After 52 years on the air, “Gardening in America,” hosted by South Hill resident Ed Hume, broadcasted its last episode on KONG-TV on Aug. 26.
Many think Hume is retiring — but he said that’s not quite the case.
“I’m having too much fun,” he said.
His wife of 59 years, Myrna, said that his job is his hobby.
“He can work all day and come home and start working on our yard,” she said. “It’s what he loves.”
“Gardening in America,” which educated and entertained gardening enthusiasts for decades, reflected Hume’s love for gardening, and the work he put into it. The show has come a long way as media has morphed throughout the years — and Hume has been there to see it all happen.
“Ed was part of our long history — we wish him all the best,” said Lisa Thompson, director of community relations and communications at KING 5.
Born in Washington in 1931 to two farmers, Hume — one of six children — grew up weeding and pruning hedges.
“That was Depression time, and so we all had to work to help out,” he said.
Through high school, Hume worked for a florist in Seattle, and not long after was hired as a garden center manager for Wight’s Home and Garden. Hume met Myrna on a blind date when she was right out of high school. Even then, he won her over with his flowers.
“I used to carry flowers to school as bookmarkers,” Myrna said. “I just loved it. His business really did play in my heart.”
In the late 1950s and early ’60s, Hume started making appearances on shows thanks to his work as a garden center manager, and in 1965, was asked to take over a gardening show on KIRO 7 after the host left.
“That was a neat experience for me to get started in television,” Ed said. “I worked with some really neat people.”
Hume made his show his own. At the time, many gardening shows were over the radio, with a group of people sitting at a table. But Hume had two rules: he never sat down during a show, and he never used botanical names when first introducing plants and flowers.
“It was kind of a new way of doing things,” he said.
His show also started out black and white.
“The majority of (viewers) in the Pacific Northwest did not have color (TV),” Hume said. “If I had a red azalea, say, I had to say that it was red because (the audience) saw it was black.”
In 1969, his show was moved to KING. In 1988, Hume and his family “bought the show.” It continued to air on KONG-TV and is the longest continuous broadcasting show in the Northwest. He also wrote articles for the Seattle PI, The Seattle Times and published seven books.
One of his favorite parts of hosting the show was being able to travel all over the world. Hume taped segments at the White House, the Glass Flower Museum at Harvard University, Disneyland and Disney World.
“We have visited about 80 countries,” Hume said.
In the ’90s, the show’s segments shortened from 30 minutes on one topic to multiple topics in six minutes. Hume said the format made it easier for people to follow along and learn about gardening.
“(Broadcast media) started going into a format that was very reduced, so we did the same thing,” he said.
The show became a family-oriented project. Ed, Myrna and their two children, Jeff (48) and James (46), helped out with the show and a Christmas segment called “Deck the Halls.”
“It was primarily (Myrna’s) show but she would take things from the house and show them how to make gifts out of them,” Ed said.
Now, viewers can still expect more from Hume, who lives on South Hill. He’ll continue to share his segments online — and maybe tape more at Ed Hume Seeds, his wholesale business in Puyallup. The business just celebrated its 40th anniversary, and packages up to 5 million seeds annually.
Looking back in his career, Ed wouldn’t change anything.
“(Myrna) asked me — ‘Ed, if you could do life over again, what would you do?’” he remembered. “I said, ‘Exactly the same thing.’”