The Writer in the Garden

Garmey, Jane

Published by Algonquin Books, 1999
ISBN 10: 1565121813 / ISBN 13: 9781565121812
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Synopsis: Show me a person without any prejudice of any kind on any subject and I'll show you someone who may be admirably virtuous but is surely no gardener.--Allen Lacy. Idiosyncratic, determined, and occasionally obsessed, gardeners have a lot to say about their outdoor passion. THE WRITER IN THE GARDEN brings together a host of writing gardeners and gardening writers reveling in their quirks, confessing their shortcomings, and sharing their experiences. Combing through a hundred years of garden writing, editor Jane Garmey has discovered some great contemporary works and rediscovered many classics: "I am strongly of the opinion," declares Gertrude Jekyll, "that the possession of a quantity of plants, however good the plants may be themselves and however ample their number, does not make a garden." "It isn't that I don't like sweet disorder, but it has to be judiciously arranged," writes Vita Sackville-West. "Gardeners are--let's face it--control freaks," Abby Adams admits. "Who else would willingly spend his leisure hours wrestling weeds out of the ground, blithely making life or death decisions about living beings, moving earth from here to there, changing the course of waterways?" Drawing on the work of more than fifty writers, THE WRITER IN THE GARDEN covers subjects ranging from the beauty of the garden to ornery weeds, the hazards of rare plant collecting, and the tribulations of inclement weather. The collection includes a range of authors from both sides of the Atlantic: from Edith Wharton, who insists that we could all learn a thing or two about design from the Italians, to Stephen Lacey, who reveals that his most exciting gardening moments are spent in the bath. Some of the other writers in the collection are: E. B. White, Beverly Nichols, Ken Druse, Eleanor Perenyi, W. S. Merwin, Mirabel Osler, Henry Mitchell, Jamaica Kincaid, Robert Dash, Sara B. Stein, Michael Pollan, M.F.K. Fisher, Anne Raver, Patti Hagan, Paula Deitz.

Review: Not the least of the charms of this collection is that it is printed on quality paper, with delightful line drawings, and is just the right size to encourage the reader to take it in hand and turn the pages--which they will surely want to do once they have dipped into any chapter, where they will find some of the finest garden writing of the last hundred years. The famous writers of the past, like Vita Sackville-West, Gertrude Jekyll, Elizabeth von Arnim (author of Enchanted April), and Beverley Nichols rub shoulders with the garden columnists and book authors of today, such as longtime Washington Post columnist Henry Mitchell, Christopher Lloyd, and Ken Druse.

As all gardeners know, thinking about plants and gardens leads one to speculate about life, love, triumph and despair, obsession, and death. These authors cover it all, not just in metaphor, although they are expert at the well-turned phrase and the classic image, but in garden practicalities, too. Perhaps only in the best garden essay can the design of shovels, the number of worms in the soil, and raves about the newest kind of perennial co-exist comfortably with ruminations on mortality, the soul, and the nature of beauty. Lest this sound too serious, all is laced with humor; Henry Mitchell's hounds lie about the garden beds, crushing his latest peony, and Charles Kuralt complains about how he missed his favorite daffodil when CBS News had the nerve to send him to Moscow in April for an unfortunately scheduled summit conference.

"Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination," said Alice Morse Earle in 1897. We are fortunate that these writers had enough imagination to both garden and to write about it and that Jane Garmey had the imagination to gather such a variety of well-chosen garden voices. --Valerie Easton

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Writer in the Garden
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: 1999
Book Condition: Good
Edition: 1st.

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Garmey, Jane
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