GWA Talks

header_photo_eddie_rhoades_lemons_preview.jpgBy C.L. Fornari and Eddie Rhoades

At the first GWA annual meeting I attended (2002 in Philadelphia?) one of the first people I met was Eddie Rhoades. This gregarious man was from Marietta, Georgia and he had us laughing with his garden-themed jokes. Ever since that meeting I believe that I’ve seen Eddie at every single annual gathering.

I regularly play one of Eddie’s garden songs, Workin in the Garden Till I Turn Green as bumper music on my radio show, GardenLine. This interview was my, and your, chance to know him better.

CL:  What is the earliest garden experience you can remember?

Eddie: I remember several: My maternal grandmother had a pomegranate tree in her side yard. She also had free-range chickens. My paternal grandmother had a vegetable garden plus they raised chickens and hogs. We once lived in a house that had figs, persimmons, black walnuts, damson plums, fox grapes, hydrangeas, roses, and muscadines. I loved that yard. It is where at age 15 I started my own first garden. I had planted Indian corn, strawberries, green beans, tomatoes and such but we moved before anything matured.

CL: How has your interest in plants and gardens changed over time?

Eddie: Since I got married I have lived in three houses and at each one I had a garden. The first was heavy on vegetables but I also grew grapes, blueberries, and walnuts. In my second home I tried to grow one of everything. This was when I began to focus more on edibles. I had a pear tree which I grafted 40 different varieties onto. I also planted kiwi, seedless American persimmons, pawpaws, and mayhaw. This garden had several water features and was part of a couple of garden tours. It featured lots of yard art. My third (and final) garden is not well planned as I buy a plant then figure out where I can plant it.

CL: Your website is called “BittersweetGardens.com” – why that name?

Eddie: Um, I’m not sure…but at the time I may have been thinking about how the gardening journey can be both bitter and sweet. Mother Nature can throw curve balls sometimes. I consider my garden my church. Because I have that website many people think I have a nursery which I don’t. The purpose of the website is to promote gardening.

CL: How long have you been a garden communicator and a member of GWA?

Eddie: I joined GWA when Roy Wyatt was a Regional Director. Back then one had to submit writing examples to be considered for membership. I would have to check with national headquarters to find out the year. I absolutely LOVE GWA. I enjoy traveling to different states, staying at unique hotels, and going to the trade show where I get plant and product samples. I love the people I meet and the programs the organization offers.

CL: What plants are catching your eye and attention right now?

Eddie: Right now I am looking at the many cultivars of persimmons. I plan to grow lots more blueberries. I am very fond of perennials as they make a gardeners job easier when they pop out of the ground every spring. And I have a collection of hydrangeas.

CL: You mentioned that you have a lemon in your yard that seems to be very cold tolerant. Tell me about that.

Eddie: It’s not something I did, it just happened on its own. I had bought a citrus from a nursery in Carolina and planted it in my yard. In a couple of years the graft was killed by a hard cold spell. I left the rootstock there and it grew into a small tree. It began to produce Poncirus trifoliata fruit which is ping pong ball size, full of seeds and very bitter pulp. Then in 2016 I noticed it had 3 fruit as big as oranges. They weren’t overly seedy and the taste was like a cross between an orange and a lemon.

This past year, 2017, it had over a hundred fruit on it. After an eight inch snowfall and a night of 27 degrees F. the fruit began to drop. Poncirus trifoliata is hardy to zone 6 which includes Kentucky and Ohio. If this plant will grow and produce fruit there, it will be the first of its kind. I am not familiar with the process but I would like to patent this fruit if possible…I am naming it ‘Rhoades” citrus.

CL: I know you’re a musician as well as a gardener…do you see these things as being connected in any way?

Eddie: When the garden world cranks up in spring it explodes with activity. Usually I am so busy with garden related things that my music gets neglected. But every November my brother Robert and I go to Gulf Shores, Alabama for a songwriters festival. This year I hope to bring along a friend who is a world-class guitarist. Anything Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn could play, this guy can play. See for yourself at this link:  https://www.facebook.com/greg.tatum.31/videos/580102768714993/  and this link  https://www.facebook.com/greg.tatum.31/videos/vb.100001458253429/517281488330455/?type=2&permPage=1

CL: What are you excited about in plants or music in 2018?

Eddie: I have a CD titled  Songs For Your Garden but I haven’t been promoting it.  I have been asked to help with an orchard the Master Gardeners maintain. I hope to introduce them to some unusual edible plants. If you don’t mind, I will list here some of the plants growing in my garden: Pawpaw, pomegranate,  plum, pineapple guava, Asian and American persimmon, blueberries, English walnuts, heartnuts, American chestnut, ‘Rhoades’ citrus, mulberries, pear, apple, fig, thornless blackberries, kiwi, jujube and figs.

Meet the Author

cl_fornari_microphone_preview.jpg

C.L. Fornari is a passionate plant geek who loves Twitter and Photoshop. She speaks, writes, broadcasts, blogs and podcasts about plants and gardening. Details at: https://www.GardenLady.com

GWA Members Talk is a new regular feature of the GWA Grows blog. Would you like to interview a fellow GWA members and highlight their unique talents and abilities on the GWA Grows blog? Send an email to Carol Michel at Indygardener@gmail.com and she’ll give you the details on how to make it happen.

Author: GWA

GWA: The Association for Garden Communicators, formerly known as the Garden Writers Association, provides leadership and opportunities for education, recognition, career development and a forum for diverse interactions for professionals in the field of gardening communication. GWA members includes book authors, bloggers, staff editors, syndicated columnists, free-lance writers, photographers, speakers, landscape designers, television and radio personalities, consultants, publishers, extension service agents and more. No other organization in the industry has as much contact with the buying public as GWA members.

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