I just received the most wonderful book in the mail, one that is handsome and inspiring and filled with beautiful photographs in a stunning garden. It is called A Way to Garden by Margaret Roach. Margaret has a somewhat obsessive bent for detail in her own garden, which serves as the subject of this book. It’s a gorgeous book to look at, and even better to read. An updated book written 21 years after the first version, she has found that so many things have changed in the world, especially the worlds of plants and climate change that A Way to Garden is really an entirely new book.
I’ve been a fan of Margaret Roach since meeting her on her weekly podcast and web-site by the same name five years ago, when my book Vegetable Literacy came out. She is bright, hard-working, earnest, erudite and quirky, among a host of other good qualities. The first book of hers that I read was called Backyard Parables; Lessons on Gardening, and Life. It made me laugh and it made me wince as I travelled with her through a year in her garden. Even though she was hardly just starting out, this new book has stronger legs, shows more maturity, and is based in more experience. But all of Margaret’s books are wise books.
What pains me about A Way to Garden is that Margaret’s garden is very much an Eastern one. You can just tell that there is plenty of water and acid soil that support many plants that just won’t and don’t care for our highly alkaline New Mexican soil. In a way, it has nothing to do with us—our climate, our aridity, our winds, or the plants that like it here. Still what I love about this book – really about Margaret— is that she makes room for other forms of life along with the plants in her garden. The book is filled with pictures of the frogs who live there. She can talk about a plant in terms of its ability to attract pollinators. She notices birds and their songs, moths and their patterns, spiders, insects, snakes, and more pesky critters such as squirrels, deer, and a bear. Her garden is far more than plants and this book is, as she says, a blend of horticultural how to and ‘woo-woo” – “the fusion of a science lab with a Buddhist retreat, or a place of non-stop learning and of contemplation, where there is life buzzing to the maximum and also the deepest stillness.” She is such a superb writer I had to use her words.
I encourage you to read this book. It might ignite a sleeping passion that will come to fruition regardless of where you live.