The Backyard Parables: Book Review

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83 comments

“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.

Book Giveaway

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!

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.

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Kristin Freeman February 10, 2013, 11:54 am

Please count me in on this great giveaway opportunity; Margaret is one of my favorite gardening newsletter authors.

Dee/reddirtramblings February 9, 2013, 10:21 pm

Kathy, what an interesting and wonderful review. I haven’t read Margaret’s book yet, but I have a copy to read so don’t enter me into the contest. Great review.~~Dee

Janet February 9, 2013, 6:44 pm

Currently I’m reading, and thoroughly enjoying, Eleanor Perenyi’s “Green Thoughts”. Another favourite for winter reading is the hilarious “Mrs. Greenthumbs: How I Turned a Boring Yard Into a Glorious Garden, and How You Can Too,” by Cassandra Danz. I enjoy Margaret Roach’s blog and would love to win a copy of her new book.

Ingrid Curtis February 8, 2013, 4:46 pm

I would like a copy of “Backyard Parables”. We are expecting a lot of snow which is a good time for garden dreaming. A garden book I have been enjoying this week is “Making the Most of Shade” by Larry Hodgson (2005, Rodale). I have mostly light to full shade and a north facing location in Zone 4 on a mountainside. It is a challenge.

Kathy Purdy February 8, 2013, 5:18 pm

I reviewed Making the Most of Shade for Horticulture magazine several years ago. I really like it.

Lise Gendron February 8, 2013, 12:32 pm

This winter i am reading again the tree recently published books on gardening written by Gayla Trail.
They are amusing, full of lovely pictures and very educative.
I would love to read margaret Roach.

Eileen February 8, 2013, 12:30 pm

Love your blog~
I’m reading Embroidered Ground by Page Dickey. Please count me in!

Shenandoah Kepler February 8, 2013, 12:23 pm

Kathy,
As I age I appreciate more and more: “Embroidered Ground” by Page Dickey. Count me wanting to read Margaret’s book. Thanks for the opportunity!

Sheri Ahner February 8, 2013, 9:09 am

I would love to read this book and gain a sense of peace and tranquility along with learning about my passion!

Deb McG February 7, 2013, 4:10 pm

Just finished Margaret’s first book (which I received for Christmas) and would love to read her new one!

Deb February 7, 2013, 2:29 pm

I am always looking for garden or plant related reading. thanks for the giveaway.

Ann Munson February 6, 2013, 1:02 pm

Would love a copy of the book. Winter reading of good gardening books is a must in snowy Wisconsin!

Sue Mings February 6, 2013, 11:35 am

Your 10 cures for cabin fever are giving me some inspiration to get going on my garden planning for the new year. Would enjoy reading “The Backyard Parables” as I get going.

Lisa February 6, 2013, 11:34 am

I am reading What a Plant Knows by Daniel Chamovitz. Very interesting.
I would love a copy of Margaret’s book!

Valerie February 6, 2013, 10:14 am

I just found Margaret Roach’s blog. Love it! And I would like a copy of her book.

laurie February 5, 2013, 11:50 pm

Glad for the opportunity to find your site as well as the chance for the book

Diane C February 5, 2013, 10:00 pm

Count me in please

Steven Montain February 5, 2013, 1:06 pm

Just read visiting these sites today and am excited to become a regular reader. Sign me up to win the book please!

Barbee February 5, 2013, 12:55 am

Thanks for the great review. If I don’t win on Monday-I have her book neatly tacked onto my Amazon wishlist. (Waiting for the paperback.)

Thanks for the great blog.
(Heard of you from Kenny Point.)

Kathy February 4, 2013, 9:35 pm

Glad to have found your website!! Reading up on and taking classes on organic gardening! Actually glad to have winter time to do that.

rachelle February 4, 2013, 8:57 pm

Hello Kathy, How nice to meet your corner of the garden world – Thank you! Winter allows me time to revisit a beautifully written and photograghed book, ‘Earth On Her Hands’ by Starr Ockenga. Also, Ken Druse’s book, ‘The Passion for Gardening’ is a favorite.

J. Matthews February 4, 2013, 8:00 pm

Would love to get a copy of this book. I have her first and love it!

Sandy Douglass Abalos February 4, 2013, 2:34 pm

I’d enjoy a copy of The Backyard Parables, but for a summer-time read, when it gets too hot, humid & mosquitoey in the middle of the day & I retreat to the air conditioned comfort of my home!

Deborah Banks February 4, 2013, 1:51 pm

Count me in! I enjoy re-reading Henry Mitchell’s books in the winter, and also the early issues of Fine Gardening.

marcia February 4, 2013, 1:10 pm

I would love a copy of this book!

Sallion February 4, 2013, 1:09 pm

Count me in, please! I found your site through Margaret’s. I look forward to reading your blog! Thanks!

Gene February 4, 2013, 11:03 am

Glad I found your site. I get to work with the cold, wind, and drought up here in North Dakota. This book is pretty cool and explains pruning methods. The author went to Japan to study this first hand:
Niwaki: Pruning, Training and Shaping Trees the Japanese Way
by Jake Hobson

Brenda Bit February 4, 2013, 10:14 am

Count me in for the book giveaway!
I’m currently reading ways to start a community garden, so much information!

Emma Dickson February 4, 2013, 9:01 am

I would enjoy reading Margaret’s new book – count me in please.

Ellette February 4, 2013, 8:46 am

Count me in please!