The Sunday Salon - Garden Reads

The Sunday
I have lots of gardening books on the shelves. Some are how-to guides: how to grow organic carrots, when to plant tomato seeds, where to grow pumpkins; and some are meditations and essays on the art and love of gardening.

It's been hot here in Portland the last few days - too hot to work in the garden beyond the morning watering. So I pulled out a stack of garden essay books, poured a cool drink and set to work gleaning wisdom and inspiration from gardeners who write.

  • This book drew me in as soon as I saw the cover and read the title: Gardening at the Dragon's Gate: at Work in the Wild and Cultivated World by Wendy Johnson. The author is a Buddhist meditation teacher and gardener who writes beautifully about such subjects as the sacredness of compost and soil, the Zen of weeds, the principles of diversity, acceptance, inviting the unknown and the generosity of harvest. I've just dipped into this beautiful book and look forward to reading more of it.
  • Voices from the Earth: a Year in the Life of a Garden by William Longgood. This is a book I stumbled across on a library shelf years ago - one of those books that calls "Yoo Hoo! Take me home with you NOW!" I love this book and spent a good bit of time tracking down a copy to own. Longgood was a journalist in New York before retiring to Cape Cod. He goes season by season in this book and explores garden successes and failures, the creatures (welcome and unwelcome) that visit, and garden philosophy. I love this bit of advice: need a chair for successful gardening. How else you going to see what's going on?
  • Virago Book of Women Gardeners edited by Deborah Kellaway. A delicious collection of garden writing by such notables as Alice B. Toklas, Vita Sackville-West, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Colette, Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, Germaine Greer, Sylvia Plath. From essays to anecdotes, poetry to advice, this is a great one to sit with under the apple tree on a hot afternoon.

Other reading this week found me finishing Small Island by Andrea Levy (winner of the Orange and Whitbread prizes in 2004) - what an incredible book. This one is sure to make it to the best of '08 for me. Rich characterization, wonderful story, great pacing and revealing of the characters and plot.

This week I WILL finish War and Peace and do a little required reading - two Early Reviewer books via LibraryThing. Must be disciplined....


gautami tripathy said...

My mom loves gardening books. I must one of those for her!

Anonymous said...

I am a great reader of gardening books, but not a great practitioner of what I find therein. I do like the look of the Virago book though. As much a journal of the times as a practical book I should have thought.

Irish said...

So glad to hear that you are almost at the end of War and Peace. I really do need to settle back down into my version of it.

Andi said...

Gardening is something we did when I was growing up. My grandparents had a HUGE garden with way more delicious veggies than our entire family could eat, so we fed half of our hometown, too. Since I've matured a bit I've become interested again, so I think I need to try some ruminations on gardening. There's something so magical about watching wonderful things grow. I have a porch full of salvia, sweet potato vines, marigolds, fuschia, and pepper seedlings. Not to mention an acre's worth of veggies (that I can't take credit for) popping up out back. Now if my herb garden comes along as expected, all will be right with my gardening world.

Terri said...

Andi, Kingsolver's book will inspire you further re: veggie growing. If you get a chance to look at that Dragon's Gate book, too, I think you'd like her perspective. I do love the magic of putting tiny little seeds in the ground one day and eating salads a few months later - and all the in between, watching them grow. Very healing.

Irish - the end is so close I can almost taste it!

Andi said...

Thanks, Terri! I'm adding it to my wishlist now.

BooksPlease said...

I love reading gardening books, but I'm not very good at gardening. Most of what I plant doesn't survive very long but I have no problem growing weeds - they flourish no matter what I do to them. I must be doing something very wrong.

Gardening at the Dragon's Gate sounds perfect for me. I must find out about the Zen of weeds. And William Longgood sounds as though he gives good advice. Oh and I must read the Virago Book of Women Gardeners.

No wonder my garden is neglected.