Reading the Garden

I am often asked this time of year; what would be a good garden book for gifting. As my mind wandered to this latest inquiry, my thoughts also strayed to one of those annoying advertising strips that flit across the computer screen.  Electronic books are the hottest thing this Christmas…or at least that is what the advertisement said.

Really?…where the heck am I going to press plant leaves on a Kindle™—I like pages, I like opening a book and the musty smell of old paper. I like when a dried leaf flutters out – a reminder of a day in the garden identifying plants.  I find joy in discovering gardens in my mind by beautiful descriptive words. The floriferous words of Constance Spry in her Garden Notebook; “Perfection in living seems to me to consist not in the spending of large sums of money but in the exercise of a selective and discerning taste in the use of what we may possess, and flowers and plants can in their judicious use contribute in a high degree to the elegance and graciousness of life.”There is also the matter of fact verbiage of Gertrude Jekyll, the humor of Beverley Nichols, the realism and wit of Henry Mitchell in his pursuit of a garden in The Essential Earthman.

 Yes, they take up more space than a stream of electronic pages practically the size of a credit card; but how will I feel surrounded and comforted without bookcases doubled layered and overfilled. I may have to go kicking and screaming in the electronic age but I will cling to the earthy smell of my garden library the whole way.

 On a recent foray to Goodwill, my husband handed me a book that he had dug from the bottom of a bin. The green fabric cover was a bit tattered and there was scribble from a tiny hand learning to explore with an unwarranted marker.  The title… Making things Grow outdoors…catchy?  Not really, but the words on the pages drew me in.  I tend to flip through, read randomly, and then go to the last page of the last chapter to decide if it will come home to my overburdened bookshelves. Here is a quote that made me take this one home “…A tennis victory is forgotten, a golf card torn up and your past triumphs in those fields are remembered mainly by yourself. But a garden ….stands as a monument to what you have put in it as well as your involvement with nature in an era of ever increasing divorce from wild things…” Thalassa Cruso.  If you do not know who the writer is check out a tribute to her in the New York Times.

Now how would I have discovered the “Julia Child” of horticulture without a treasure hunt at the bottom of a bin of books?

Read a garden book the real way… turning paper pages and getting crumbs in the center crease from eating cookies while reading.   

But I digress…

Going back to the original subject; gifting books for a gardener. 

Take a journey to your local hometown used bookseller, and haunt the shelves. Dig into anything by Beverley Nichols, Henry Mitchell, Vita Sackville-West, Gertrude Jekyll, Christopher Lloyd, and Rosemary Verey first, and then journey to lesser-known authors.   They may not have the glossy photos of modern garden books, but the words will paint the pictures for you.  As you peruse shelves  take a  moment to  just read the names of books; A Feast of Flowers, the Language of Gardening, Adventurous Gardener, The Complete Book of Garden Magic…you get the pictures without even needing a photograph.

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