Tuesday, August 15, 2006

More on garden reading

I am sorry for stealing this topic from Garden Rant, but it is something I’ve been meaning to talk about, as reading, not gardening, is my primary hobby. (Seems odd to call it a hobby.)

Where the great void appears in garden writing is in a real literature of gardening—and I do mean gardening, not sustainable agriculture. I eagerly picked up a book of essays called Bloom and Blossom recently, only to find that most of the writing was about farming, not gardening, with the exception of a funny essay by Michael Pollan about his father’s refusal to conform to neighborhood lawn expectations. (I appreciated this because I remember my dad getting very impatient about lawn culture as well—he felt dandelions were a decorative addition to the landscape. But this isn’t a lawn post.) The topics taken up in the rest of the essays—including work by very good writers—were interesting enough but they had no place in a book with that title.

Many of my friends have mixed vegetable and flower gardens, but they are, above all, gardens, with an ornamental focus. The tradition of nurturing a garden goes back far enough where you’d think there would be a better and larger body of writing, but there isn’t. I do have a book of essays where the writers each talk about their favorite rose, and of course there are the books I mentioned in the last post, but it’s a slim roll call.

It might be the lack of magazines to nurture the essayists—most food and wine essay collections emerge from that source. Garden magazines are distressingly pragmatic, as much as I enjoy some of them.


El said...

EAL, have you ever read Eleanor Perenyi's A Writer in the Garden? I think you shall find what you are looking for in that collection of essays. She is fabulous, and sadly, this is the only book she ever wrote solely on the subject of gardening.

yours in the fray

Alaska Diva said...

Yes, the magazines are pretty boring these days. Even Gardens Illustrated has been toying with the bland. I really miss the old Mole column and the cranky wit about gardening idiots and plant nannyism. For laughs I reread chapters of Orchid Fever. I'd crab about how all the magazines seem geared to California gardens except that they keep me sane during the long Alaskan winter.

firefly said...

Thanks for both the posts on garden reading. I just clicked on the link to Timber Press -- heaven! The Nichols books are still in print.

EAL said...

El, thanks for the suggestion! I have heard of her, but had not read anything.

El said...

Gah! You'd think if I went through the bother to recommend a book, I'd'a gotten its title right: it is Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden (ISBN 0-375-75945-X). Enjoy.