I WANT TO SHARE a secret about how to make a garden, and also a secret about myself, I guess. The secret is music. More than 25 years ago, when I first bought my then-weekend place, there was no garden here. Every Friday, I’d arrive full of youthful energy to do battle with multiflora rose, wild raspberries, barberry and spiny thistles. Besides my loppers and saw, I’d grab one of my best garden-making tools from the glove-box of the car: Al Green.
Motivational music (and a boom box) were critical garden-making tools. Both Green and Brown helped me make my garden. As in: Al and James. I mean: Who can sit still when James Brown is screaming and strutting–and besides, what’s a garden besides a giant living James Brown “Sex Machine” full of pollen and pollinators galore?
In the years since, music has intertwined with my garden passion in a different way. Noticing how many songs in so many genres speak to the seasons, storms, sunshine, birds, roses, trees, wildflowers…I’ve amassed a kind of giant “mix tape” of what I call “garden music.” (All the music-for-gardeners shows are at this link, if you want more.)
how my ‘garden music’ collection got started
ABOUT A DECADE AGO, when I co-hosted a weekly two-hour garden call-in show on Martha Stewart’s Sirius radio channel with my friend Andrew Beckman, the connection between music and gardening resurfaced. Before and after each commercial break, we’d play a snippet of a song whose lyrics spoke to themes of nature and even the garden itself.
Over the years we did that show, I amassed a crazy stash of them, and I want to play you a few (you can hear them using the audio player below, from one January 2014 episode of my public-radio show and podcast, when I played five favorites from among the many hundreds, including one dedicated to my dear departed cat, Jack).
Tell me in the comments box at the very bottom of the page whether music plays a role in your garden-making.
my music for gardeners
featured songs (and a bit of a lyric from each)
“The Pine Tree” (Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash)
I lean my back against you thinkin’ you were an oak
I knew the wind could bend you but I can’t believe you broke
…The willow tree is fickle and it weeps in the morning dew
My love is a pine tree cause that’s the only tree that’s true
“Heaven Right Here” (c. Jeb Loy Nichols)
Come on over to my yard
Sit around and let your troubles all disappear
Come on over to my yard
‘Cause right now heaven’s right here
“Two Birds” (c. G. Love & Special Sauce)
we’ll be like two birds singing in the moonlight
two fireflys lightin up the sky
two stars shining through the clouds
two clouds floating in the sky
“Wintertime Blues” (c. John Hiatt)
Three hours of day light
And all of them gray
The suicide prevention group has all run away
I’m running out of groceries
I ain’t got no rubber shoes
Bring the bacon baby
I got the wintertime blues
“Sunshine” (Johnny Cash)
(You all know this one, but the version I played on the show, recorded late in Cash’s life at his cabin in Arkansas, is the best of the best. This is the one I dedicated to my dear Jack.)
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away
SO TELL ME NOW: Any songs to garden by, either motivational or actually outdoorsy-themed? I’d love to hear, and see if they are in my collection. Hope you’ll listen to the whole podcast…since I can’t really do it justice here, without all the tunes!
prefer the podcast version of the show?
MY WEEKLY public-radio show, rated a “top-5 garden podcast” by “The Guardian” newspaper in the UK, began its seventh year in March 2016. In 2016, the show won three silver medals for excellence from the Garden Writers Association. It’s produced at Robin Hood Radio, the smallest NPR station in the nation. Listen locally in the Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) Mondays at 8:30 AM Eastern, rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. You can subscribe to all future editions on iTunes or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here). (All the music-for-gardeners shows are at this link.)
(Thumbnail image of Johnny and June Carter Cash displayed on homepage, by Joel Baldwin from Wikipedia.)