A Good Gardening Read
Book and Cat
Is it possible that gardening books are becoming as repetitive as the gardening topics they describe? Is there anything new under the sun? Or in the glass-house? Or on the well-stocked garden shelves in the Public Library?
As a home-grown garden writer with a lot to say about nothing, I do occasionally check the latest 'proper' books - and not just for the pictures, either!
I have reacquainted myself with the grand dame of English garden writing, Penelope Hobhouse, browsing through one of her many fabulous books in my local library. This wise (and slightly scary) woman, pictured trimming her topiary and propagating her own Artemesia, brings analytical strength to all the gardening topics she touches.
Take the haphazard acceptance of self-seeders. In her own words: Maintenance [of self seeders] depends on an observant eye and a controlling hand. A magnificently summation, for us woolly-headed gardeners who think that random Gunnera seedlings in the middle of the path are the cutest thing...
Gardening Book and Pig
After feeling empowered and inspired by the good sense of Penelope Hobhouse, I turned to a run-of-the-mill book on shade gardening. Oops. No wonder my hit-and-miss plantings from the bargain bin are so often inappropriate for the sunniness or shadiness of the chosen spot!
I now know that there are FIVE distinct levels of shade, agreed to by horticulturalists, and not one mention of that terribly useful adjective 'dappled'. This could explain why I am always shifting patches of sun-scorched hostas into the shade and flower-less clumps of daylilies out of it! Being 'dappled' simply isn't good enough!
Then a quick browse through some books about real gardens. From my own personal experience I know it's difficult to describe garden scenes using simple yet evocative language. Many long-suffering Moosey readers will agree. It's a pity I've never woven a rich tapestry in my garden, or heard a symphony of foliage.
My plants have never mingled, nor have my repetitive plantings ever given me distinct feelings of repose (here I'm quoting P. Hobhouse again). They represent feelings of extreme thrift - like the thematic Yellow Wave flaxes which once filled the nursery sale table and now fill my garden!
The Adventurous Gardener
And feelings of extreme foolishness - for example, my Gunnera plants! My, how you've grown. Remind me again - who actually decided you could colonise all my water-side gardens?
Alas, the Moosey lawns do not meander - the Moosey garden designer has enough trouble getting them to look remotely 'sweeping'. In fact, I'd settle for having them mown every two weeks! And do they invite bare-foot strolling? Not in late summer, but there's rather a lot of bare-foot crackling (fallen gum tree leaves and bark), bare-foot toe-stubbing on fallen gum tree branches, and bare-foot bee-dodging. Those lawns need mowing again...
Dominating Flaxes and Roses
If ever a plant in the Moosey garden can be said to dominate it's not in a poetic way - the reality is rather more physical. What sane gardener would ever plant a Wedding Day rose (a prickly rambling monster) in the Driveway border, so it could leap out and frighten walkers and cyclists, and scratch the paintwork of slow passing cars?
A Dominator - New Zealand Flax
To non-New Zealand eyes the Moosey flaxes might dominate. To the native head gardener, particularly when not wearing her spectacles, they blend into the (sadly non-symphonic) foliage composition, and are taken completely for granted.
Recharge the Batteries...
So why do new gardening books on old gardening topics keep appearing? Might as well ask why the sun keeps on shining! And browsing through garden books recharges the batteries - readers can expect improved literary vigour in the Moosey descriptive ramblings. Roget's Thesaurus will be dusted down and opened up!
A Peep at Planthropology
Thanks to two great classics - Penelope Hobhouse's book titled 'Flower Garden Design' and 'The Collector's Garden' by Ken Druse - for inspiring Moosey to be a better gardener. And hopefully a better garden writer!