By 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
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.