Maine gardeners are an independent lot, but if there’s one thing to be said about them as a rule, they love to share their gardening know-how.
Lisa Colburn of Orono found this out firsthand, with the results coming together in a new book, “The Maine Garden Journal: Insider Secrets from Maine People Who Love to Put Their Hands in the Dirt.”
But let’s take the story and the book back a ways, because the journey of the “Journal” and its author is as unique as its subject — and perhaps a foretelling of the fun twist happening now in the final days before publication in April.
Colburn grew up in The County, a Fort Kent girl who was surrounded by avid gardeners.
“My parents, Reynold and Rita Dubois, had vegetable gardens and flower gardens around the house. Most of the backyard was a garden,” Colburn said. “Everyone in the neighborhood had vegetable gardens; my grandparents had a dairy farm and big vegetable gardens. I just never considered not gardening.”
Twelve years ago, Colburn moved to Orono. It was a big leap for a gardener, moving from the frigid Zone 3 of Aroostook County to the relatively balmy environs of a Zone 5 Orono.
It opened up a whole new world of plants to try. It also presented challenges, moving from her County network of gardeners to a new place where Colburn didn’t have those connections. She didn’t know where to find great gardens or gardeners, where the specialty garden centers were or who the experts were in her new location.
“It took me so long to figure these things out,” she said. “I thought, it can’t be this hard.”
That was the inspiration for the book.
Two years ago, Colburn sent press releases around the state asking folks to contact her if they would like to share their gardening experiences.
Maine gardeners responded by the scores.
Colburn sent out 12-page surveys asking a variety of questions, from what kind of plants do you grow to how do you deal with black flies.
The surveys came back full of tips, tricks and techniques along with a good dollop of common sense.
“Survey contributors come from throughout the state, from Gale Flagg way up in Fort Kent to William Foster down in York Harbor,” Colburn said. “Some have years of experience, like Royce O’Donal who started the remarkable O’Donal’s Nursery in Gorham to Gina Ballew in Fairfield who claims she’s only begun, but, goodness, she’s jumped in with both feet.
“Some have a passion for certain types of plants like Lou and Murray Bain of Orono who collect dwarf conifers or Bernie Slofer from East Winthrop who is wild about hostas,” she said.
It took Colburn a year to work through the information, getting the taxonomic names and contact information correct and taking photographs to illustrate the text. The book has been designed and is just about ready to go to press, but there’s one more challenge Colburn has taken on.
Enter Colburn’s son, who pointed the author to a site called Kickstarter.com, which bills itself as the largest funding platform for creative projects. The concept is that a lot of people contributing even small amounts can prove to be a huge financial resource for a project. Backers donate however much they like, and depending on the project and the amount of money pledged, the backer receives some sort of perk.
Colburn submitted her book, telling Kickstarter that it wasn’t just her book “but the garden book of many dedicated Maine gardeners,” and Kickstarter accepted it.
Her challenge? To let folks know about the project and get $10,000 raised by 8 p.m. March 14. If the project isn’t fully funded at that time, then no one who has pledged money will have to pay, but neither will anyone get their perk, which in Colburn’s project ranges from a thank-you card to a copy of the book to all of the above and enough bulbs to fill a few garden beds.
Colburn has paid her own way on the book and says that the Kickstarter money “will only cover a small part of the printing cost.” So no matter the outcome on Kickstarter, the book is coming out.
It’s just another unique opportunity for Maine gardeners to help a friend get the job done.
And you don’t even have to get your hands dirty.