Yard art: The good, the bad, the unbelievable.
That was the topic for Felder Rushing, the master gardener, author, and host of the popular radio call-in show “The Gestalt Gardener” when he stopped in Meridian on Saturday.
Using humorous anecdotes and stunning photography to illustrate the method to his “madness” in gardening, Rushing was in his element at the Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience’s First Saturday: Mississippi Folk Art Event.
Some may argue that gardening is simply digging in the dirt and setting out plants, but Rushing insists that gardeners can express themselves creatively by “accessorizing” their plantings.
Accessorizing may include incorporating tires, bottles, bits of glass, and other found objects into one’s landscape.
The secret, Rushing maintained, is doing what pleases you and not worrying what the neighbors think.
Rushing urged the crowd in the MAX Multipurpose Gallery to have fun and be creative with their plantings and materials. He also made sure they understood the difference between tacky and gaudy.
“Gaudy,” he says, “means people may not like it or do not understand it, so they cut you some slack. Tacky, on the other hand, is when people think you don’t know any better and say, ’Bless Your Heart.’ Whatever you do or don’t do, your neighbors will talk.”
When Rushing was just a child, he recalls that his grandfather gifted his grandmother a concrete figure of a chicken for their anniversary.
“She put it in her garden, planted zinnias and monkey grass around it, and it brought her joy for the rest of her life,” Rushing recalled. Later, Rushing inherited that same chicken, and it became the focus of one area of his own garden in Fondren.
“I used it not for his material value, but because of the memory it stirred,” he said. “I think of my grandmother and her zinnias every time I look at that chicken.”
Rushing said many people think they don’t have enough room to plant gardens. He countered that if he can drive around Jackson, with an antique Ford-F150 truck bed filled with flowers, plants, and assorted bottle trees and yard art, then anyone can garden.
“From May to September, it doesn’t always get water, and in the winter, it doesn’t always get covered,” he said of his traveling garden. “If something dies, I pull it out and put something else in the hole. I make people think I know what I am doing.”
Rushing, a tenth generation gardener, travels extensively for lectures and is also the author or co-author of 18 gardening books. He has written gardening columns in syndicated newspapers.
Mark Tullos, president and CEO of the MAX, said, “Rushing is so personable, genuine, and generous in sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of plants and all things garden.”
In addition to Rushing’s talk, The MAX hosted Make+Take Workshops for children. The first floor changing gallery opened its exhibitions of “Deliberately Distorted: The Pottery of George E. Ohr, which continues through January 10, 2021; William Dunlap’s The Saga of Red Eye the Rooster on the second floor education showcase, which continues through March 7, 2021.
Tullos also recognized 13-year-old Iris Barnard for her painting and Josie Thompson, also 13, for her photography as contest winners of the #artwithoutwalls contest created by the MAX during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way for local students to express how they coped with their “new normal.”
The winners’ works will be on display in the schoolyard gallery.