Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Backyard Parables: A Book Review and Giveaway


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.


About the author

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Want to win a copy?

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.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CONGRATULATIONS
to
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!


Grand Central Publishing provided me with a free copy of The Backyard Parables for review. All opinions are my own.

86 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I have her first book and I like the way she writes. I will definitely have to read this one. Thanks for the opportunity to win one.

stonenl said...


I am a avid Margaret fan. She inspires me and I feel like we are neiboring gardeners separated by miles,but joined by our love of the garden.

Amy Junod said...

That excerpt is perfect. Sigh. She's nailed it. My tiny little garden has brought so much joy and peace. I just love the lessons that nature provides if we stop long enough to learn.
Would love to win a copy of the book! Fingers crossed long enough for good luck...now back to playing in dirt.

Pamela said...

That quote makes me feel better...as I like to say, it's that time of year again where my imagination and ambition are far larger than the space in my garden!

As for favorite books, it's like picking a favorite child...Pride and Prejudice is a constant favorite, but right now I'm also loving memoirs like The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.

Britt (pigbook1@gmail.com said...

I'm definitely more in the post-beginner gardening stage. I've learned to "read" a couple plants, but have nowhere near the experience to call myself anything more than beginner. I'm sure there is much I could learn and many excerpts I'll mull over and think about as I define my gardener self.

Heidi/ IN Woodland Garden said...

As a amateur gardener, I am just beginning to read other books beyond the How To books. One of my favorites because of it's poetic style is "For the Love of Wildflowers" by Karan Junker.

Beth said...

Hi Kylee, What a lovely book! I would love to win a copy. Thanks for sponsoring the giveaway.

BethieLauren(at)gmail(dot)com

Beth said...

I forgot to leave a name of my favorite book. It is the Bible.
Beth
BethieLauren(at)gmail(dot)com

Jenny said...

Oh my - asking a reader to choose a favorite book is like asking a gardener to choose a favorite plant - & I am a reader & a gardener! I love so many books but the two I reread the most are my Jane Austen books & my Bible. I love the quote you gave from this book - I understand it completely & I really want to read the whole thing.

Rachel said...

I'm always looking for new gardening authors, and after reading this post I put some of Roach's books on reserve at the library. However, if I won one of her books, that wouldn't be a bad thing either. A favorite gardening book of mine is Edith Holden's The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. I have hopes of one day journaling an entire year in similar fashion!

Nancybeth said...

This book reminds me of another, "Paths of Desire" by Dominique Browning. She was the editor of House & Garden magazine and writes beautifully. It is a collection of essay about re-doing her garden and rebuilding her life after divorce. Highly recommended.

contrary old woman said...

Absolutely inspiring

Donna said...

My favorite book is In Search O f the Medicine Buddha by David Crow. I am an aromatherapist..plants and flowers and their sustainability and aromatic nectar are central to my life.

Christopher Tidrick said...

Kylee, wonderful review. When we talked about this book, I knew from your enthusiastic endorsement that I would love this book. About 20 pages in, I'm already in love.

Thanks for bringing it to my attention and enriching my life once again.

Matt said...

Favorite Book..hmmmm....theres so many, I enjoyed Sandbox of a different kind by Mark Cullen and Gin and Tonic Gardener by Janice Wells, along with so many others!!!!

tropaeolum said...

My favorite gardening book right now is Karel Capek's "The Gardener's Year." Although it was written in 1929, it still rings true.

Joe said...

I've not read any books by Margaret but do enjoy her blog and FB posts. As for books hhhmmm thats a tough one..."Freckles" by Gene Stratton Porter helped create a love of nature for me that's never ended. "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein, the story of a dog Enzo and the love of his owner. I'll stop with those two.

Sue Chanay said...

Kylie,

My favorite garden book is titled “365 Days of Gardening” by Christine Allison. I bought this book years ago (one for me and one for my Mom). My mother was the best gardener I have ever know. I still get the book out and just read it sometimes. Over the years I have totally wasted money on some of the garden books I have bought. So, even if I don’t win the copy I think I will take a chance and buy the book. Thanks so much.

Sue Chanay

Karen said...

I have just discovered you through our mutual "friend", Margaret. I loved her first book and gave it for gifts.I am looking forward to this one. I love to read and my favorite is always the ones I am currently spending time with.
Karen (lotsoffabric@gmail.com)

Barbara said...

My fav book is A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. I've read 4 times and each time laughed and enjoyed it each time as much as the first.

Briana Johnson said...

I haven't read any of Margaret's books yet, but I would love too! As a former book editor, I've read many many books. It's really hard to nail down a favorite, so I'll go with favorite one I edited: Angels & Idols by songwriter Regie Hamm. It's a moving memoir about his adopted daughter who has Angelman Syndrome and how American Idol saved his family from financial ruin.

Jason said...

I have to put down a gardening and non-gardening book. For gardening, I'd say Noah's Garden, by Sara Stein. For non-gardening, Going Down Jericho Road, by Michael Honey.

KimB. said...

Just found your blog! Love reading about gardening. I just borrowed Margaret's first book from the library. Recent favorite read was a book on my Kindle, "Out of Time". No gardening but some time traveling was done. Would love to win Margaret's new book, it sounds like one I would love!!

pippirose said...

Sounds like an inspirational book.
My favourite gardening book is "Tottering In My Garden" by Midge Ellis Keeble.
:o)
pippirose59 at gmail dot com

Leslie T said...

As I live in the West, my favorite gardening book is Lauren Springer's, The Undaunted Garden. Although I have stuck flowers and vegetables in the ground for years, I am just now becoming obsessed with the entire notion of "gardening." Another gardening book to be devoured would be delightful!

Carol Stern said...

Love her website - and love her writing

Deviant Deziner, aka Michelle said...

Oh, so very very true and beautifully written:
"Never stop wanting more plants...is not about greed, but rather speaks up in favor of maintaining perpetual curiosity."

I think I might have to change the name of my garden to "The Curious Garden" vs. The Pina Colada Garden.
Or maybe I will just have one more drink under the swaying palm trees and plant one more new bromeliad.

Linnae said...

This book sounds right up my alley! As far as gardening books go, I often have two ready to help me identify things: "The Backyard Bird Lover's Field Guide" and "Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest." Yes, sometimes I read them just for fun too! (Insert husband eye-rolling here!)
In other genres, I've been on a memoir kick lately and really enjoyed "Mama's Bank Account." Thanks for the chance to win! linnaeharper at hotmail dot com

Erin @ The Impatient Gardener said...

I really enjoyed "And I Shall Have some Peace There" so I'm thrilled to hear you liked this book even better.

I remember reading her last book in late winter and wanting to go thrust my hands into the soil and become one with my garden again (although I'm happy to say that snake sightings seem to be far more rare in my garden than Margaret's).

I could never pick a favorite book. Isn't that like picking a favorite child? I do, however, remember some books because they were very important to me at certain points in my life and certainly "Where the Red Fern Grows" sticks out as a signpost in my pre-teen years.

Vickie said...

The Country Garden by Josephine Neuse.

Anonymous said...

Really enjoy her website and her love of gardening.
galmoz at hotmail dot com

LindaSonia said...

I too love Margaret's website and share the love of gardening with her - a kindred soul!

Onesnap said...

I have followed Margaret for years!

My favorite books (nature/gardening/cooking related) are a tie between 'Animal. Vegetable. Miracle' and 'Eating Animals'

:)

Anya @ SAS-does said...

I do not have a lot of gardening books but I really enjoy going through "Year round vegetable gardener". I am sure that Margaret's book will be my new favorite.

Lizzie Bordello said...

I really love Diane Ackerman's work, and her "Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden" is just wonderful. In fact, just yesterday I was thinking it might be time to read it again!

Kathryn said...

I want to read Maria Thun's books next - I am really inspired by the books on biodynamic farming/gardening.

acookingmizer said...

My favorite book lately has been "Mini Farming" - I love the idea of maximizing a small amount of space for veggie gardening!

Crystal said...

Gaia's Garden <3 <3

countingchickens said...

I can't wait to read the book! My favorite gardening book is a local one - The Virginia Gardener's Guide. It's so rare to find something so effective for my tiny local spot!

Kelly M said...

My favorite book has to be whatever one I am currently reading. This week it is The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.
Thanks for the chance to win Margaret's book - i'm dying to read it.

Sohini Appana said...

Thank you for hosting the giveaway. I would love to win a copy of this book!

I enjoyed reading "The Curious Gardener" by Anna Pavord.

Right now I am also reading Margaret Roach's first book "A Way to Garden" and "The Passionate Gardener: Adventures of an Ardent Green Thumb" by Des Kennedy.

Live-2-Write-2-Live said...

this is a must have and I must have it! And it will be on my book shelf no matter what but it would be awfully nice to win it :) Just saying, 'cause I'm old with little money :(
mlwehunt@gmail.com

Julia said...

Well I can't pick just one book as favourite, but of my collection the ones I love adding to most are the field guides. Thanks!

sugareaterATgmailDOTcom

PJ said...

What a living icon icon in my book.

Julie said...

I'd love to read this. I have so many favorite gardening books. There's always something new to learn. I want to give a shout out to The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan. It will change the way you look at the world.

merrilymarylee said...

I'm so glad you introduced me to her. I'll look for her first book.

Gardening in Your Nightie is one of my favorites.

Emma said...

Would love to win a copy of Margaret's book - it sounds lovely. I'm a gardener and a reader and as others have said - how do pick a favourite?
but the first book title that came to mind was The Time Traveller's Wife - very enjoyable read.

emmdickson at gmail dot com

Veronica said...

Two favorite gardening books: And I Shall Have Some Peace There by Margaret and My Favorite Plant edited by Jamaca Kincaid

mderose said...

Love Margaret's garden writing, but also I am now reading The Round House by Louise Erdrich, it's compelling, read it!

Thad said...

My favorite read is Ulysses by Joyce. While there are several other books that I really like, one that I keep returning to is The Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Cheers!

Katiria said...

My favorite book is "confessions of a shopaholic" I laughed so hard when I read it

a gypsy soul... said...

Great fan, and hope to add this read to my growing library celebrating growing;)

Alan said...

Favorite book... one favorite? Impossible! I do love garden books that inspire with lots of photos though, or any tale of creating a garden in difficult times or conditions.

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

As the pellet stove runs on a continual basis and the temperatures struggle to reach a double-digit level, I yearn to return to the greenhouse, to the garden.
I'd love a chance to read Margaret's book.

Lucid Moon Studio said...

I am brand new to gardening, and the only book I have so far is Square Foot Gardening. I would love to add this book to my budding collection!

Unknown said...

Love gardening books in general. Can't choose just one.

Dawn B. said...

You asked that we leave a comment about our favorite book. My favorite is Stephen King's 'On Writing.' It reminds what to look for in any type of writing as a reader, and as a writer.

rainyleaf.com said...

I'm really enjoying Gathering Moss, I'm reading it right now. I like learning about the this tiny world right under our feet.
Elaine

nfmgirl said...

My current favorite is "Guide to Florida Fruit and Vegetable Gardening". I am trying some experiments in the garden, but am at the end of our cool-crop growing season down here, so not sure how it will go (I have warm season beans and peas already going, and was hoping to do lettuce, but think it is probably too late). We'll see how it goes. I'm new to gardening, and just playing around and trying to learn. So far it's going well!

(BTW: I currently have four cats-- and a dog, a bird and a turtle. I'm still thinking about the chickens!)

rv said...

A couple of favorite books: Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold - was the beginning of my thinking about environment; The Land Remembers by Ben Logan - more about land and rural values.

Courtney said...

Kind of embarrassing, but my favorite has been Gardening for Dummies...I'm new to the whole gardening so it seemed like a good place to start. But I'd love to win this book to get a real jump on the upcoming growing season!

Jan said...

I don't have 'just one' favorite book, but one of my favorites about gardening for wildlife is Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy. I think I would enjoy Margaret's book too.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy to have discovered your wonderful blog through Margaret Roach's blog tour. I have MR's previous books and look forward to her new one. Winning it would put the icing on the cake!

josette said...

Just came upon your blog. As an organic gardener for 37 years at this location, I devour all the gardening information I can get hold of. I am now reading this wonderful book (courtesy of the my local library) but would LOVE to have my own copy so I can highlight, underline, etc. .

susan said...

I enjoy all the garden writings of Henry Mitchel.

Donna G. said...

The book I read always is my Bible. Gardening books I most enjoy are those by the writers of years back, Katherine S. White, Henry Mitchell, Elizabeth Lawrence, Allen Lacy, etc.
gisch@usfamily.net

Anonymous said...

This looks like it would be quite a wonderful and relaxing book to read. I would be tickled pink to win!
I enjoy any book of poetry by Billy Collins or mary Oliver. For gardening, The Undaunted Garden by Lauren Springer is a godsend for those of us in Zone 4!
gretchenb@bresnan.net

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Can't wait to read this book as I loved her first. As a new teacher I fell in love with the children's book, "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein who made me love nature, trees and life. As a child I loved Beatrix Potter's little books. I wanted the be in the garden
s I saw and talk with the animals....Peter comes to visit my gardens and I welcome him cautiously! :)

Anonymous said...

I just love Margaret Roach's approach to life through gardening. Her expert advice on gardening is very helpful, but her wonderful sense of humor keeps me reading everything she writes!

Margaritta said...

An "Oldie" but goodie...
"Another Gardener's Bed-Book" by
Richardson Wright (1933)

Potatodimple said...

I really enjoy reading Margaret's blog and have enjoyed her first book and look forward to reading her Parables. One of my favorite books that reminds me of Margaret is "A Woman of Independent Means" ... a book of letters written as a narrative.

DianaK said...

I'm an avid reader of mostly non-fiction books, and am an aspiring gardener who is looking to improve my skills. To choose just one book would be impossible for me to do!

Sara said...

I am mostly a fiction and biography reader for pleasure, although the hunger games had me sucked in from the start!
I love Margaret's blog and can't wait to read more in her book.

June said...

Love your website. Found it through Margaret Roach's website. Look forward to reading more!

Tina Knezevic said...

My favorite book is Tomorrow's Garden: Design and Inspiration for a New Age of Sustainable Gardening by Stephen Orr!

Berta said...

Margaret's first two books were a joy to curl up with when my garden was taking its winter nap. I am looking forward to seeing her in Boston this week and would love to win a copy of her book for her to sign. I just finished Leslie Maitland's"Across The Borders of Time," a book that proves in matters of the heart, love is ageless.

Anne Murphy said...

I cannot limit myself to one book. Some of my favorites: Plant-Driven Design: Creating Gardens That Honor Plants, Place, and Spirit by Scott Ogden and Lauren Springer-Ogden; Into the Garden with Charles: A Memoir by Clyde Phillip Wachsberger; Water-Wise Plants for the Southwest by Nan Sterman; Slow Gardening: A No-Stress Philosophy for All Senses and All Seasons by Felder Rushing; The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms by Amy Stewart.

Unknown said...

I always wondered at my own propensity for a perpetual hunt for new plants to add to my already crowded garden! Margaret Roach has described her own curiosity, which matches my own and I see my love for new plants will be a lifelong endeavor. Instead of trying to quench this thirst, I intend to keep feeding it! ~Jan Evancho janevancho@comcast.net

Mama Ruck said...

I always find myself going back to the Sunset guides that my father used.

Gloria said...

I would love to win Margaret's book. Thanks, Gloria

Mel said...

Would love to have this book from Margaret! I am paring down possessions considerably, and maybe books have not made the cut. But a beautiful book like this definitely would stay! I love so many books and I play no favorites, but do love Geraldine Brooks these days, Margaret Atwood...

Mel said...

Ooops, forgot to leave contact info in my comment, where I mentioned Geraldine Brooks and Margaret Atwood and said I'd be so pleased to add this book to my dwindling collection! melcrawf at comcast dot net.

Unknown said...

I love following Margaret Roach's blog and am excited to have learned of your blog (which I did through Margaret's). One of my favorite books is "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett. (marie.dardeno@gmail.com)

Tootsie said...

hey girl...I read anything with words in it...lol...and even better if it has plant info! lol No real favorites here..
I would love to be entered to win...but if you have this closed to Canadians, I totally understand. Many blog contests are not open to me...sniff sniff...sob...sigh.

hugs and smiles from Alberta Canada!

Modern Mia Gardening said...

I'm excited to read this new book. One of my all-time favorite books is "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. I loved it as a young girl but after reading it as an adult, it was a completely different and amazing experience.

modmia {at} gmail {dot} com

Anonymous said...

I love Gone With the Wind and I love even more the sequel Scarlet. They are my two favorites. I would love to check out this book. Maybe I will win it. Thanks for the opportunity. brendakc2005@yahoo.com is how you can reach me.

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