I felt it a great honor to be asked to join the blog tour for Margaret Roach's latest book, which was just released a week ago, and nothing pleases me more than to highly recommend it to my readers.
When we last left Margaret Roach in her memoir, And I Shall Have Some Peace There, published a little less than a year before her current issue, she was fresh out of New York City and had walked away from a job working at Martha Stewart Omnimedia to further pursue her writing and live full-time in her weekend home north of the city. It was a gutsy move, and she was trying to make the best of it; I saw it in the way she wrote as much as in what she wrote about. I’ll be honest – I wasn’t quite sure she was going to completely make the transition.
But these lifestyle changes take time and what a difference a year makes. In The Backyard Parables, I get the feeling that Margaret is comfortable in her skin and with her life. As a lifelong resident of rural Northwest Ohio who lives in a community that seems to be very similar to the upstate New York locale where Margaret shares a home with cat Jack, her words ring as true with me as any I’ve ever read about this thing we share called gardening.
So many books I read about gardening these days, whether they be memoirs or how-tos or about design or even homesteading, are directed at the urban gardener. That’s okay too, because there’s more than enough information to go around that’s appropriate for the benefit of all types of gardeners. But I really felt Margaret in this book – felt her on a more personal level as a comrade between the rows:
Never stop wanting more plants... That ethos of insatiability I was taught to garden by is not about greed, but rather speaks up in favor of maintaining perpetual curiosity. But in this strain of lust, I have slowed considerably, my wants grown far more measured and selective. In the first days I was insatiable, hungry for everything, and grew so many plants, all of them new faces then to me, seeking not just something to look out at or proclaim about with the busting pride of a kid whose training wheels just came off, but also wanting knowledge. Each plant teaches some lesson or other; besides just filling its hole in the landscape, it starts to make the pieces of the wider puzzle fit.
YES. Who of us who has been bitten by the gardening bug doesn't understand this? I was the same, accepting any and all castaways and bargain table plants that came my way, and in retrospect, know full well the education I received that could not have been gotten any other way. But as I enter my ninth year of being a "real gardener," I’ve adjusted my desires a bit, too.
Had I read this passage any earlier in my own horticultural journey, I might not have understood how anyone could ever limit themselves this way. And yet, in fits of fickleness, she goes on to admit that she is still at times blind-sided by that weakness most of us have when we hear the siren call of a plant we don’t need for all the tea in China, but will find a way to justify carrying it home, only to have to figure out where the heck we’re going to put it. I know Margaret (and many of you) will completely understand what I mean when I say, “There’s always room for Jell-O.”
And though this is gardening (and life) seen through the eyes of experience, novice gardeners will learn important basics in lengthy sidebars dealing with subjects such as buying seeds, doing battle with deer, succession sowing, pruning, mulch, and even how to ripen immature tomatoes. She includes a couple of recipes too. I think my favorite sidebar was on how to overwinter tender plants. Though I've been doing this for as long as I've been gardening, I learned a thing or two.
This is not a book to be rushed through, although I wanted to finish it quickly so I could share my enthusiasm for it. Rarely do I read a book a second time, but I may do just that with The Backyard Parables. It now ranks at the top of my list of all-time favorite gardening books. I won’t deliver this piece of news to the author who wrote what is now second, but that’s not a particularly bad place to be either, since I’ll always read anything she writes, too.
Now I’m left wondering what Margaret Roach’s next project will be. If she can give us more of this, she’ll always have room in the budget for more plants, if not room in her garden.
Margaret Roach has been an editor at the New York Times, fashion editor and garden editor at Newsday, the first garden editor for Martha Stewart Living magazine, and the editorial director of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. She is now a consultant and avid gardener, keeping fans up to date on her website A Way to Garden, which Anne Raver of the New York Times called "the best garden blog" she'd seen. Margaret is also the author of A Way to Garden, named Best Garden Book of the Year by the Garden Writers' Association of America.
Grand Central Publishing has graciously provided a copy of The Backyard Parables for one of my readers. If you'd like to win it, simply leave a comment to this blog post, sharing the name of your favorite book - gardening or otherwise. I find it incredibly interesting to see what people like to read.
I'll pick a winner randomly via Random.org from all comments left by midnight Sunday, January 27, 2013. Be sure to leave a way for me to contact you in your comment, should you be the chosen winner.
Elaine of rainyleaf.com
Elaine, your comment was chosen from the 84 eligible comments (two were duplicate entries and not counted in the total) by Random.org. Please e-mail me at ourlittleacre at gmail dot com with a mailing address for the book. Enjoy!