I'm a writer whose natural habitat for decades was newspaper newsrooms, an environment that has undergone radical change. I was dance critic and cultural issues reporter for The Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.) before I morphed into a garden writer – a swap of vocation and avocation, culture to horticulture. This was no reach as I had always enjoyed digging in the dirt, already spoke plant Latin and considered garden catalogs as good as novels for bedtime reading.
In 1998 as lead writer, I helped launch the paper’s Home & Garden section, which in 2001 won a Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Award for general excellence. We who produced it promptly ordered t-shirts with our favorite quote from the award citation: “Stunning and brave.”
My contributions to the section included cover stories with extensive reader resource guides and a weekly column, Garden Diary, covering gardening, nature, land stewardship and more in a wry, conversational style. Garden Diary won a national Headliners Award for columns in 2002 and was nominated three times by the Ledger for Pulitzer Prize consideration (alas, the committee didn’t come through).
In 2009 I was honored with the Frelinghuysen Arboretum’s annual Arbor Day Award for individuals who have made a significant contribution to horticulture in New Jersey. These lovely people crowned me with a circlet of tiny roses and foliage, officially recognizing my informal status as the “Garden Goddess.”
Following industry trends, the Ledger by that year had sharply reduced its staff and discontinued Home & Garden as an independent section. Since then, I have contributed freelance gardening articles to the paper, its website and its lifestyle magazine, Inside Jersey, and written for other publications including In Jersey magazine, New Jersey Countryside, Newark Bound magazine and the Princeton Packet papers.
I also have branched out as a garden publicist, writing promotional materials for gardening products and services as well as for the New Jersey Flower & Garden Show and two horticultural trade shows – NJ Plants and PANTS, the Penn Atlantic Nursery Trade Show.
My speaking engagements across the state have been hosted by venues including garden clubs, flower shows and Rutgers University’s Home Gardeners School. In pursuit of a fully-rounded portfolio, I even worked for a summer at an upscale garden center, placing in customer’s hands plants I knew would please them.
I live in Monmouth County, N.J. (Zone 7a) where I tend gardens that offer insights into the rewards – and punishments – of a life devoted to plants. With the launch of my web site, I’m claiming new territory and hope you’ll visit me here early and often.
Wishing you the best in every season --- Valerie
For writing assignments, print or web
For publicity materials to help businesses grow
As a docent for garden trips and tours
To contact me about your needs, send an email.