Larry Hodgson

Larry Hodgson Receives Honorary Doctorate

On June 21, Université Laval posthumously awarded an honorary doctorate to my father, Larry Hodgson. He was recognized for his enormous contribution to horticulture in Quebec and around the world, as well as for the person he was: rigorous and generous. I had the honour of attending and participating in the event with my mother-in-law, Larry’s wife Marie Falardeau. Here is the speech I gave on his behalf.

Photo: France Bouchard

First of all, on behalf of myself, my father and our whole family: thank you for the honour you’re bestowing upon him today. Above all, thank you to all those who were involved in the selection process, whether in the Rector’s Office or in the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences.

Doing What You Love

In 1984, a few years after graduating from Laval University with a B.A. in French, my father left a steady job to freelance and write about his passion: gardening. With no experience as a professional writer, he showed up at the offices of the french-language Le soleil newspaper, and in his very pronounced English accent, asked if he could write a column on gardening. He was turned down… at first! A few weeks later, he was called back to write an article for a special gardening issue. He continued there as a columnist for 38 years. At the same time, he was publishing two houseplant newsletters and was a member of every horticultural club there was. Despite all this work, he was struggling to make ends meet. I’m pretty sure that at the time, some must have thought he was mad.

But, after years of hard work, he finally found success. He published the first of his 65 books, under his pen name, The Laidback Gardener. He became editor-in-chief of Quebec’s leading gardening magazine. Also working in radio and television. I think that if he succeeded, it was because he kept doing what he loved, without thinking about the benefits or what others thought of him.

Photo: Jean-Sébastien Turcotte

Tenacity

It was also thanks to his tenacity that he stood up to the ideas of the time. He almost lost his job as editor-in-chief by saying out loud what the horticultural industry wanted to keep quiet.

Back then, we weren’t supposed to tolerate dandelions, we had to trim hedges, mow our lawns constantly, plant flowers annually, cover plants in winter, and treat diseases with chemicals. There was an industry to feed, so gardens had to be perfect. Gardening was a lot of work.

My father thought that if it was too much work, we should stop doing it. Why plant shrubs that need pruning when there are others that don’t? Why have plants that need to be sprayed with harmful pesticides to survive when others don’t? In short, if a plant needed too much care, he replaced it with another that took care of itself. In my father’s garden, nature finds solutions to everything, if you let her.

The Importance of Education

My father believed that education was the foundation of everything. For him, it was the solution to all humanity’s ills.  He was an optimist: he believed that with knowledge, all problems could be overcome.

Photo: Jean-Sébastien Turcotte

It’s a great honour to receive this recognition from the academic and scientific communities, dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, which my father held in such high esteem. It is thanks to them and their research that my father was able to develop his ideas and make them accessible to all.

What can you take away from Larry Hodgson’s life, even if you’re not a gardener? Doing what you love, doing it without compromise, and sharing it, that’s true success. My father spent his life giving gardening advice. There’s one that stands out, partly because it also applies to life in general. It’s the 15-step trick. When you see a problem in your garden, all you have to do is take 15 steps back. If you don’t see it anymore, it’s because there never was a problem.

If my father were here today, he’d be happy to celebrate with you and your families. He’d be pleased that you’ve taken advantage of the opportunities offered by the university to improve your knowledge and refine your judgment. He would also tell you to keep cultivating your garden, the one in your backyard and the one in your mind. Allow me to say, on his behalf and mine, to each and every one of you, Bravo!

Mathieu manages the jardinierparesseux.com and laidbackgardener.blog websites. He is also a garden designer for a landscaping company in Montreal, Canada. Although he loves contributing to the blog, he prefers fishing.

16 comments on “Larry Hodgson Receives Honorary Doctorate

  1. Congratulations Larry, it is well deserved!

  2. Mary Fran

    The world always seemed brighter and more fun and exciting when Larry was around. Such was his enthusiasm and joy. A toast to Dr Hodgson – long may his memory blossom!

  3. Connie S.

    Congratulations to your family and your father.

  4. Louise Hamilton

    Thank you for sharing your father’s well-deserved posthumous honour with us. I remember the first time I visited The Laidback Gardener, following a link from another gardening site. I saw the photo of your father lounging in the garden and thought, “this should be good!”. And it was, and is. I’ve learned so much from your father, you and other contributors. Thank you for maintaining his legacy.

  5. Congratulations to your family also!

  6. Larry will be looking down and smiling as the public is finally acknowledging how right he was. He was ahead of his time but he persevered and taught us how to do better. Wonderful speech Mathieu. Dad would be proud.

  7. Diane Duford

    Bravo indeed!!

  8. Raisa Ghersi

    A well deserved honor! Bravo!

  9. Bill Russell

    Bravo!

  10. Christine Lemieux

    I am grateful for all I have learned from The Laidback Gardener. I am a more relaxed, happier and more passionate gardener thanks to Larry. I loved your speech, and thanks for carrying the blog forward, Mathieu.

  11. Gillian Baird

    He certainly deserved it. He was an extraordinary man. And congratulations to you, Matthew, for a simple, warm-hearted and inspiring speech on your father’s behalf.

  12. Nancy Ryan

    A well- deserved honour! I am new to the blog and love its sensible advice.

  13. lynnegfitzgerald

    Congratulations Dr Hodgson. I’m sure you were there! Thank you for changing the face of Canadian gardening.

  14. Bravo!

  15. Yes, it was very well deserved. I’ve learned so much just from reading your father’s blogs..

  16. Louisa Wilson

    I’m so pleased about this. It was very well deserved.

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