Gray’s green thumb puts him on best seller list

Rick Gray’s green thumb in the garden is about to turn into some green in his wallet.

The Ridgetown resident’s book, ‘The Gardener’s Guide to Native Plants of the Southern Great Lakes,’ is already at No. 4 on the Globe & Mail’s best sellers list for Canadian non-fiction.

“I’m totally blown away by it; I’m still pinching myself,” Gray said about the book’s instant success.

Gray, aka the Native Plant Gardener, launched his introductory to writing at the Tales & Turns Cafe in Chatham on March 16.

Copies of the book were sold out just 45 minutes into his two-hour appearance.

“The response has been overwhelming,” said Gray, as his book has received nothing but five-star reviews on both Amazon and Good Reads, along with its lofty place on the Globe & Mail best sellers list.

The 352-page book features 150 different native plants, each with a two-page spread.

Gray offers a complete description of each plant—its sunlight and moisture requirements, a range map showing where it’s native, how big it grows, whether it’s a species at risk, and its host butterflies and insects.

Gray had assistance from Shaun Booth, a former natural nursery and landscape business owner in Orangeville, who provided some of the descriptive information on plants.

“On average, there are at least four photos for every one of the 150 plants with a description of what the plant looks like as a whole, what its flower looks like up close, the leaves, and the seed head to help recognize the plant when you see it and get an idea of what it’s going to look like in your garden,” Gray said.

Gray said he took about 95 percent of the pictures in his expansive native garden at his Lisgar St. home.

Gray, a retired professor, purchased his home in 2004 when he was hired as a GIS tech instructor for the Ridgetown Campus’ new environmental program.

He rented the house out for four years while he held Academic Chair positions at colleges in Brandon, Man., and Peterborough before retiring and moving back to Ridgetown in 2018.

Gray transformed the backyard into a number of gardens with 100 percent native and near-native plants, which attracted attention not only locally but across Canada and North America.

Gray said the timing of his book hitting the shelves is one factor in his book doing so well.

“The fact that the book came out in March when people are starting to think about their gardens helped a lot, “ stated Gray.

“Native plant gardening is the fastest growing sector in horticulture; it’s really taking off,” Gray said. “People are looking for local, native plants to feed butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.”

The book is available locally at Turns & Tales, located in the Scotiabank building on King St. W. in Chatham, as well as at Chapters and Indigo bookstores and online from Amazon.

Gray has been busy promoting his book at appearances and signings, including at the Ridgetown and Highgate libraries.

Gray has local appearances at the Chatham CKPL branch on Wednesday, May 1, at 1 p.m. and the Ridgetown Horticultural Society on Wednesday, May 15, at 7 p.m.

Gray said he will be averaging three appearances a week until mid-June across Ontario and into Michigan.

He is also taking bookings for garden tours at his Lisgar St. home by email at

Michael Bennett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News