An Enchanting Short-Form Podcast That Gets to the Root of Gardening
The search for a quality podcast can seem like looking for a diamond in the rough. But in the ever-growing expanse of true-crime stories and aimless chit-chat, there are outlier shows that adhere to more timeless, singular aims. Focus on Flowers, a weekly gardening podcast and public radio program hosted by veteran gardener Moya Andrews, is one of them.
Andrews, who was born in a small ranching town in central Queensland, Australia, grew up surrounded by cattle and horses, and people whose livelihoods revolved around the land. She didn’t begin gardening until she moved to Bloomington, Indiana after graduate school, where she joined the faculty of Indiana University as a professor of speech and hearing sciences in 1971. (She later served as the school’s vice chancellor for academic affairs and dean of the faculties.) A longtime fondness for having flowers—which Andrews sees as integral to her wellbeing as air or water—in her home prompted her to start a garden of her own, and to learn what kinds of species thrive in Indiana’s temperate climate and clay-rich soil. Blossoms, especially perennials, feature prominently in her green space, which she plants with the aim of never not having something in bloom so there is always something to pick and to share.
Each episode focuses on a single aspect of horticulture and lasts exactly two minutes. On most other podcasts, two minutes isn’t enough time to get through the theme song and introduction—but Andrews, in her soothing Australian timbre, manages to pack a delightful and surprising amount of information into such a short time. Take, for example, a recent episode on dahlias. Over a gentle soundtrack of twinkling piano, she covers the plant’s origins, the historical events that spread the species around the world, tips for planting and growing it, and instructions for when to cut the blooms for display.
While many episodes over the last 18 years cover specific flowers or ornamental plants—such as billy goat weed, torch lilies, lilacs, and witch hazel—others range farther afield, exploring different aspects of gardening culture and history. Andrews has delved into the seductive (and sometimes deceptive) marketing language of horticultural catalogs, the color preferences of hummingbirds, and proper tick prevention. Sometimes, she simply shares a poem about a garden, making space for a different kind of knowledge about the pastime of growing vegetation. Taken together, these bite-sized bits of knowledge form a refreshing, intriguing audible respite.
For Andrews, the allure of flowers, and gardening more broadly, extends beyond pretty blossoms. Her garden, as she explained to her local newspaper, taught her “valuable life lessons.” Perhaps most significant, she continues, “it taught me that every plant, just like every person, makes different contributions. Some may seem showier or more important than others, but all contribute to the common good. My garden has always doubled my joys, halved my sorrows and been a balm for my spirit.” It’s fitting, then, that for listeners, her podcast achieves a similar feat.