The lazy gardener prepares to lay down his tools

Mention the name Larry Hodgson to an avid gardener in Quebec, and chances are the same image will come to mind: a tall guy with a broad smile and a wide-brimmed khaki hat, standing in a garden , explaining how to grow things.

Hodgson is one of the province’s best-known horticultural authors. He has helped generations of beginning gardeners overcome their fears of failure as a less than perfect teacher.

One fine July morning, Hodgson is sitting at a table in the solarium at the back of his house in Sainte-Foy, a suburb of Quebec. Looking out the window, her summer garden is a riot of green, with pops of yellow, purple and white flowers.

The gleam in Hodgson’s eye is still there. But he is thinner and moves slowly, his breathing aided by an oxygen tube on a long leash that allows him to move around the house.

“My voice isn’t what it used to be,” Hodgson said, clearing his throat. “It makes me angry.”

Hodgson has lived with pulmonary fibrosis for six and a half years. The disease erodes the lungs over time and has no cure. At 62, he was told he had one or two years left.

He beats those odds. But after years of maintaining a normal pace, Hodgson is now on full-time oxygen.

“I’m still here…it’s great,” he said. “But I’m getting closer to the end. You can really feel it.”

Larry Hodgson has written 64 books on horticulture. The 65th will be released in the spring of 2023. (France Bouchard)

Hodgson says he accepted his prognosis pretty much from the start. Then he went back to writing.

Hodgson has two horticulture blogs: one in English called Laidback Gardener, the other of the same name in French — Laidback Gardener.

Until June, he had posted every day for the past eight years. He told his readers nothing about his condition.

That changed when he suddenly fell ill and ended up in the hospital.

He explained it in simple terms. He’s sick and he’s not going to get better. His condition has deteriorated and his doctors say he does not have much time left. Blogging daily was no longer possible.

Hodgson says living with the knowledge that he won’t survive isn’t as hard as breaking the news to others.

“People get angry,” Hodgson says. “They don’t know how to talk to people who are dying.”

“Me neither, really,” he said with a smirk. “It’s the first time I’ve seen this. And the last.”

A man stands in front of a wall filled with plants and flowers.
Years ago, Larry Hodgson created a green wall in his bathroom, which is constantly changing. (Casual Gardener/Facebook)

A self-taught expert

Hodgson learned to garden as a child, in his family’s backyard in Scarborough, Ontario, on the lap of his father, an accomplished gardener.

He studied languages ​​with the idea of ​​teaching, moved to Quebec for college, and took a job with the Red Cross to pay the bills.

But he gradually returned to his first love. And he got good at it – joining gardening clubs and writing for international plant societies.

In 1984, he decided to quit his job and try his luck by making a career in his horticultural writing.

A series of articles in Quebec City‘s French daily, Le Soleil, resulted in a weekly column that spanned four decades.

A pitch to CBC Quebec resulted in a weekly gardening segment on the afternoon show, Break awaywith Jacquie Czernin, then animator, which lasted a dozen years.

The Télé-Mag network also came. His TV show, In My Garden with Larry Hodgsonbroadcast in spring and summer in Quebec and Ontario.

During his career, Hodgson authored 64 books on horticulture. The 65th will be released next spring.

A relaxed community

Hodgson had to scramble as a writer, but his approach to horticulture is less work the better. He told people not to pull their dandelions until it was cool. He doesn’t think weeding and watering should be a full-time job.

“Plants want to grow,” Hodgson says. “Just leave them.”

Hodgson’s articles on her English blog range from the practical (Pinch and Prune for Better Bloom) to the fun (I Killed My Rosemary: A Tale of True Crime and Confession).

There are hundreds of gorgeous photos of every flower and plant imaginable, with tips for making them thrive. He shares every discovery – of a new bulb or a good piece of advice – with enthusiasm.

Hodgson’s trademark has always been to share what he’s learned about gardening with anyone who asks.

People used to approach him at the mall with their questions. Some even called his home phone.

Now, on her blog, a lady from Montana asks her to identify a weed that is choking her carrots. A woman in Canberra, Australia asks for advice on which trees to plant.

Those same readers have flooded Hodgson’s blogs with messages since he made his illness known.

And it’s not just his readers who celebrate his influence.

of Quebec Federation of Horticultural and Ecological Societies of Quebec honored Hodgson with a tribute at its annual conference in August in Quebec. A video featured personalities from the gardening world in Canada and Europe, highlighting Hodgson’s commitment to demystifying and democratizing horticulture.

“It’s very moving,” he says of the outpouring of appreciation. “Because you know you’re important to people in some way, but you don’t always hear it.”

“I don’t sit there and lounge around in it…because I have things to do, don’t I?”

A Future for the Laidback Gardener

Hodgson is still writing. But as he steps back, his son Mathieu gives him a hand. He began digging through his father’s extensive archives, republishing articles and chronicles.

Mathieu is the one who got Hodgson to blog in the first place. He is building a team of writers that will keep the spirit of Hodgson’s work and the community of readers alive.

Two men, one in a wheelchair, are seen in front of a plant sculpture.
Hodgson had the chance to visit the Mosaïcultures exhibition at Parc Bois-de-Coulonge in Quebec City during a rare outing with his son Mathieu. (Rosemarie Sabor)

“Eventually, his face will no longer be in the foreground”, explains Mathieu. “I think rather than having a laid-back gardener, it’s going to be about how we can all be laid-back gardeners.”

Hodgson is happy to have a plan in place for the future.

“I keep increasing the amount of oxygen I need just to function,” he says. “I’m going to get to the point very soon where there’s no machine left that can supply me with enough.… There’s still time. But how much I don’t know.”

After decades in a basement office, the family moved their workspace upstairs during their recent hospital stay.

“Now I see birds, I hear birds!” he says. “I see a lot better outside. I see flowers and colors. So I spend some time looking outside and enjoying things.”

15:17The relaxed gardener prepares to lay down his tools

Larry Hodgson is a familiar face to gardeners. The author of more than 60 books and a blog called “The Laid Back Gardener” has encouraged generations of Quebecers to try their hand at planting without the pressure to be perfect. Hodgson recently revealed some medical news that rocked his legions of fans. Susan Campbell was able to sit down with him recently.

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