More gardeners join Prince Charles in plant talk

NEW YORK, Sept 18 Tue Sep 18, 2007 7:29am EDT

NEW YORK, Sept 18 (Reuters Life!) - Britain's Prince Charles became the butt of jokes after revealing that he talked to plants but he is no longer alone with a rising number of people joining his campaign to treat plants with respect.

As part of his bid to get across his message about sustainability and responsibility, the heir to the British throne has co-authored a book on organic gardening with writer Stephanie Donaldson.

The book, "The Elements of Organic Gardening" being released in the United States this month by Kales Press, portrays Charles as a hands-on gardener with a passion for gardening without chemicals and pesticides.

Charles said he has spent 26 years honing organic gardening practices at Highgrove, the family home in Gloucestershire, as well as in his gardens at Birkhall in the Scottish Highlands

and Clarence House in central London.

"I can only say that for some reason I felt in my bones that if you abuse nature unnecessarily and fail to maintain a balance, then she will probably abuse you in return," Charles writes in the introduction to the book.

Co-author Donaldson, the gardening editor of Country Living magazine and author of about 18 other books, collaborated with Prince Charles on the book after being recommended by one of his advisers.

Another passionate organic gardener, she was full of admiration for Charles for taking a lead in promoting organic gardening with increasing numbers of people now heeding his message.

SHIFT TO ORGANIC

"I think some people of the older generation saw him and organic gardening as mildly eccentric," Donaldson told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"But I think it is like all prophets who have a bit of a problem to start with. People are starting to see that things he was saying 15 to 20 years ago are now being said by government scientists. Suddenly his time has come and people are starting to think that maybe he is right after all."

Donaldson, who admits to muttering to plants herself, said the move towards organic gardening had become very clear in Britain, with families with young children leading the charge.

She cited the example of visiting a seed merchant five years ago where 70 percent of the seeds on sale were for flowers. Now about 80 percent of seeds sold are vegetables.

"I think any gardener aged under 40 these days will be generally organic. They are cutting down on the use of pesticides and fungicides because they have found that creating a balance in the garden is better," she said.

"The younger generation is far more aware of climate change and how it impacts all of us and they are worried about their future. They want to know what they are feeding their children."

Donaldson said Charles played a very active role in the book, hand correcting drafts that she sent him and making suggestions for change.

"The prince has been able to draw on some fantastic expertise and current thinking and he is leading the way for other gardeners," she said.

Donaldson said organic gardening was "to do with collaborating with nature rather than trying to vanquish it."

"In Britain we have a wonderful growing climate as we do not have drought or extreme heat or cold. We also have that sense of gardening not being an urgent business. You plant things for prosperity, not just for yourself," she said.