Thursday, May 27, 2010

Interview with Georgia Author and Certified Master Gardener Vince Dooley

I would like to thank Vince Dooley for taking time last week to speak with me about his new book, Vince Dooley's Garden--The Horticultural Journey of A Football Coach, with paintings by renowned artist Steve Penley. The book also includes a foreword by Michael Dirr and an afterward by Allan Armitage, both University of Georgia horticulturalists.
The horticultural journey of a football coach? I understand what an interesting subject that is to a lot of people. In fact, it might be the first time that such a book has been published. I don't know. SEC football legend discusses how he fell for hydrangeas! Of course that's likely to generate some interest, if only for the novelty of it.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution recently published a piece on Mr. Dooley's new book, covering it from the football angle. That article may be viewed at the link below:
Most people (in Georgia especially) likely associate Mr. Dooley with college football. And for good reason.
But Vince Dooley is also an avid "book person" (he has written some ten books and is widely read). He is a historian, a student of art, and is a world traveller. He has taken advantage of a career associated with universities to explore a multitude of subjects that interest him. And his interests seem to know no bounds.
"I find that there is great joy to learning and I have an inquisitive nature." states Dooley.
He also has a great love of gardening, although he has "only" been at it for about twelve to fourteen years, and considers himself a "relatively new" gardener.
I asked Mr. Dooley how long the new gardening book had been in the works; where did the idea for the book come from?
"A few years ago I was having dinner with (artist) Steve Penley," states Dooley. Apparently, the subject for a possible new book was one of the topics of conversation. Mr. Dooley laughs when he recalls that one of the possible ideas was for a combination football and gardening book.
"I decided upon a "journey" approach. Not too many coaches are gardeners."
Dooley continued, commenting on his now frequent appearances giving talks to gardening organizations, "I think that there is a uniqueness in a football coach giving talks. It's kind of like, "What am I doing here?""
I asked Mr. Dooley if he could tell me just how many varieties of plants he has in his garden in Athens (Georgia). He simply laughed and said that, "I'll have to count sometime." His Favorite varieties include Japanese Maples, camellias, hydrangeas (one is named for him), herbaceous plants, and dahlias.
Mr. Dooley is a world traveler, and devotes a considerable amount of attention in his new book to gardens and plant varieties throughout the U.S. and the world. He recommends a book, 1001 Gardens You Ought to See Before you Die. By his own count, he still has some 301 of those gardens to go. One of those gardens that he strongly recommends here in the States is Middleton Place, near Charleston, South Carolina. Another garden, which didn't make the 1001 list in the book (an omission that Dooley attempted to rectify) is actually just a few miles from Middleton Place-Magnolia Gardens.
As to gardens further afield, Mr. Dooley seems to have an affection for South Africa (The Floral Kingdom), where he wrote much of the new book. He is particularly enamored with the Protea family that is found there.
I asked Mr. Dooley what it was about gardening that he particularly likes.
He puts it simply, "It's fun. It's good for the mind. Good for the soul and the spirit and the body, because you're outside."
"It's a place to contemplate."
He is also clearly drawn to the science of horticulture. It wouldn't hurt the reader of the new book to have a small Latin dictionary on hand.
"There is always something new. And I'm never satisfied."
Vince Dooley will be autographing copies of his new book, Vince Dooley's Garden-The Horticultural Journey of a Football Coach, from 5 pm to 7:30 PM on Thursday, May 27th, on the City Hall Plaza at Suwanee Town Center, Suwanee, Georgia. For information, call 770.945.8996 or visit
RMR. And grow stuff.

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