“A writer who gardens is sooner or later going to write a book about the subject,” opined Eleanor Perenyi. Certainly there is a meditative aspect to many gardening chores that lends itself to interior dialogue. I have had conversations with myself, or with a faraway friend, as I was pulling weeds or raking leaves, “speaking” of what I was doing or anything else that was brought to mind by what I was doing. The Backyard Parables: Lessons on Gardening, and Life by Margaret Roach is that kind of book, the interior ruminations of a solitary gardener as she works.
Structured around the four elements of water, earth, fire, and wind (essentially winter, spring, summer, and autumn), this book takes you inside Roach’s head as she gardens through the year, facing extremes of weather, devious woodchucks, and beloved shrubs that have grown too big. If you have been gardening for a while in any part of this continent that has four distinct seasons, you will recognize the rhythm of her life, sighing with sympathy at her horticultural tragedies and recollecting with pleasure your own garden epiphanies. Interspersed with the essays are “sidebars” of a more practical nature. (I use the term sidebar advisedly, as these sections can go on for several pages.) If you are a regular reader of A Way to Garden, Roach’s blog, most of these will be familiar to you. If you are new to gardening, that is where you will find the “practical” stuff, although learning how a gardener copes when a hurricane takes out a beloved magnolia is no less practical, in my opinion.
This is a companionable book, excellent for winter reading, when you are snowed in and your best gardening friends are out of reach, and your own cherished garden is sleeping under a chilly blanket.
If you would like The Backyard Parables for a good winter read of your own, please comment at the end of this post, being sure to include a valid email address. I’d be interested in hearing of other good winter reads for gardeners, but you can just say you’d like to have a copy, if you prefer. Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. One comment per person, please. This giveaway will end on Saturday, February 9th at midnight Eastern time. The winner will be chosen by random number generator and will be notified by email on Monday.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of The Backyard Parables to review, and Margaret Roach is providing the copy to be given away. Thank you!