The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns: Book Review and Giveaway

– Posted in: Book reviews, Roses

I confess I haven’t been reading much fiction lately, but when I was asked to review The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns I agreed for two reasons. One, there are precious few novels where a gardener is the protagonist and gardening is an integral element of the plot and theme. Two, I was going to the beach for the first time in at least twenty years and I wanted something entertaining to read. Let’s take those in order.

Whenever I read a children’s picture book that has botanically incongruous pictures, such as hollyhocks and daffodils blooming together, I am peeved. Children are ignorant enough of the botanical world without reinforcing that ignorance. I am similarly put out to read a novel set in New England where the dahlias are blooming in spring. It lets me know that, not only is the author not a gardener, but he/she failed to do enough research to enable me to suspend my disbelief. I fall out of the fictional world with a thud.

A Gardening Geek for a Heroine

Author Margaret Dilloway has done her homework. Not only is Galilee Garner, the main character, a convincing gardener, she’s an entirely convincing gardening geek. Gal breeds roses for a hobby, and not just any roses, but Hulthemia roses (which I had to look up). Gal knows rose pedigrees by heart, has her own particular schedule for pruning and feeding and watering, and remembers from past experience that when she must use a pesticide in the greenhouse, it needs to be less than full strength, or bad things will happen. Gal doesn’t even realize how much she knows about roses until she tried to teach her niece how to help her. As a gardener, Gal rang true to me. That, in itself, was very satisfying.

It’s A Great Story

I just didn’t want to put it down

But we all know an author can get all the factual details right and still have a book that falls flat. Not so with The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns. You begin to realize that the challenges Gal faces from her life-long battle with kidney disease give her the discipline needed to breed roses. You start to understand why she is such a strict science teacher, why she seems so, well, thorny, to those around her. This book was a wonderful beach read, but unlike many such books, it merits re-reading, perhaps in winter when the seed catalogs have lost their allure. In the end, you don’t have to be a gardener or know a lot about plants to enjoy the interplay of personalities and the twists of plot as the story unfolds.


I am very happy to share this wonderful novel with five of my readers. That’s right, I have five copies to give away! As I mentioned above, you don’t have to be a gardener to enjoy The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns. It would be a great gift for anyone who loves to read, but gardeners will have the added pleasure of identifying with one of our own. To earn a chance for a free copy, submit a comment below and tell us your favorite garden read. If you tweet this post, put that in another comment for an additional chance. If you share this on Facebook, put that in its own comment. (By the way, have you liked Cold Climate Gardening on Facebook? And are we friends?) The giveaway will end on Sunday, August 26, 2012 at midnight. Winners will be chosen by random and will be announced on Monday August 27, 2012. This giveaway is limited to readers age 18 and older who have mailing addresses in the U.S.

The Winners

The winners were chosen at random using the sequence generator at The winners are:
Kylee from Our Little Acre
They have been notified by email. Thank you to everyone for participating!

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

Comments on this entry are closed.

Beth Shepherd August 27, 2012, 12:19 am

Does “The Hungry Caterpillar” count? My adult reading is in the slumps now that I am a Mama and, sadly, this year our caterpillar (coddling moth) population was on the up-and-up. I do love reading about gardening, though not nearly as much as gardening itself.

debra August 26, 2012, 10:13 pm

Hi Kathy, this book sounds great! I’m all for horticultural fiction!! WE need much, much more of it!
My FAVORITE garden read lately are the two yet-to-be-published manuscripts of Marty Wingate’s. She’s started a wonderful mystery series called “A Potting Shed Mystery,” and I can’t wait until her agent sells them so more gardeners can read about Marty’s fearless heroine.