by Judy Hodgson

What's the No. 1 leisure activity in the United States? If you guessed bowling, you were close. It's actually gardening.

I don't think there is such a thing as a typical gardener. Gardens often reflect the nature (no pun intended) of the person doing the planting.

I think I'm kind of a practical person, so I grow mainly vegetables. You know, stuff you can eat. Salad on-the-hoof all summer long. I don't plant in neat, tidy rows, either, which probably says something. Some veggies end up in a line, others in irregular beds -- all in need of a good weeding. (I wonder if there are people who interpret gardens, like tarot cards?)

I've only recently gotten interested in flowers, especially perennials, out of necessity. When we remodeled our house, all existing landscaping was demolished and the beds were bare. With the help of drip irrigation (and a plan drawn up by someone else), most of the plantings have survived their infancy.

I have learned over the years to appreciate the efforts of others, especially people who approach gardening as an art form. So it was a great delight to visit some of the gardens on this year's Botanical Foundation's garden tour early to scout out a possible cover photo.

Because of press and cost limitations, we knew we could only print one full-color photograph. It was a tough decision but we settled on the meandering, redwood canopied yard of Peg and Doug Douglas. The Douglases live in Fieldbrook, just down the road, by the way, from where the Lost World crew filmed the dinosaur chase scenes.

According to the June Botanical Guardian, a newletter for members of the Humboldt Botanical Gardens Foundation, the July 13 tour includes 13 gardens, 11 of which are new. For a $12 ticket, available at many garden shops, you can "seek inspiration, relaxation, sensual delight and outright fun ... behind lush draperies of dappled green trees, picket fences, rose-draped arbors..." (Prose courtesy of Lynn Wells.) We hope to see you there and we hope the regional botanical garden becomes a reality even before the year 2000.

Just because we have stories on gardens, food, travel and fun in this, our midsummer edition, there are a few articles of a more serious nature. The battle between the farmers in the south half of the state and the fish in the north coast rivers continues (see Upfront). And columnist Ron Ross gives us his thoughts on why Oregonians can't pump their own gas.

We also welcome former Director of the California Department of Foresty Jerry Partain as an occasional contributor. You may be familiar with Partain's commentary on KINS radio. My relationship with him goes back to my days at the Arcata Union newspaper in the 1980s when I was editor and Jerry a columnist. I hate to use labels because I dislike being tagged with one myself, but Jerry is a conservative Republican. More importantly, however, he is a good writer, a clear thinker -- and opinionated. When I was a reporter, he always was a good source of factual information and if I asked him a question, I would get a straight answer -- even when he was employed as a consultant for timber companies.

We will be adding other columnists in the future. If you have some ideas, please pass them along.

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