Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pages in the Garden

It’s been a strange Fall and I’m slightly stressed about the buds on my hydrangea pushing open in all this unseasonal heat, but since there’s nothing I can do about it, I’m trying to be more Zen. Now most people won’t use Zen as an adjective to describe me, but I’m attempting to reach a more peaceful state when it comes to the ways of my garden and I’m finding there are a few books out there that really help.

Although not a new book, Plant Seed, Pull Weed by Geri Larkin is a lesson on the importance of approaching both the world and the garden with an open and worry free heart.  Daniel Butler’s How to Plant a Tree, is not, only a practical how-to book, but speaks to the emotional, philosophical and folkloric reasons and ways to keep company with the branched entities with which we love to share our world. And Stephen Orr, the new garden editor at Martha Stewart, came out with Tomorrow’s Garden, a book that strikes a balance between the idea of having a gorgeous garden and the tenants of sustainability.  And isn’t balance what we should all be looking for as we head into the coming year?
Of course, there’s nothing balanced about the way I buy books, they’re just drawn to me as if I have a magnetic pull over them and to be honest I could fill this whole page just by listing all the titles of the books that followed me home this year. There are a few however, that would be lovely gifts for gardeners who will be jonesing this winter to get back out there in the muck.  The View from Great Dixter, all about Christopher Lloyd’s great English garden and the impact it’s had on gardeners the world over, is another book that shows what patience and experimentation and letting go of all your preconceived ideas can do to your outside world. Then there’s Hampton Gardens, Jack DeLashmet’s gorgeous coffee table book with the yummiest photos to let you explore and covet those gardens behind the hedges we’re all dying to wander through and own.

For the veggie gardeners out there, The Heirloom Life Gardener by the co-founders of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, is a sweet book. An approachable and simple guide to which heirloom vegetables will work best for you, no matter how or where you garden ­– it even gives you advice on how to save your own seeds for next year’s plantings. A more in depth look at the world of heirloom seed saving is found in the wonderful book Gathering: A Memoir of a Seed Saver. Written by Diane Ott Whealy, a leader in this country’s grass-roots movement to preserve agricultural biodiversity, she talks about how seeds given to her by her grandparents inspired her to co-found and nurture the largest seed bank in this country.

I myself am asking for the new Michael Dirr book, Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs. A combination of his two previous books on trees and shrubs for both warm and cold climates with new photos and new plants added, it should be the go to book of the season. Most zealots have or lust after the huge Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, his 1325 page opus with the black and white line drawings, but those who are slightly less crazy, or those who like color photos to peruse on snowy evenings in front of the fireplace as they are learning to be still, would love getting the Encyclopedia this winter. Hint, hint, hint.

As a final Zen thought, I want to share with you a fantastic book that has absolutely nothing to do with plants, but everything to do with learning to see through forgiving eyes. Arne Svenson and Ron Warren created the remarkably brilliant ode, Chewed, combining photographs of mangled and overly loved dog toys taken as if they were works of art with a few wonderful essays written from the point of view of the self same woobie, this the perfect gift for everyone who has ever been blessed with the company of a four legged critter.  

So at a time when we are thanking the world for all it’s given to us and our families, I’m going to promise to walk through the garden with a more peaceful and forgiving eye, to appreciate and be inspired by, instead of being envious of other people’s gardens and learn to observe the beauty in a wet, eyeless duck.

Paige Patterson has still got a big bag of bulbs that she’s going to plant to help burn off Thanksgiving calories.

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