Radio personality Felder Rushing speaks at Union County Museum anniversary

This September marks the five-year anniversary of the William Faulkner Literary Garden. The garden, which is located at the Union County Heritage Museum, was built next door to William Faulkner’s birthplace. 

Members of the Union County Historical Society, Union County Heritage Museum Guild, New Albany Garden Club’s Faulkner Garden Committee, and countless more volunteers from the community and surrounding areas worked long hours and dedicated their time and effort to make this garden the success it has become today.

What started out as just a few plants has blossomed into a plethora of foliage that blooms and falls away each season. There is a myriad of flora and fauna that is planted here, which all have some kind of assemblance of connection to one or more of Faulkner’s stories or writings. 

Many of the garden club members and volunteers decided to honor Faulkner and his love of horticulture and botany by tracing specific flowers and plants that were written about in his stories and have provided plaques with specific quotes as markers within the garden signifying certain plants and their relation to Faulkner. 

In celebration of the five-year anniversary of the garden, noted gardening author, radio personality, and Mississippi gardener Felder Rushing came to speak to New Albany and Union County residents as the famed speaker at this year’s Literary Festival during this year’s Tallahatchie RiverFest. On Thursday night of RiverFest, Felder came and spoke to visitors at the Cleveland Street Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church about his love of gardening and to answer any questions people may have about gardening, garden accessories, pruning, and much more.

Grace Provence, president of the New Albany Garden Club, spoke first about the Faulkner Literary Garden.

She said, “This has been an ongoing project for the New Albany Garden Club for five years now and it has now become a beautiful and tranquil place to visit as well as a tourist attraction. In 2003, the New Albany Garden Club decided to honor Faulkner with Yoknapatawpha flora and dedicated the garden in 2005 on what would have been Faulkner’s 108th birthday.” 

Sherra Owen, a member of the New Albany Garden Club and one of the founding volunteers for the garden, introduced the speaker and talked more about the garden.

“We have fantastic community support. Most of the plants in the garden came from Union County gardens. Our future vision is to have a permanent structure in the garden, maybe a bronze one, and lighting the garden at nighttime. Another goal is to have signs around town directing visitors to the  Faulkner Literary Garden,” said Owen.

She added, “Walking through a  southern garden is like visiting old friends. Every garden tells a story. 100 years ago people came to New Albany to visit Paul Rainey and now they are coming to see Faulkner’s birthplace and garden.”

Jill Smith, director of the Union County Heritage Museum, said, “People come from all over the world to visit the Faulkner garden. I have been told that it shows an aspect of Faulkner that isn’t shown anywhere else. Scholars are hungry for this side of Faulkner. The garden is a pleasant oasis in the middle of New Albany, but it wouldn’t be possible without the New Albany Garden Club, who act as the engine that runs this garden.”

Owen introduced Rushing and said that the name of his program is called “Over The Fence with Felder” because last year when he came to visit New Albany for the New Albany Home and Garden Show, he wanted to see the Faulkner Literary Garden but it was closed, so he climbed over the fence at the museum and saw the garden, while also ripping his pants.

He started out by talking about his great-grandmother that was born in 1888. He said that she was a gardener and kept a gardening journal about plants and flowers she was growing and the flora and fauna that she noticed in other people’s gardens.

He talked about how his great-grandmother had written about going to her grandmother’s garden and she recorded what she saw and she also mentioned a bouquet of blue flowers, possibly larkspur, that her grandmother would carry to church with her on Sundays.

Rushing then talked about his farmhouse in England where he spends some summers. He said that many of the homes there have cottage gardens, which normally involves little grass and is a small, enclosed space that is interplanted with many different kinds of plants and flowers. 

“In England, there are a lot of footpaths that lead to different towns and lead to a lot of different kinds of wildlife. Magnolias and other native plans that are grown in Mississippi are popular worldwide,” said Rushing.

He also talked about his garden at his home in Jackson, Miss. “My garden is surrounded by a fence. I was taught at an early age that mowing the lawn was something I had to do before I could go swimming, so now my only grass is in a Radio Flyer wagon,” said Rushing.

He talked about the aesthetic qualities of having a water feature in the garden, having flowers that attract butterflies an dragonflies, having plants and flowers that are edible as well as beautiful, and collecting rainwater and using it to water the plants and flowers. He said, “The closer you look, the more you see.

Garden accessories like bottle trees, gazing balls, rubber trees made out of stacked tires, bird feeders, wind chimes, and other artistic and creative ideas were mentioned by Felder. He said, “Garden accessories are good for your soul.”

Growing vegetables in five-gallon buckets is the way Rushing grows them and he grows tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, and much more in his garden in his buckets.

“All you need to have a garden is seeds and a bag of potting soil. I have a garden in the back of my pick-up truck that I drive all over the place and it is still growing,” said Rushing.

Rushing talked about the nutrients that can be achieved from many flowers that are not normally sued for human consumption. He said that day lilies have more nutrients that broccoli. He also said that many plants and flowers have been used for herbal remedies for many years.

He mentioned the rules of Passalong Plants, which are plants and flowers that gardeners, family members, and friends passalong to each other to be planted in their own garden. He said, “The rules for passalong plants are value, local adaptation, pest-resistance, and easy to propagate.”

Rushing ended by saying, “Gardening is about getting out and sharing. Gardening is not about a lot of stupid rules – it’s about enjoying life and the attitude that comes with it.”