By profession, Paul James is the popular television host and gardener for HGTV’s Gardening by the Yard. However, he could be a comedian, too. Prior to his presentation at the Epcot In-ternational Flower & Garden Festival, James yells funny asides off stage, continuing his witty banter with the audience once he’s on stage. Paul James is a man who appreciates the value of a good joke as well as a
good garden.

You appear not to take yourself too seriously.

Gardening is, thankfully, non-controversial and I like to think I’m the guy next door who likes to garden. Do what you like—look at books, drive around, and see yards you like. This doesn’t have to be intimidating.

Many consider you to be the ambassador of gardening. What do you hope to convey?

I don’t have an agenda other than to encourage people to get out and garden. I don’t feel it’s my job to tell them how to garden or what to do. I just want to inspire them to get out and enjoy themselves.

SHAKESPEARE WAS RIGHT— a rose by any other name
is worth the effort in you garden.

Is there a common myth about gardening?

Certainly, there are challenges. People need to learn to select plants that are well adapted to their environment, a real challenge for people who move from the Northeast to Florida and want to bring with them all the plants they enjoy. You can’t do that—with a few exceptions.

Select plants that are good for your area. Get rid of the plants that are prone to disease and pest problems. It’s going to take away from your enjoyment of the whole process, so stick with things that are surefire winners. There are more of them than people realize, like the Knockout rose for example, one of the most aptly named plants on the planet. They’re stunning.

There will always be gardening nuts like me who push the envelope every step of the way. I’m constantly challenging myself and trying to grow plants that I shouldn’t. That’s how I expand the palette of possibilities in my garden.

Most people aren’t gardeners—they’re homeowners who don’t think of themselves as gardeners. But if you mow the lawn, planted a tree in the last five years, and pruned a shrub, you’re a gardener.

Another important element to know is that soil is alive. When you come to terms with this concept, you’ll be a better gardener. When you roto-till, you destroy the surface and you’ll revive dormant weeds. There are five billion living things in one tablespoon of soil, which all contribute to the life of the soil.

What’s next for you?

I have some book publishing opportunities, the possibility of a DVD series, a new show—maybe even on another network—so the possibilities are endless. I have so many avenues I can follow; it’s just a question of which one suits me best. I enjoy having as much time as possible with my family.

You seem very intentional about the selections you make professionally.

Yes, I make decisions based on lifestyle because that’s what matters most. You can have all the money in the world and still be miserable. As long as you have a happy family, how much more can you want? That’s what means the most to me.

Are you developing a Web site for your fans?

It’s one of the saddest things about the television world. If I make myself too accessible, I’d need a big staff just to deal with appearances and e-mail requests. Then it becomes too much work. But that’s why I travel all over the country doing these kinds of talks, so people get the chance to meet me and see I’m the same person off camera as on camera and that my passion for gardening is real.

I’ve turned down major network shows because—sometimes—it’s just more fun to stay home gardening.

“You can never go wrong with a bonsai.”
—Paul James

Gardening By The Yard
3 tips from Paul James to make your yard better.

  1. “Minimize your use of fertilizer. We use 90 percent more fertilizer than we need. Plants don’t need to be bigger than nature intends them to be.”

  2. “Look at your place as a series of gardens—that way, you’ll have a bigger sense of accomplishment.”

  3. “Start a compost pile. You can buy the store-bought stuff, but you already have the ingredients in your yard.”

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