Art Wolk was born and raised in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by parents whose idea of gardening
was watching their neighbors tend vegetable and flower gardens.
In fact, every ancestor he’s tracked down was a non-gardener,
meaning Art is a mutant, an alien, or both.
Naturally, his wife, Arlene, and
daughter, Beth, are both non-gardeners. So, Art's been subjected
to the warped views of non-gardeners all his life. The advantage
is that he was able to give a relatively unbiased account of the
unending confrontations between gardeners and non-gardeners. The
disadvantage is that he grew up thinking gardening was something
you did when no one was watching or under cover of darkness.
This behavior was reinforced at the no-gardens-permitted
apartment complex where he and Arlene lived when they were first
Eventually, Art reached the
point where he didn’t give a damn about apartment rules or what
non-gardeners thought about his garden or gardening activities,
which, of course, were his first symptoms of hortiholism. His
devious and deviant behavior has continued unabated, and he now
admits to stealing cuttings in the past, nabbing his neighbors
bagged leaves (for mulch), and pirating roadside ferns. On the
other hand, his felonious activities haven’t stopped him from
spending thousands of dollars on plants. At this point, he’s a
prime candidate for a Hortiholics Anonymous retreat.
Art was a biology major at
Temple University, where he took enough courses to learn how
plants “think,” but not enough courses to realize he was the
worst possible person to become a gardener: during his senior
year, he was stung by a bee, went into anaphylactic shock, and
barely survived. Of course, this made absolutely no difference
in his choice of hobby, making him forevermore a death-defying
Life progressed fairly normally
in the 1970’s, until an irreversible, life-altering event
occurred: Art decided to enter a plant in the famed
Philadelphia Flower Show
in 1978 and, on his first try, won a blue ribbon. This single
incident turned a fairly normal man into a blue-ribbon-hording
flower show maniac. Basically, from that point forward, he
procured plants using three criteria: 1) Could they win a blue
ribbon? 2) Could they win a blue ribbon? and 3) Could they win a
Although he's non-prejudicial
about which plants fit these three criteria, his favorites for
exhibition are bulbs. Art's lectures and publications about them
often include odd statements, such as, "...they feel neglected,"
"...they frolic in these conditions," or "...they're quite
simply unhappy." When he first made these comments to his wife,
she stared at him in disbelief and began calling him a "Bulb
By 1993, Art owned a greenhouse,
or, more accurately, the greenhouse owned him. By the time he
tried to win the Philadelphia Flower Show Grand Sweepstakes
Award in 1995, he had plants hanging at the top of the
greenhouse, plants crammed onto every shelf, specimens fighting
for space on every growing bench, and plants crowding the floors
and walkways. Amazingly, Art didn’t fall and break his neck,
probably because he was more afraid he’d hurt his plants than
He managed to win the 1995 Grand
Sweepstakes by driving himself and his wife and daughter to the
Dark Side of Family Relationships. Suffice it to say that
absolutely nothing out of the ordinary occurred during this
you don’t count 1) breaking and entering a flower shop, 2)
getting into an accident at the flower show’s unloading dock and
not reporting it for a month, 3) forgetting all his plant entry
forms, 4) trying to get to the flower show using a car
completely encased in ice, and 5) entering 140 plants into the
So, how did a book like
Garden Lunacy: A Growing Concern
come about? The simple answer is by luck and accident …
actually, lots of accidents. He was lucky that he saw the humor
inherent in gardening and gardeners. And, he was also lucky that
he was asked to be president of the South Jersey Horticultural
Society. When the newsletter editor asked him to write a
president’s column, he decided to let loose his irreverent views
on the skewed perceptions of avid gardeners like himself. And
the accidents? Let’s just say that when it comes to gardening,
and especially competing in flower shows, Art is more than a bit
prone to disasters. The advantage is that this gives him lots of
stories to tell. The disadvantage is that he might not live long
enough after his next disaster to write about it.
wasn’t Art’s first foray into
published writing: he had twenty magazine articles published
before his book was completed. What’s incredible is that his
writing career didn’t stop after his first article, since he and
his first editor weren’t bosom friends … at least not at first.
She was the type of editor who didn’t suffer fools gladly, and
he was the type of writer who foolishly asked unending
questions. When he visited her office for the first time, he was
completely intimidated. This became complete trepidation when he
saw a sign over her desk that read, “Editors are the ones who
come out after the battle to kill the wounded!”
he wasn’t wounded at the time.
Although no literary achievement
matched the excitement of seeing his first publication in print,
it took a year before Art wrote another article for the same
editor. This time, he was very fortunate. The editor’s boss
loved Art’s article, which made the editor very happy and also
made an amazing thing happen: Art and the editor became good
friends. He now admits that without her guidance he may never
have found his literary muse.
By 1998, Art’s writing was
becoming more and more about gardeners and less about plants.
That year, he wrote a magazine article about a children’s garden
he had started seven years earlier. It was a story he wrote more
from his heart than his brain, and, incredibly, it won a writing
award from the Garden Writers Association.
His reaction to reading the
letter informing him that he had won wasn’t exactly subdued and
dignified: he ran around the house as if he had suddenly been
attacked by 10,000 fleas. Art and Arlene read the letter over
and over, to be certain the words wouldn’t fly off the page.
After five minutes, Arlene was in tears, and Art couldn’t stop
thinking about his high school English teachers, spinning in
their graves, who had told him he had the writing capability of
By 2000, Art had written over
fifty newsletter articles that ultimately became the backbone of
Garden Lunacy: A Growing Concern. He wrote for another
two years, whenever he had the chance; this included
middle-of-the-night visits to his computer, jotting down ideas
while driving at 60 m.p.h., and frenetic scribbling while eating
lunch (which many times found its way onto his lap and notepad).
When his first draft was
completed, Garden Lunacy was about a million miles from
being published, because Art subsequently edited itno
less than thirty
times. The only material that made the final cut were stories
that still made him laugh out loud after the last edit. (And,
that says a lot, because editing anything more than three times
would make most writers retch.)
Art neither wrote Garden
Lunacy to become a millionaire (although it wouldn’t make
him depressed), nor to win prizes (although they’re not
unpleasant to receive), but rather to make his readers laugh.
So, if you chuckle out loud and occasionally get odd stares from
people around you, you won’t be alone.
Art will be laughing along with
The first printing of
is sold out. The
second printing will be available January 2024.
In 2007, Art
thought he'd be able to put together a high-quality, full-color
book on bulb forcing within a year.
took him four.
Garden Lunacy, Art had no idea what he was getting into,
mainly because he decided to include well-known as well as his
own newly-developed techniques to force bulbs into wintertime
bloom. Some writers might say they never would've started such a
project if they knew the incredible effort that would have been
involved, but Art's a slogger. He pushed ahead, month after
month, winter after winter, and year after year. Finally, after
thousands of photos and many hundreds of forced pots, he
finished in the summer of 2011.
The 255 page
Bulb Forcing for Beginners and the Seriously Smitten, was
written with the same level of irreverent humor in Garden
Lunacy. Indeed, Art admits he severely discredits certain
sacrosanct notions of bulb growing (or ANY growing). He's sure
that some garden writers and lecturers will want him to walk the
plank and be tortured on a rack. But the rest of you are
guaranteed not just easy-to-understand instructions, but an
experience. Art realizes that trying to make a
how-to-garden book into a genuine page turner may be an
oxymoronic as well as a moronic idea, but he busted his brain to
information about Bulb Forcing for Beginners and the
Seriously Smitten, please click the "Bulb Forcing..." button
at the top, left-hand side of this page.