By Errol Castens
NEW ALBANY – For years, Tim Burress was best known for repairing, restoring and customizing vehicles in his “Colors By Tim” business. In recent years, however, he’s become the go-to guy for information and inspiration on all things horticultural.
As a Mississippi State University Extension Service Master Gardener, magazine writer, newspaper columnist, radio personality and one of the most prominent faces of the Union County Home & Garden Show, Burress, who retired after 39 years in the automotive business, is best known these days as “That Gardenin’ Guy.”
“I was walking down the street one day and hollered ‘Hey’ at my friend Lamar Hines,” he said. “He turned around and said, ‘Oh, there’s that gardenin’ guy.’ So the radio show became ‘That Gardenin’ Guy,’ and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The radio show runs Saturday mornings in the spring and summer on WNAU.
“We started out doing a live show, but it’s amazing that most listeners wouldn’t call in – they don’t want to hear themselves on the radio,” he said. “We started prerecording it on Friday, so if you have questions you could call in during the week or email them to me and we’d answer them on the show. Three times each summer we do a live remote at Biscuits and Jam (Farmers Market).”
After he retired, Burress became a Master Gardener in 2008 and soon began writing a garden column in the New Albany Gazette, later writing also for Journal Publishing’s Green Magazine and Mississippi Gardener Magazine.
Burress grew up with gardens and leans toward horticulture for its calming tendencies. It was a good contrast to his career in car repair, which included 10 years as a Memphis-based insurance adjuster.
“I’ve always used gardening for my stress relief, because John Q. Public can be antagonizing,” he said.
Burress and his wife, Janet, have covered their two-acre wooded hillside east of New Albany with not only a house, greenhouse, butterfly house and the beginnings of a woodshop but an enormous population of landscape plants that they open up to garden groups a few times a year.
“We have about 300 roses around here, probably 300-400 daylilies,” he said. “I have got a lot of trees. I have a lot of hostas and hydrangeas, and lately I’ve begun collecting Japanese maples – I have about 200.”
In addition, Burress plants lots of milkweed and plantain to attract and feed butterflies and their caterpillars. For human food, he often adds such beautiful vegetables as Swiss chard, purple okra and squash among the flowers and shrubs, but most of Burress’ vegetable growing is in the Union County Master Gardeners’ Victory Garden at the county fairgrounds.
“Stanley Wise (Union County Extension Agent) and I started it as a no-till gardening exhibit, and some of the state’s angels – some people call them jail trusties – helped me build a 20-by-30-foot lasagna garden out there,” he said. In 2012 it yielded more than a ton of produce for the Good Samaritan food bank and long-term care facilities.
“I enjoy giving away food to people that need it,” Burress said. “That’s probably some of the most rewarding volunteer work that I do.”
Parkinson’s disease has taught Burress to pace himself – a lesson he shares with other gardeners, especially beginners.
“Start small,” he emphasized. “Plant things that are easy to take care of – hydrangeas, petunias, canna lilies, daylilies. If you like roses, don’t start with the hybrid teas; start with the shrub roses that don’t take much care.”