Thursday, December 10, 2009

A drive by Felder Rushing's

Over the past couple of years I've become quite fond of listening to podcasts of Felder Rushing's gardening program, The Gestalt Gardener, on Mississippi Public Broadcasting. Having lived in the Northeast for almost 40 years, I've lost my southern accent, so I really enjoy hearing the many variations of "southern" on Felder's weekly program. You can easily find The Gestalt Gardener on iTunes.

Felder's garden, in the trendy Fondren neighborhood of Jackson, Mississippi, is something to behold. The week before Thanksgiving, my sister Linda, Phil and I managed to find Felder's house. As you can see above, it's easily recognizable.

The image below shows a little more of the surrounding context. Felder's house is not on an isolated site. It's in a middle class neighborhood of modest, traditional houses. It's a statement and, perhaps, an implicit indictment of bland middle class landscaping, though I don't speak for Felder here. That's my personal opinion.

References to vernacular architecture and gardens in the rural south abound, particularly in the corrugated metal panels and the bottle trees. The corrugated panels used to make the wall and as roofing have been used as a cheap siding on farm outbuildings and for roofing on country houses throughout the south. Interestingly, I've discovered this to be a ubiquitous construction material throughout the world. Many houses in Iceland, perhaps the majority of them, use the same metal siding (lack of wood, you know) and William Martin, in his fabulous garden in Australia, Wigandia, uses the same materials for his garden walls.

Note Felder's truck garden in the photo below - literally a traveling garden in the back of his pickup truck. I didn't want to get too close, lest I be accused of tresspassing (you can see how close the neighboring house is on the right). Most surrounding houses have traditional front lawns and the standard American foundation plantings. But I believe I've heard Felder say his garden's influence is slowly spreading.


  1. Too bad you didn't get a chance to meet Felder. I doubt that so many fans stop by to gawk that it's become a burden. I met him when he came to Cornell to speak last summer, and got to drive the truck garden -- probably the highlight of my gardening career.

    Here's one of the talks he gave from the back of the truck (runs about half an hour all together):

  2. If you swing by Felder Rushing's website you can see a plan view of his front garden with pix from behind the walls...fabulous. Here's a link:

  3. We were in Jackson a few weeks ago for a birthday and tuned in MPR while driving to and fro. We'd never heard Rushing before and were thoroughly entertained by his show with the wonderful eclectic music selections he interspersed with the calls and his comments.

    After a career in broadcasting, the only regret I have about having left Mississippi 40 years ago is not to have had a hand in the growth of MPR - it's truly a great asset for the Magnolia State.

  4. I have had the pleasure of hearing him speak in person on several occasions, but was never as lucky as you to see the garden.

  5. Craig,
    It wasn't Felder I was concerned about. It was the neighbors. They were all over the place and observing the strangers stopping to take pictures. Thanks for the link to the video.

  6. Susan,
    Thanks for the link. For some reason, it doesn't work. If you use this one:

    it works, but you have to click on "Felder's Front Yard" in the upper left of the page.

  7. Allan,
    I agree it is. I've wondered how it has not only survived, but become a notable public radio station in ultraconservative Mississippi. Amazing that you never heard Felder before.

  8. Les,
    I guess we're tied. I've now seen the garden but have never seen Felder in person. Well, I did see the truck drive off after we turned around, but only the truck, not Felder.

  9. You'll have to find a way to sneak in. Maybe you could pose as a UPS man.

  10. Like it or not, I tagged you in my blog post...

  11. I was lucky to hear Felder speak at this year's Michigan MG conference. He's hilarious. He showed a lot of slides of his garden, including his truck, and it's wonderful seeing them again from another perspective. A retired UM professor starts maple seedlings in the back of his car (in that area above the back seats where it's flat and sunny).

  12. Monica, he's quite an entertainer. I wish he'd come to our area to speak.

    thegardenof words, easy, just take a trip to Jackson.

  13. Susan, I know you tagged me. I have a busy week at work, but haven't given up on doing this--perhaps this weekend.

  14. I have several of his books but I've never had the chance to hear him speak. If I'm ever in the Jackson area, I'll certainly drive by to get a glance of his garden. I really love the color of his house. I'm not crazy about the panels though.



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