Sharon Lovejoy is an artist, gardener, and green granny who shares the joy and magic of gardening with children (and adults) around the world through her many books.
JEAN: First, can you talk about the gardening and art influences you had as a child?
SHARON: My Grandmother Lovejoy was THE most influential person in my life. She taught me by working alongside me in the garden, the kitchen, or at our work table where we did art projects. I never felt as though I was a student, but I always felt like I was on some sort of magical journey with her and I never knew where we would end up.
JEAN: As an artist and a gardener, can you talk a little bit about why and how you think art and gardening go hand in hand?
SHARON: I think that living everything artfully is a great way to approach your life. Whether it is making a beautiful bouquet of spring flowers, or autumn rose hips, or going that extra step and making shortbread in puffy hearts instead of rounds. Approach life, gardening, your home, as a joyful everyday expression of your vision of the way you wish the world could be.
My gardens change constantly. They are always morphing into different forms with different focuses- sometimes on attracting butterflies, other times growing beautiful veggies or fruits, but they are always a part and parcel of living life artistically.
JEAN: I love all of the creative ideas in your books, including the Stepping Stone Gallery in Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots and the Hollyhock Dolls in Sunflower Houses. Do you have any other gardening art ideas that young children might enjoy doing?
SHARON: I really like to go outdoors and pick and create fresh projects in season. For instance: tomato men assembled with toothpicks, caterpillars fashioned from slices of cucumber and carrots, pressed flower cards, paintings en plein air, making pot pourri, and lastly, cooking or assembling fabulous, simple meals from the garden. An art in itself!
SHARON: I think that journals are incredibly important. Many times I write notes to myself, have pages of ideas and tiny illustrations beside them.
I find inspiration everywhere, how can you NOT be inspired when you walk outdoors in the morning and look at the miracle of life surrounding you? Ideas have never been hard for me, but sometimes carrying them out is difficult. My whole family has had to pitch in at times to help me create gardens that were too ambitious for me to do alone, or to help me set up for classes, or for lectures.
JEAN: Which book was your favorite to work on and why?
SHARON: The Little Green Island with the Little Red House. Well, first of all instead of hundreds of pages and illustrations I dealt with 32 pages and about 50 illustrations. But still it took me two years to write and rewrite the book, draw and redraw the illos. Then my husband and I worked with manipulating the type fonts so that if I said slither, the font would slither across the page. Now that is a published book, but one I REALLY enjoyed writing is not yet published. It is a middle-grade novel set in the 1920's on an island in Maine. I loved working on that novel. It seemed to flow out of my fingers magically. I was surprised every morning when I awoke and my main character (Willow) greeted me in my mind and said, "Boy, are we going to have an adventure today." I never ran out of ideas or words for that book.
JEAN: What are your top tips for getting young children interested in and started in gardening? SHARON: Just keep your projects small and child-friendly. Don't hamper them with lots of chores. Be inventive. Grow crazy veggies, personality flowers, fruits for them to pick. Share the joy, never make them slave in the hot sun. Adventure with them day and night. Go outside with a flashlight to see the garden by moonlight, visit the plants early in the morning when the magical dew sits on their leaves, be a child filled with joy and expectations of wonder.
JEAN: Do you have any favorite children's picture books about gardening to recommend?
SHARON: Of course I love The Secret Garden, but who doesn't? I love The Gazebo by Ethel Pochocki, who based it on my apple tree gazebo in Sunflower Houses. I love The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter by Arielle North Olson, and I adore The Flower Fairies by Clara Ingram Judson, and too many more to name.
I collect old children's books (if you look on my blog entry about my Mockingbird Studio you'll see some of my children's books) and I could probably write about this love of books for pages and pages.
JEAN: Who are the young people in your life now who you share your love of gardening with?
SHARON: I am so lucky to have my grandchildren nearby. Sara May is 5, Moses is 1, Ilyahna is 10, and Asher is 7. They are all like shining stars in my life. They reacquaint me with all of the wonder of childhood, they make me grateful for every minute I have with them, and they teach me lessons whenever we are together.
JEAN: Can you tell us about the new book you are working on?
SHARON: My new book is called The Green Granny Gospels. I consider myself a green granny who is telling the truth about raising children simply, in tune with and with respect for the earth. I want readers to realize that it is always the ephemeral, not the purchased joy that is important, meaningful, and memorable. In my new book I'll have projects, art, cooking, gardening, celebrations and traditions, and a special section just for Grannies.
JEAN: Sounds wonderful!! Anything else you'd like to add?
SHARON: Nope, just that I love your blog and the work you do. Thank you for your focus on meaningful things. Blessings of spring to you and yours.
JEAN: Thank you Sharon! I have a lot to learn from green grannies like you. Sometimes I need to remember what's really important-living artfully, sharing the joy of gardening with my daughter, and the fact that a magical adventure can be just around the corner.
For more information about Sharon Lovejoy and her books, you can visit her website or her blog. Readers who leave a comment on this interview by Friday, May 16th, midnight EST will be entered into a random drawing for three of Sharon Lovejoy's books: Hollyhock Days, Sunflower Houses, and Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots. What a drawing!!
Note on photos and illustrations: Three of Sharon's illustrations shown here (stepping stone gallery, sunflower house, cooking pizza with granny) were photographed by me from Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots. The tomato man and cucumber caterpillar were made by Maia and me with Sharon's blessing, but they are our own versions.