THE first one was written so long ago that our 24-year-old son was a new-born baby. After all that time, today Gina writes her last ‘In The Garden’ column for The Press.
The newspaper has taken the secateurs to her, along with other contributors.
The man with the corporate clippers once said to me that “generic content” such as gardening could easily be shared between newspapers.
My response is now futile, but here it is anyway.
Gina’s column was very far from being generic.
Over all those years, and in two gardens, one tiny and the other large, she documented one woman’s discovery of gardening. Without training, but with enthusiasm, intelligence and spade-wielding effort and determination, she turned herself into a gardening expert.
She did this by sharing everything with her readers. Sometimes her readers wrote asking for tips or wanting a plant identified. St Leonard’s Hospice often asked her to attend their gardening fair. The organic fruit and vegetable show at Brunswick Nursery has long borrowed Gina as a judge – and even talked me into joining her last summer.
Not long ago BBC Radio York came round to do a feature on Gina’s garden, wondering how she managed to find something to write about every week. She told them at some length. To be honest once she starts on about gardening, you might just as well put your feet up and listen.
There are plenty of other examples, but those will do.
Gina is a real gardener who lives in this city. A real person getting real mud on her wellies in a real garden.
Of course a gardening column is only interesting to people who like gardening. But gardeners did like Gina’s column. It was full of local news and listings, and so looked beyond the one blessed plot, beyond the generic.
Years ago I suggested that she should list open gardens. That little item went onto be a great success. In those early days we went along to a mentioned event and hordes of gardeners trailed round with The Press clutched in their hands, a sight that would be rarer now.
Proper local content is important to regional newspapers, or it used to be. I have no idea what or who is replacing the non-generic Gina. The letter she received said that the paper had to “relinquish some of the editorial material we buy in from external contributors”. An odd use of the word relinquish I’d say – doesn’t it usually refer to giving up something such as a claim or a responsibility?
Anyway let’s hope they put that 40 quid a week to good use. If anyone needs a gardening writer, they know where to look.
Incidentally, today also marks the cutting of the last tie between this family and The Press. I did 27 years on the features desk and wrote a weekly column for much of that time. Gina was in her garden every week for 24 years. And our three offspring all delivered the newspaper. A lot of years all told.
The way things have been, Gina suspected she would be lopped off sooner or later. She is understandably disappointed, but sharing her gardening thoughts with readers for so long has been a pleasure and a privilege, she says. And that bit can’t be taken away.
Good people remain on board at The Press, trying to maintain standards in difficult times. I still miss many of them, but keeping that semi-abandoned ship afloat isn’t going to be easy.
As for Gina – well, she deserves better. But then don’t we all.