Posts Tagged ‘books’

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

My breakfast audience:

Acanthus ‘Hollard’s Gold’ has emerged again.

Allan has finished the roof of the greenhouse lean to.

Skooter’s day included a trip to the roof…

….and a sojourn in the sink.

He was a perfect round ball till he heard the camera.

Allan ran errands and covered the gunnera in Long Beach with leaves from our gunnera.



I spent the afternoon weeding.  Because of the rain forecast, I have this week to prepare to get mulch for the garden and then will have to wait for another five day dry spell to be predicted, and hope that mulch (and good health) is available during that time.

I then read an excellent memoir.  I wish I could remember if someone recommended it to me.  If so, thank you.

I adore Vivian Gornick’s honesty and now, of course, I intend to read all her books (through interlibrary loan).

Here are some of my favourite bits.

Regarding her and her closest friend, Leonard:








in which the title is explained:

I hope her next books do not take long to arrive.

Skooter being a neck cat instead of a lap cat.


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It is December 11th.  I had no intention of blogging, until suddenly needing to boot up my computer to add the new manager of Klipsan Beach Cottages to the KBC Facebook page….and de administrate myself. It felt odd and poignant to let go of a page I created and have administered and for which I have done all the photos since…2009.  I gardened there for over 20 years.  Soon we will be visiting former managers Mary and Denny in their new home.

Since I booted up, I might as write and schedule a few blog posts before I retreat back into my blogging break.  We began December with a streak of almost summer-like weather.

December 2nd is an already forgotten day…weeding? reading? weather? I have no idea…with no photos other than this one of Skooter in the very late morning:

Monday, 3 December 2018

We had had some rain.  Perhaps this photo tells us that Sunday was a reading day. My Sony camera sometimes does not open all the way, annoying if I don’t see that I need to push it open manually.  (The Lumix thoroughly plotzed with a “system error zoom”, after less than a year, as usual.)

yellow rain gauge, halfway full

The water boxes are full again.

summer-planted extra sweet pea seeds, grew into lots of foliage and an occasional soggy flower.

Helichrysum and bacopa still lush and happy

I spent most of the afternoon digging Ficaria verna (Ranunculus ficaria) from the east fire circle bed.  It runs like crazy through the garden.

Ficaria verna today

It tries to leave as many little brown root nodules behind as possible, which is why this is a battle where the human will not prevail.

At least I can slow it down.

The plain old creeping buttercup, also shown above, is much easier to remove.

In other garden news, I am working on widening the East Willow Loop path, which has become so narrow in summer that is had ceased to be part of the garden tour here.

opened up

At the end, to the left, was the encroaching ficaria patch.

center bed and Rozanne Loop path

I covered my gunnera with its own leaves to protect it from frost….

…and put a few leaves in the van to go to the gunnera in Long Beach.

Fortunately, the short daylight hours give plenty of time for reading in the late afternoon and evening.  I cannot remember who recommended that I read Radio Free Vermont.  Thank you, I loved it.

This is also how we feel on the Long Beach Peninsula:

For comparison, Ilwaco has under 1000 residents.  It might be growing, but it is growing slowly.


This is so true when moving to a small town:



I have read of town meetings elsewhere, possibly in Maine, in the memoirs of Doris Grumbach (whose books I highly recommend).

Radio Free Vermont is not all talk; it has adventure, suspense, and a ski chase, so give it a try.





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  Sunday, 7 October 2018

Rain brought another Marion Cran reading day.  I will be sharing a great deal of words and thoughts about her when staycation gets underway.  For now, I offer a few snippets as I go along.

She wrote eloquently of finger blight:

A bit later:

Monday, 8 October 2018

I took a very quick turn around the wet garden to check the rain gauges.

much rain!

hips of Rosa rubfrifolia (R. glauca)

Salvia leucantha


And then I was so happy to get back to reading Marion Cran.

I read The Garden Beyond (1937)  about gardens in Kenya.  She visited her daughter and son in law there.  Unfortunately, her books are marred by her belief in the imperial colonization of other countries and the superiority of white English folk.  Oh, Marion. If only we could talk about this. Because in other ways she was progressive and egalitarian, and because her racism was not hateful and vindictive, I have hope that she would have been enlightened had she lived in the modern day.  More of this when I blog about her books…

She made her living from writing.  Her fame enabled her to move in high society, and yet in many ways her heart was with the working class.  Her appreciation for small gardens and those who make them is a thread throughout her books.


I am trying to read her books in order, yet I did not realize at first that ALL her gardening books, even ones that appeared to be about garden touring, continue her very personal life memoir.  Two of the late 1920s books had not arrived yet, nor had the 1939 Gardens of Character, not due to arrive till October 23rd.  (I am mostly getting them from Abe Books, thanks to Allan’s skillful online shopping, and most of them are coming from England.)

So I had to begin the last one, Hagar’s Garden, about her life when she lost her garden due to ill health.  I could not wait till the next book arrived; by then it would be Bulb Time and close to Halloween and if the weather is good, I would have no rest for reading till November.

Oh, how I wept through the first half of Hagar’s Garden; her beloved third husband. a romance that had simmered for years till they married in their 50s, had died after they had just three years together.  Her finances were dire because she had a small heart attack and because of WWII drying up all writing commissions, and she could not maintain her mortgage and so had to let her house and stay with friends.  I was only a third of the way through when my day of reading ended.

I had done the math wrong (not unusual) and thought that when she died two years after Hagar’s Garden, she was 63—my age.  This lit a fire under hypochondriacal me to want to finish the book before I followed suit.  (Then I did the math again; she died at 67.)

Meanwhile, when the rain turned to mist and then stopped, Allan had gone to work at Coho Charters at the port, shearing two escallonias.  He finished in the return of a light mist.


I hoped for a rainy Tuesday to finish the book.  Maddening though it is to read them out of order, it would be a comfort to have three more books left to read after the last harrowing story of one of my worst fears: losing one’s home and garden.

It was calming after that to watch a neatly solved crime in the late evening in the detective series Vera.

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In the effort to catch up in book reports, I will begin with the book I recently finished.  (This means I have skipped over the two Morville books by Katherine Swift; I hope to catch up on book reporting later this autumn.)

The Prickotty Bush by Montague Don

Those who have read Monty and Sarah Don’s The Jewel Garden know that they loved and lost a garden due to financial woes, long before Monty was the famous garden show presenter that he now is.

I read The Prickotty Bush, the story of that garden, slowly over a few weeks of this exhauting, rain-free summer, just a few pages before bedtime.

Its somber cover goes along with the somber subject of a garden under siege by the bank and an obsessed man trying to make a garden as quickly as possible.

Here are some of my favourite bits:

On the imposition of order by pruning:

Also known as Something Shiny Syndrome:

The bullying wind:

On doing it all oneself:

Interestingly, in one of the next books I read, Marion Cran wrote about the same thing.

Below, I identify with Montagu’s urgency.  I felt, at age 55, when I started the Lake Street garden, that I had to get it laid out the first winter during a two month staycation, no matter what the weather.

30 December 2010, gardening in ice-crusted soil

On time in the garden (shared because I love what he says about human aging):

On how to look at your garden:

On garden design:

On plant names:

Friday, 14 September 2018

Frosty rejoiced that I had the day at home.

He was vocal about it.

Rain gauges from last night:

Even the slowest filling rain barrel was almost full:

I think I might need to remove a hebe.  I set it in the spot below, in a wooden planter, and it has rooted into the ground, broken the planter apart, and is about to block our path.  It pulls debris out of the wheelbarrow when I pass by. And yet it is so grand.

From my window I had seen an exciting glow:

Kniphofia ‘Earliest of All’

I had tried in late winter to divide it and transplant some to the center bed.  So far, this is all the transplants have done after many months:


My goal today was to deal with the basket plantings brought home from Long Beach.

In bin two, I had a pile of all green debris on top of brown.  I wanted to layer them, green and brown, into bin four.

Four hours later:

I got just this much compost from bin 2, which had not had much time to decompose since the last time I turned it.

Because I feel anxious about the financial aspect of retirement, I rejoice in any compost that I can make instead of buying mulch.  It’s good practice for more frugal years. Compost turning and sifting is an activity that relaxes and pleases me ever so much.

After a couple of rains, the rest of the basket root balls will be easier to break apart.

I wish I had a before photo of where Allan helped me dig out a big orangey grass that had seeded into the front of the east bed.  I needed some room for other plants, and have many others of this grass that I originally got from Pam Fleming’s former nursery.

left, some of the many that are left; right, a new empty space (not for long)

Salvia africana-lutea and an matching spider

Saturday, 15 September 2018

At last, I had a glorious rainy reading day, all Marion Cran.

First, I went through my book marks in her first book, which I finished two nights ago,  to photograph my favourite bits to share in a later post.

When I first opened my used English edition of The Garden of Ignorance, I found these inside:

All the way from Old Blighty, perhaps; there is nothing on the back of the picture.

Today I read all of The Garden of Experience and more than half of the third book of her autobiographical series, The Story of My Ruin.  She will get more than one of a series of blog posts when I have time to write more about the summer’s reading.

Here is just one excerpt that echoes Monty Don’s words about having to make one’s garden all by oneself.  In Cran’s world of the 1920s, that meant with the help of a gardener, but the garden owner also knew where every plant was and did much of the work herself.

I hope to offer you many more shared thoughts about Marion later this year.  Meanwhile, I enjoyed the endpiece to The Garden of Ignorance:




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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Allan’s cold hit him hard today.  My grandma used to say, when ill, that she was “sickabed on two chairs with my feet on the woodpile.”  Google tells me that the original quotation was “sick abed AND two chairs”, apparently something to do with putting two chairs next to your bed so you don’t roll out.

I worried about work all day and as a result I could not focus on weeding my own garden, until about five o clock, when a cold wind drove me indoors soon after I began.  Before that, I assuaged work worries slightly by going to the Norwood and the J’s garden, both just yards away from home.

Skooter accompanied me to the Norwood garden.

the north side shade garden

Across the street, I weeded the J’s front garden.

But look, one of the three arborvitae at the end is dying from the base up. I have no idea why.

looks completely ominous

So I found this possibly useful post.

Someone might tell me “That is not an arborvitae, it’s a juniper.”  I have to admit I don’t pay much attention to the particulars of common columnar evergreens.

The cold wind that sent me indoors after working allowed me to finish reading a wonderful book by Monty Don.  I wish I could remember which recent book led me to this one.  I got it via interlibrary loan; it came from the Johnson County Library, Shawnee Mission, Kansas, which appears to be a linked chain of libraries, similar to our Timberland Regional Library.

Frosty likes dogs.  He grew up with dogs with his previous person, Terry, who died after the dogs did and who passed his cat family on to us.

I was smitten with Monty Don’s writing style.  If I lived in the UK, he would be familiar to me as the host of Gardener’s World.  Oh, how I wish we had more gardening shows to watch on this side of the pond.  We used to, but Home and Garden Television (HGTV) turned into just Home television.  It looks like I may be able to watch Gardeners World online.

I now want to read all of Don’s books.

I was hooked by this paragraph at the beginning:

Because the book reminisces about all the dogs of Monty Don’s life, not just the famous Nigel (who appears with him on telly), there is the tragedy of losing one’s companion, which strikes me hard because of losing my feline friends Calvin and Smoky so recently.  I wept over this passage from The Sword in the Stone.

I liked this passage about having a seasonal pond, as we do out on the Meander Line.

Nigel likes peas.

Nigel also likes apples.

Below: More of the agony of losing a canine friend.  I hope I will feel this way about the place where I will put Smoky and Calvin’s ashes, where Smoky’s mother is already buried.

On changing the garden:

I appreciate that Monty Don is so open about having suffered from depression.  I have ordered The Jewel Garden, the story of how he and his spouse lost their jewelry design business and eventually ended up with a beautiful garden and a prime spot on Gardeners World.

I am pleased to report that after lying sickabed all day, Allan got up in the evening and enjoyed watching some telly (not Gardeners World, unfortunately, just Rachel Maddow and Survivor!).  His improvement, despite still having a cough and sniffles, was remarkable, but I said that we must still have tomorrow off so that he can continue to recuperate.

At bedtime, I began to reread Mirabel Osler’s gardening trilogy, beginning with A Gentle Plea for Chaos.

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Wednesday, 11 April 2018

A cold and rainy day permitted me to re-read The Bad Tempered Gardener by Anne Wareham.

The book is out of print and should not be.  I hope it gets republished.  If you are lucky enough to visit Veddw,  Anne’s garden in Wales, she might have copies for sale there.  I found one online, used, without too much searching.

Here are just some of my favourite bits.  With a cat on my lap, I cannot lay the pages out flat. The pages are a bit glossy so you may have to squint a bit to read certain passages here.  It will be worth it and I hope it will inspire you to read the whole thing.

I do love that she used the mulching method to make her large garden, because that is the way I do it, too.

I appreciate the personal revelations:

With a lot of garden to plant, her fondness for variegated ground elder (aegepodium) makes me feel a little better about it being rampant at the Shelburne garden, because that is not a battle I am going to win:

If I came across a a plant that I knew was especially rampant, eradicable and mad I might treat myself, especially if I had read a lot of warnings about it from garden writers. One of the best was a single plant of variegated ground elder, which after a relatively slow start went on to cover the ground in the whole of the front garden.

Later: Part of my ambition is to persuade people to appreciate spreading plants—the simpler, easier, and more beautiful effect produced by some commitment rather than an endless, irritating variety of plants.

Later: I used plants as weapons, hoping they’d rampage away, covering the ground, eating weeds, defying slugs, making me a garden.  I couldn’t afford hard materials—plants had to do everything (not recommended) and two acres is a lot to cover.


Ironically, the day after my rainy reading day, we spent seven hours tearing out a vast swathe of orange crocosmia.  At least I found takers for most of the corms.  Anne likes it:

On page 20, she recommends two garden writers, Constance O’ Brien and Marion Cran and while I continued to read, I got Allan to order me all of their books online.

Marion Cran wrote several books (1930s and 1940s), which Allan was able to find; I got them all and O’Brien’s book for under $60 total and look forward to their arrival.  Now I wish I was in a garden “guild” instead of a garden “gang.”

A theme throughout the book is Anne’s preference for good thoughtful design over plant collecting.  She quotes Gertrude Jekyll:

Now, I am a collector of precious plants and my garden has an awful lot of onesies, so I am not sure Anne would like it at all.  I appreciate her writing for making me think. Yet I am still irresistibly onesy-ing five years after I first read it.


I value her thoughts about death and the garden.  Regular readers know I do contemplate this frequently, maybe because I grew up around old people who talked about it.

In spite of our diversions, we all ultimately find a path to realization of our own physical end.

The garden….throws the remorselessness of time in our faces, depicting in its endless, indifferent  moving on, growing and dying, just how we are fated.  There is grief and struggle and real love out there.

This is my favourite paragraph in the whole book:

Below, on garden touring, garden tour guides, and how gardens get picked (which I like because I have seen some indifferent gardens choses for various tours, even, rarely, and only a couple of times on the Hardy Plant tours):

One of the elements I would like best at Veddw is Anne’s use of words in the garden.


I know what she means about the slight awkwardness; I had lots of quotations in my garden, mostly on the fences, in 2008 and 2012 when my garden got toured a few times, and it feels a bit funny to pause while someone reads it. With me, it comes with hoping that whatever is written speaks to them.  One of the tasks on my to-do lists is to rewrite those words that have faded away.

Anne was on a garden show called “I’ve Got Britain’s Best Garden” in which gardens were actually analyzed and criticized.  She writes that the show could be found on Youtube (in 2010) , yet I was unable to find it.  I long to see it.

You can read part of Anne’s essay (included at a more length in this book) on why she hates gardening right here.

Below, I am interested to learn that her garden is close to the Forest of Dean (because I have been there).  I also do not like to be away from my garden even for one night.  And I DO mind that my own garden will most likely not continue after we are gone.

Below, by Anne’s reflecting pool, at the end of this passage is something I think about if Allan (my spouse and business partner) and I have had a day of much squabbling at work:

On the topic of dividing the garden to avoid squabbling:

One concept I remembered most strongly from my first reading in 2012 was that she does not like an edged lawn!  The text is followed by a photo by her spouse, garden photographer Charles Hawes, showing a lawn with alchemilla spilling over.  (And I tend to get hostile toward alchemilla at times.)

Something I expected to find was a chapter about her method of leaving debris to compost in the garden beds.  I could have sworn it was in the book.  I must have read it in one of her articles, instead, perhaps this one.

Below, I am reminded me of my shock at the number of local gardeners who’ve told me they have never been on a garden tour (when there at least two most years within easy driving distance): A staggering number of garden owners I came across while writing up gardens for magazines absolutely prided themselves on never visiting anyone else’s garden.  And that is unlikely to inspire you to brilliant composition.  Or even, perhaps, to realize that gardens are composed at all.

On two occasions, Anne mentioned Piet Oudolf coming to visit her and I went Squeeee! (I admire him so.) On using grasses inside of boxwood squares (you really must read The Bad Tempered Gardener in its entirety to learn about this and other designs whose purpose is to evoke the history of the Veddw):

This, because it made me laugh:  “You like your succulents,” someone observed one day. How wonderfully patronizing—like ‘”Old Fred, he do like his pint.”

I haven’t even touched on her theme of understanding gardens.  You must read the book; I can’t even begin to quote all the parts that were so educational and inspirational to me.

You can read more online by Anne and others at her aptly named website, thinkinGardens.

In the near future, I will be reading her brand new book, The Deckchair Gardener: An Improper Gardening Manual.

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Saturday, 7 April 2018

for the readers

The wind storm was late but the pouring rain was right on time, so we had a reading (me) and project (Allan) weekend.

a snoozy day for Skooter

Odd Lots  by Thomas C Cooper

I read Odd Lots years ago and rated it so highly that I decided to read it again.  It is one of those books that takes you through the months of the year in a collection of gardening columns.  Like Dan Pearson’s book of magazine essays, Natural Selection: A Year in the Garden, there is some repetitiveness as certain themes tend to recur every January or June.  That bothers me not at all.

Here are just some of my favourite bits.

Written in 1995, Cooper’s take on garden photography is so very different from today’s pocket cams and Instagram.

You WILL hear tales of my compost pile:

Mail order plants:

Yes!  I have such a strong memory of the first mail order plant box I ever received.  It must have been in 1990, from Herb Senft of Skyline Nursery.  His catalog was just a list of botanical names.  On the top of my order, wrapped in newspaper, was a blooming Pacific Coast iris.  I was so thrilled to get a bonus plant.  As for the newspapers, I enjoy my bulb order from Colorblends each fall, stuffed with newspaper from the Netherlands.


Puttering, also known as “something shiny syndrome”:

Narcissi (daffodils) are my favourite of all flowers:

I have read all of these authors except for Thalassa Cruso:

The joy of gardeners:

I found my day with Thomas Cooper a delight.  He does not seem to have written any other books, although he edited The Roots of My Obsession: Thirty Great Gardeners Reveal Why They Garden, which I acquired in 2014 at Timber Press during the Garden Bloggers Fling and still have not read.  I am moving it closer to the top of the pile.

The rain and the cat snoozing continued into the evening.


Sunday, 8 April 2018

The belated storm stayed offshore and did not create much fuss here.

Skip ahead to the third book for more about gardening!


I am probably the only one here who has a deep nostalgic love for Lenora Mattingly Weber’s Beany Malone series.  When writing up my 35 years of reading series, I was pleased to find out about this biography of her (partly an autobiography, as she did begin to write one before she died) written and self-published by her son.  I found it online for a price that I usually would not pay to own a book.

On using her friends or neighbors as characters in her stories:

She wrote a series of depression era short stories which were gathered into a (possibly children’s) book called Mr. Gold and Her Neighborhood House.  I cannot find a copy of that one online for less than $135.00

I would love to read all of Nonie’s diaries.

The beginning of the Beany Malone series (especially for Beany fans who might have wandered in here):



I wish I could find photos of the house and grounds that Nonie and her family lived in for awhile.  (Her husband, Al, was ill much of the time and so her writing supported the family, and this grand house proved to be too much for them in the long run.)

She felt that the house scoffed at the comparatively humble furnishings that the Webers moved into it.

I think I did find the duplex for which her son provided the address, the house that Nonie lived in while Al was so ill, and after he died, and which provided an open door for her grown children, extended family, and friends.  She rented one side of it to make ends meet.

Her adult life took place in Denver.  I love the name of her writing group, Nuts of the Round Table:

Nonie and her best friend:

Insight into short stories, with which Nonie mostly made her living before the Beany series:

I wish they would.


I used to go to library books sales in Seattle and I would buy a Weber book whenever I saw one.

Maybe it is embarrassing to tell you that I have read the entire series (14 books, plus another series in which Beany is a minor character) three times, and might read it all again before I die.

I did go outside between rain storms today, with the idea of just moving three plants that I had planted on Friday in not quite the right place.

the rain gauge since Saturday A.M.

I shifted two roses and a climbing aconitum and  planted one more plant:

Much to my surprise, I weeded a red wheelbarrow full of shotweed and creeping buttercup, only stopping when I lost my digging tool and then was driven from the search by more windy rain.

Tulips survived the storm.

Before starting the next book, I caught up on the Tootlepedal blog.  I had missed a couple of weeks during that time when we were working so hard on the Shelburne Hotel garden.  Do read this charming story of the opening ceremony for the rebuilt bridge behind their cottage.

A Full Life in a Small Place

I had time to read one more short book on Sunday, another re-read that I read and loved in the mid 1990s.

I feel very much this way about my compost:

On the compelling subject of age:



Below, the height refers to the the height of one’s lifetime achievements, and I adore her for admitting to her regrets (too similar to mine):

She let me know it is okay to be a homebody:


That is just a glimpse into this informative and transformative book.  It is easily ordered online.  Like Thomas C Cooper, she seems to have written only the one brilliant gardening book, although she does have a couple of others about nature.

During my reading weekend, Allan installed two vents for his shed, which has been becoming too humid inside:


The high vent. A low one is in front, both with heat controlled shutters.

Monday is supposed to be the ONLY nice day this coming week.  Definitely a work day.

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