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Getting to know her readers

This is inevitably a time to reassess and plan. We all have ready and heard plenty of years-in-review, and analyses of what's ahead. And maybe you're already sick of resolutions and reflections.

But I still want to step back to think specifically about you, the gardener or homeowner who reads this column.

Who are you, and what do you want?

Obviously "you" are not one entity, of one mind, and your gardening goals, experience, knowledge, homes and passions are very diverse. Every single week I have to decide on a topic, the target audience, and the level of the information. Am I hoping to help a beginner, reveal a new find (plant, pest, product) to a committed gardener, address an urgent weather or pest problem, or keep a homeowner on course with basic how-to? Is this the week for a concept or time for a nitty-gritty, practical To-Do list? Are you regular readers, so the information is building upon itself? Or must I reiterate the basics for the occasional browsers and first-timers? Fine lines to walk, all of those.

Three factors govern my choices:

* What I see in gardens, field or woods, the garden center, nurseries, conferences, or places I visit, and what I think about as I garden -- both come directly to you. Often. This part is very subjective.

* Seasonal, predictable questions and problems, based on experience, or immediate issues: Much gardening advice depends upon timing (when to prune, plant, cut back, use horticulture oil, transplant, fertilize, water).

* Your feedback and comments: I especially appreciate hearing about content -- whether you like material about biodiversity, microorganisms in the soil and natural landscaping; if recommended plants or new products excite you; if I neglect vegetables and have been haranguing you on tree topics too often, etc. (You can e-mail me at sallylacewing@aol.com or write me in care of The Buffalo News).

And although you are not one entity, with a uniform set of interests and needs, I have formed some opinions about the gardeners and homeowners who read this weekly: You are much more sophisticated and excited about gardening than 10 years ago (evidence from Buffalo in Bloom, the Buffalo Garden Walk, many other garden walks, and public plantings in so many towns.) You also want to garden in an environmentally friendly, least-toxic way; more homeowners want to avoid pesticides. You are busier and less patient than gardeners of the past; you buy bigger plants to start, and you want results. More of you "get it" about soil and compost. You want quality plants and unusual plants, and more of you want to know their names and their needs. You have come a long way, gardeners and with your help, so have I. Let's keep growing!

Sally Cunningham is a garden writer, lecturer and consultant.

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