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 reasons."
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 editing.
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 committee chairman.
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!)