Pen­ner shares hu­mor­ous look at the di­verse world of hor­ti­cul­ture


Lyn­don Pen­ner high­lighted a smor­gas­bord of foods NOT to eat dur­ing his sea­son open­ing pre­sen­ta­tion at the 2018-2019 Write Out Loud se­ries.

And, for the record, you just might not en­joy Noni fruit or Wood Ap­ple.

Pen­ner, who has writ­ten four books about gar­den­ing on the Cana­dian prairies, said he chose to make his pre­sen­ta­tion on a topic which would ap­peal to the di­verse crowd at­tend­ing the au­thor se­ries.

“If I’m asked to speak about writ­ing or to ap­pear some­where as an au­thor, I have to as­sume that at least some of the peo­ple in the au­di­ence aren’t gar­den­ers. So I have to do some­thing that is go­ing to be fun for those who do gar­den, but also not go­ing to be ab­so­lutely bor­ing for those who don’t. And ev­ery­one eats. So if you talk about fruits and veg­eta­bles, ev­ery­one has a frame of ref­er­ence for that,” Pen­ner said fol­low­ing his Septem­ber 19 pre­sen­ta­tion.

“I talked about some things that you will prob­a­bly never encounter any­where in your en­tire life. But also at the same time, we go to the gro­cery store and we think ap­ples and ba­nanas are the end all and be all of fruits. But there are thou­sands for fruits in the world. There are thou­sands of plants. There are thou­sands of fas­ci­nat­ing life forms that share a planet with us. And the nat­u­ral world is never dull.”

Pen­ner did share some of his gar­den­ing ex­per­tise dur­ing a ques­tion and an­swer ses­sion fol­low­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion. Pen­ner clearly has a vast knowl­edge of hor­ti­cul­ture, and has taught classes at the Uni­ver­sity of Saskatchewan, the Uni­ver­sity of Bri­tish Columbia, Olds Col­lege, and the Cal­gary Zoo Botan­i­cal Gar­den. In ad­di­tion to his four books, Pen­ner ap­pears as a gar­den­ing colum­nist with CBC ra­dio sta­tions in Saskatchewan and Al­berta, and he is a fre­quent guest speaker at univer­si­ties, col­leges, and gar­den­ing as­so­ci­a­tions across West­ern Canada.

He is pas­sion­ate about hor­ti­cul­ture, not­ing that peo­ple ex­press them­selves with what is in their yards and gar­dens.

“Every­body’s gar­den is a tool of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Your gar­den says some­thing about you.”

“Gar­dens should not be ran­dom. They should be thought­ful and planned, and that will in­crease the plea­sure you get from them. There has to be an end game. Why are you plant­ing this? What is the goal of this plant? What need is be­ing met by you oc­cu­py­ing this space with a shrub? And a lot of peo­ple don’t stop to ask that.”

Pen­ner says his job in a sense is to fa­cil­i­tate self ex­pres­sion through gar­den­ing. And while some gar­den­ers pre­fer struc­ture while oth­ers pre­fer ‘gen­tly con­trolled chaos’, both pro­vide equal plea­sure for the per­son who is putting it there.

“Some­times you go to a nurs­ery and you say ‘I would like to grow a hedge’ and they say plant Co­toneaster or Alpine Cur­rant. And I don’t be­lieve that gar­den­ing is a one size fits all thing. Some­thing that grows re­ally well in your yard might not like my yard at all. And just be­cause some­thing is pop­u­lar doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean it’s the best thing.”

“If your gar­den is go­ing to say some­thing about you, you should be de­lib­er­ate about what it says. It shouldn’t be in­ci­den­tal.”

Lo­cal mu­si­cian Sheyenne Funk sup­plied the mu­si­cal en­ter­tain­ment be­fore Pen­ner’s pre­sen­ta­tion.

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