Networking Saves the Day: How One Author Located Hard-to-Find Ingredients


by Ellen Zachos

Writing is a solitary profession. Gardening often is too. That’s one of the reasons I love GWA and the friends and colleagues I’ve met as a member. Not only does GWA provide a network of accomplished professionals, but it’s also a social group, full of friendly, interesting people who are willing to go the extra mile to help out a fellow member.

Zachos Purslane
The fresh purslane for this cocktail was shipped from Indiana to New Mexico

This past fall, as I worked on my most recent book, I had reason to appreciate this aspect of the vast network that is GWA. Because the subject of my book is intensely seasonal (The Wildcrafted Cocktail) there were several instances in which I needed to test a recipe with a plant that was no longer available where I lived.

When I needed to distill rose water from fresh, organic rose petals in November, I figured I was out of luck. Then I thought, hey, I know some garden communicators who live in warmer parts of the country…maybe their roses are still blooming. Within a half hour of posting my request on Facebook, Ann McCormick answered and said she thought she could gather enough for me before an impending storm touched ground in Fort Worth. I gave her my FedEx number and the next day I had a ziplock bag full of lovely pink ‘Old Blush’ rose petals, fragrant, fresh, and ready to be distilled. Ann refused compensation for her time and effort; all she asked was that I write this blog post!

Zachos Roses
‘Old Blush’ roses from Fort Worth were distilled by the author for her book.

Later I found myself in desperate need of purslane. I was in Santa Fe, NM at the time, and while frost hadn’t yet killed the local purslane, it was dry enough that what I could find wasn’t worth harvesting. Remembering the success of my earlier internet cry for help, I once again posted on the GWA Facebook page, and this time Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp came to the rescue, sending me a box full of greenery overnight from her home in Indiana. (Jo Ellen hasn’t asked for a favor in return yet…should I be nervous?)

When I joined GWA I expected to get several things from my membership. I thought I’d meet people who shared my passion for plants and communication. I hoped I’d build working relationships with these people. I wanted to learn from them and share what I knew in return. I thought I might also see some cool gardens and be able to trial interesting new plants and products. I never dreamed I’d be receiving such generous and immediate assistance from this widespread network we call GWA. It’s a beautiful thing.

Now, who’s got wineberries?

About the Author

Zachos HeadshotEllen Zachos is the author of seven books, including Backyard Foraging and The Wildcrafted Cocktail, available in early 2017. She is a regular contributor to several of the edible magazines, the foraging expert at, and a Senior Regional Advisor at Garden Compass, a plant identification app. Ellen is a Harvard graduate and is excited to be moving to Santa Fe, NM this summer.



Author: GardenComm

GardenComm, formerly known as GWA: the Association for Garden Communicators, provides leadership and opportunities for education, recognition, career development and a forum for diverse interactions for professionals in the field of gardening communication. GardenComm members includes book authors, bloggers, staff editors, syndicated columnists, free-lance writers, photographers, speakers, landscape designers, television and radio personalities, consultants, publishers, extension service agents and more. No other organization in the industry has as much contact with the buying public as GardenComm members.

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