’re (and your son) are in control.

  29. I’m not sure how I found your blog, but like many others, read it every day. Intuitively, I think I knew that gardens should be enjoyed and you have justified my own laidback approach! Gradually, I am expanding our shrubs and perennial beds, my goal is no lawn, at least in the front! Thank you for all your wisdom and enthusiasm.

  30. I am a readr from Italy, from a gardening zone where your advice are seledom helpful. BUT reading your blog, from his laidback perspective has been totally inspiring even in a country that, let me say, is not so obsessesd with gardening (a.k.a: is my backyard worth a close up? Here nobody cares…). Lawn care? Who cares… I am fortunutate enough to have (almost)mediterranean climate, and a neighboroohd that doesn’t bother. Yes: you have a readership such as that. Thak you Larry.

    Riccardo

  31. So, so sorry to read the details, Larry. I’ve always appreciated the depth of your knowledge and your generosity in sharing it. Sending love.

  32. May our courses in life -we know we all have at least one in common-remain on their steady and true paths. There’s always a garden at the end, the greatest reward for our journeys. Go Larry!

  33. Michel Gauthier

    Merci Larry for your great contribution to Canada’s garden culture. One of the Year of the Garden 2022 objective is to create a Canada Garden Hall of Fame ….Larry you belong in this Hall of Fame.

  34. Susan Martin

    Larry, your smile and laugh have always been infectious. From across the Garden Writers show floor, you could hear that Larry was in the house. I’ve always admired that about you. I see your son has inherited your smile. I am so sorry to hear you are not well, but admire your spirit and tenacity to do what you love until the very end. We are not all granted long lives, but you sure have packed a whole lot of living into yours. Your books, now old and worn, will remain on my bookshelf and your laugh will remain in my heart forever.

  35. Larry, a heartfelt thank you for your honest, warm post. My father in law also has pulmonary fibrosis so I know how difficult it is for the person, and their family. He also still works as much as he can and like you has a positive attitude. I suppose that very well could be the only way to put off the inevitable, if at least for a while. Nothing in life is guaranteed for any of us, thanks for the reminder to use it well. I wish you many more days of writing and wonder. – N.

  36. marianwhit

    Your work is wonderful. Like most gardeners, I have a different perspective sometimes, but the dialogue has been delightful. I too am a “shut-in”, sometimes literally crawling in my own garden, usually prone or sitting to try to make room for the native plants. It is wonderful to have the community and democracy of the internet to get to know people like you. I accept the circle of life and am sure you do too…I am just hugely grateful that you chose to share so much of yourself and your experiences. Thank you.

  37. Dearest Larry –

    Whenever I hear a certain song, say ‘December 1963’ by Frankie Valli, or ‘The Midnight Train to Georgia’ by Gladys Knight and the Pips, or ‘Jackson’ by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, I think of you with joy. Not that “Larry and the Larriettes” would ever have made a karaoke dream team, but because of your uninhibited joie de vivre at getting up on a stage along with me and a few others, making perfect fools of ourselves (OMG… Midnight Train, a true train wreck!) but doing it with enthusiasm and such a great sense of fun. And you danced!!

    I am so sorry to hear your news, but also inspired by your determination and rational approach to a really shitty hand of cards. You have packed so much gardening passion into those 60 hours each week over many years, and so many people have benefited from your advice. Thank you for that, and for being you.

    Janet

    • Hi Janet, thank you so much. I do have fond memories of the Larriettes: so much fun! I’ve had a wonderful life… and I’m still alive, still enjoying myself. I must admit I’ve always been in admiration of your incredible photographic skills. Keep it up!

  38. The circle of life, but we don’t have to like it. I applaud your positive attitude! Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your gardening information. You have made several generations of gardeners better. I think all of us retired can understand medical challenges. My best wishes for a good 2022 for you and your family.

  39. Dearest Larry, You make gardening easy, and dancing easy! Not to mention karaoke. You were always the life of the party at our Garden Writer’s Association end-of-conference celebrations. On the dance floor and throughout the year, we all learned much from you including enthusiasm, love of life and determination to write the best and most accurate and engaging articles about plants. I’m sorry to hear that your health continues to deteriorate, and thrilled to learn that your blog is so successful and is read worldwide. I treasure the time I spent with you when you came to Oregon for a speaking engagement. I’m happy that I was able to give you a tour of our nursery and to share with you the native flora of the Sandy River and the Columbia River gorge on our backroads return to Portland. Keep writing to live, or living to write. Maybe they are one and the same. My best to you and your family.

    • Thanks, Nancy! I was hoping GardenComm would have an in-person symposium this year so I could try dancing in a wheelchair at the karaoke event, but that didn’t happen. And already my health isn’t good enough to even take a plane, let alone boogie in a wheelchair! I do so much remember my time in Portland with you and the wonderful plants. Something that will always stick with me! Keep on sharing the joys of gardening!

  40. I’m sorry to hear that your health is deteriorating, Larry! Knowing you, I’m sure you are staying positive and finding enjoyment in life. One of the things I always looked forward to when attending garden conferences was seeing you. I remember the joyfulness of our first meeting in Philadelphia, dancing in the Longwood Conservatory!

    • Yes, I well remember that first meeting, with your beautiful snow white hair (I’m getting there too, with what hair I have left!). It seems odd to say this, but I’m doing fine… at least, in the most important of the senses of the word! I’m just an incurable optimist!

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