Saturday, May 3, 2014

Down the Garden Path: Bookish Post

Oh give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year...

I've had that Robert Frost poem stuck in my head lately, because this part of the spring with all the flowers just beginning to come up is so gorgeous.  And in honor of all the green buds and blooms, I thought today's bookish post should be garden-inspired!

I recently discovered Down the Garden Path by Beverley Nichols - I initially picked it up on a whim because the cover was so pretty - but already it's become a favorite. :)

This is non-fiction - it's actually a gardening book...and's so much more than just a gardening book.  You will find advice on growing flowers (by the end you will probably feel very tempted to go out and buy a few seed packets), but even if you don't have a green thumb, you'll also find so many funny scenes, clever stories, and just plain beautiful writing to be enjoyed.

Beverley Nichols was a British writer in the 20's, and in Down the Garden Path he tells all about his horticultural struggles and triumphs.  Nothing about his gardening is ordinary - getting rid of pests and bugs is all-out war, installing a rock garden becomes a Herculean task of epic proportions, tending the delicate, difficult-to-find winter flowers sends him into transports of joy.  That's one of the things I loved best about this book - Nichols takes the keenest pleasure in the very smallest things and conveys it in a way that is funny and touching all at once.

The plants and flowers themselves become distinctive personalities in this book, but there are some pretty outrageous human characters too.  Mrs. M is the author's gardening nemesis - yes, nemesis - and their encounters are always so funny.  At times the humor reminded me a little bit of Wodehouse - that same effortless, unexpected absurdity.

Here's one fun anecdote to whet your appetite: Nichols and his house guests have a game they like to play in the garden.  Everyone will go out and try to find as many different kinds of flowers as possible within a set time limit...but they're so competitive and ruthless about winning!  There are moments of general hilarity, and then there are moments of unexpected insight...

"Out here, in the open air, one encounters an idea, gives it hostage for a moment...and then, it is gone, over the hills and far away, which is the right place for most ideas..."

And then he turns back to the flowers in rapture:

"It took a few million years to make a snowdrop.  Surely one is justified in spending a few hours in studying the results?"

There was also a really funny chapter about cats and town gardens, but to get a taste of that, you'll have to watch the vlog...

Do you have any favorite books to read in the spring?

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