ABOUT BRENDA: SHE'S ANYTHING
When Brenda Beust Smith started her Houston Chronicle
gardening column over 3 decades ago, she named it "The
Lazy Gardener" - thinking that would appeal to harried
Little did she know the same
low-care plants and techniques she promoted as timesaving for
"lazy" gardeners would one day become banners for
those concerned about the environment and indiscriminate use
of pesticides and other garden chemicals.
"I promoted hardy plants
because they took less of my time," she says now.
"This turned out to be a great idea - but for other
Brenda's column started about
the time major oil companies were relocating to Houston - a
new gardening world for those from colder climates. Her
relaxed, humorous approach made her column an instant success.
"The single most important thing for our gardeners,
especially new gardeners, to realize is we live in a unique
subtropical pocket," Brenda emphasizes. "If
anything, we are much closer in ecology to Louisiana than we
are to the rest of Texas. For this reason, it is vital that we
have and follow local advice, not statewide or - perish the
thought! - national advice."
Brenda expanded her audience
with the hour-long, call-in, "Eco-Gardening" show on
KPFT, Houston's Pacifica station. Although she appeared on
local television as a guest, it was on PBS. For over a decade
her "Lazy Gardener" segments provided local
gardening advice to Channel 8 viewers and helped garner
support during the quarterly PBS Membership Drives.
Brenda's Lazy Gardener's
calendar series started when Sally McQueen Squire, Houston's
Bulb Lady, suggested Brenda write a "Lazy Gardening"
book, to be published by Squire's River Bend Co. "My
readers buy a lot of gardening books," Brenda said at the
time. "But I'm not sure they ever read them." Her
thought was to do a gardening book in a wall-hanging calendar
format "...so you don't have to think!"
The calendars were an instant
success and were published for 18 years (ceasing in 2004). In
1997, Brenda combined all her years of experience into
"The Lazy Gardener's Guide" - a gardening book
divided into months (with what-to-do-now advice) instead of
chapters. In 2003, a second edition was published, with
expanded, updated advice and far more of her humorous and
insightful observations. Brenda's unique approach was echoed
in subsequent publications, including "Gardening with
Dogs" with Frances Burke Goodman.
An active speaker and
volunteer in the community, Brenda has won numerous journalism
awards, including two national awards for reporting and
She is a nationally published
freelance writer, a nationally published professional
photographer and has served on the boards of many area
gardens. She is a longtime Harris County Cooperative
Extensiion supporter, both as a Master Gardener and former
A native of New Orleans,
Brenda was reared in Houston, graduated from St. Agnes Academy
and the University of Houston and was, for many years, a
Houston Chronicle reporter. She has one son, Blake, and is
married to Bill Smith, recently-retired Aldine High School
head football coach.
EMAIL GARDENING QUESTIONS TO BRENDA AT:
(Be sure to tell me where you live!)