Love and green fingers make this gardener bloom
Tanya Visser is editor of The Gardener/Die Tuinier, Grow to Eat, The Ultimate Braai and Open Gardens of SA magazines, presenter of ‘The Gardener’ TV show and a public speaker
You are an author, magazine editor and TV presenter, with gardening being the thing that ties all these roles together. What drew you to gardening?
I have always loved gardening. My parents were avid gardeners, and my dad had the best veggie garden. Mom had a shade house with potted anthuriums and orchids, all of which were in pots made by my dad. I still have these pots, which are now in my shadehouse with my late mom’s anthuriums growing in them.
We lived in Umzinto, a rural town 30km inland of Scottburgh on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast. I am eternally grateful that we were so far out because this isolation formed the basis of what gardening means to me today. Weekends were spent in the veggie garden, potting anthuriums, building chicken runs and feeding all our domestic animals, and the most rewarding part was going round and picking the produce.
So, to answer the question, gardening is in my blood.
How do you combine so many different roles?
It is a team effort. I have so many skilled people who all form part of the value chain.
One really important mantra that I stick to is: You can teach skill but you can’t teach passion. When I need to apply myself to a certain aspect of the business or do a talk, I always ask myself the question, “Who is my audience? What do they need?”
What makes your job stressful?
Gardening is so relaxing! I wish it could be that way. Deadlines are a crazy aspect of our business. Our magazines work three months in advance. This requires precise planning. A prime example of this would be looking for images. If the plant only flowers in October and we go to print in August with this issue, you would need to have taken the images the previous year.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
A professional cowgirl, just me and my horse and a few head of cattle. Driving the cattle through valleys, fields of flowers and a stream to camp alongside. Why? I possibly watched too many episodes of The Lone Ranger and The Little House on the Prairie. What do you find most meaningful about the work you do?
The best thing about my work is watching people grow.
An idea is born, people put their minds together and we make it happen. Where there is a collaboration of collective minds, the energy is tangible and solutions are found. Presenting to young and old, newbies and experienced gardeners is always so incredibly fulfilling. What part of your job would like to change or not do at all?
Travel time, wasted in aeroplanes and driving — that’s the only part.
What other work would you like to do?
I would love to have more time to inspire younger generations to garden, to feel the earth between their fingers. Gardening can teach many great life lessons that I would love to pass on. All in good time, I guess.