Thursday, 24 September 2009

Several Spider Plants, Years of Support and an Example of Courage: One Person's Debt to Stuart Robertson

Stuart Robertson was my garden guru long before I met him. I remember calling into the CBC’s Radio Noon phone-in to ask a question about how to divide spider plants and to offer my solution to slugs. The latter, I said, is best accomplished by going out in the early evening or morning when they’ve slithered up leaves, and picking them off, dropping them on rock or pavement and stomping on them.

Stuart agreed that would work—although he said that a beer trap was what he preferred—and then went on to advise me on the spider plant. Knock it out of the pot, he said, hold it firmly with one hand, then take a butcher or other big sharp knife and slice it in half. I must have made a small, concerned noise at the idea but he shot back: “Oh come on, any one who is as blood thirsty as you when it comes to slugs should have no problem plunging a knife into a plant.”

True enough, and I’ve laughed about his advice ever since.

I made his acquaintance in the flesh some time after that, and got to know him better more than 10 years ago through the Electronic Rights Defence Committee. The ERDC has been pursuing a class action against The Gazette newspaper and affiliated companies for unauthorized electronic use of material written for the Gazette. Stuart (whose last column in The Gazette was published just days ago) was chairman for several years, and it was only when he began to have health problems that he stepped down. He has been a stalwart throughout the fight, offering advice by telephone and email when couldn’t make meetings, and serving on the ERDC’s executive until he died on Tuesday night of complications from pneumonia and following more than a decade-long fight with lymphoma.

He leaves a big hole in the lives of many people. We will miss him a lot.

The photo is from The Senior Times, illustrating an interview with him last spring about his book Tips on Container Gardening, the follow-up to his Tips on Organic Gardening. The books, both published by Véhicule Press, were supposed to the first two volumes of a gardening trilogy. We will miss that third volume too.