[** All photographs are courtesy of Grace Peterson and can be found on her gardening blog Gardening With Grace**]
I will admit beforehand that I am slightly biased towards the delightful author of this book. Grace Peterson and I have been garden blogging friends for a number of years, and as such, although we have never met face to face, it sometimes feels as if I am right there alongside her as she walks through her beautiful garden property! She uses the term 'diehard' to describe a specific type of gardener, but I'm tempted to say that she is well beyond 'diehard' and is more in tune with 'dieharder!'
I love memoir styled gardening books and consider Beth Chatto's 'The Woodland Garden,' and Des Kennedy's 'An Ecology of Enchantment,' to be two of my favourites. I now have a third favourite to add to the shelf of 'Favourites!' As the back cover will attest to, Grace Peterson is indeed a Master Gardener, garden columnist and an avid garden blogger. If you're reading this review, you will understand the term blogger! We are an ever increasing, multi talented bunch to say the very least! I have always been somewhat envious of the fact that Grace gardens in a comfortable Z7-8 region of North America, where some of us prefer the more frigid Z5 temperatures of Canada! [Somewhat envious only insomuch as I would never give up my near Arctic winters!] Grace was one of the first people to leave a comment on my blog during its infancy. I had no idea what I was doing, other than writing about and sharing with others what is my life - that being gardening. Over the course of the next four or so years we have remained in contact with one another via further 'comments' on our blogs, and via email. Grace is already a published author of the award winning memoir 'Reaching,' and when she alluded that she was working on a gardening memoir, I sat back patiently and waited. Another talent that I am jealous of is the fact that once she sets her mind to something, look out world, there is no stopping her! Grace in the Garden: Thirty Years of Blunders and Bliss is a delightful read. Divided into twenty nine chapters, we follow Grace from her humble beginnings as a child, when she and her siblings grew vegetables. Gardening flowered in her blood, thanks to her Grandparents whose property was adorned with a number of plants that would lay dormant in her memory, resurfacing years later when she discovered that an urgent piece of her individual identity included gardening! We lead about her first 'real' gardening experience, and how, as her growing family moved, so too did her gardening experience and knowledge. Sections titled 'Things that make me want to Scream,' 'The School of Hard Knocks,' and 'Aster Anarchy and Bachelor Button Bedlam,' bring a refreshing, realistic, and decidedly mischievous humour to a subject that for some of us can be terrifyingly daunting.
I was surprised and dumbfounded to find myself mentioned in this delightful book when Grace discusses her hope of creating a border made up exclusively of blue flowers. I had a vague picture of what her horticultural partner in crime Carol was like, but I laughed out loud at some of their nursery crawl antics - knowing full well that were the three of us ever to meet up...... lets just say that there would likely be an arrest or citation of some sort forthcoming! I have always been an advocate of the belief that gardening represents one of the most truthful forms of autobiography that exists today. I have read about her husband Steve and her loving family, about the family pets, the raccoons, the frogs and tadpoles that reside in the three ponds on her property all within the posts of her brilliant blog Gardening With Grace, so it was refreshing to be able to 'dig a bit deeper,' and discover where her passion first took root, and to better understand where her garden inspiration comes from. Hers is not a small property! The two photos above are but a tease of the horticultural bounty that Grace gets to call home. I spent hours 'trolling' her blog when I first discovered it, and find myself gravitating to some of her favourite plants, even though, as King of Zonal Denial, I know I do not stand a snowballs chance in hell of successfully cultivating a third of them. One in particular, Melianthus major, still haunts my nightmares to this day. Overall, a fantastic read. The plantsman in me reveled in the appendix outlining the vast number of plants that are mentioned, the nurseryman in me was snickering as Grace related to working within the industry, and as a friend, I was so thrilled and happy that yet another dream has become a reality for my friend Grace. Well done! *** Grace, you've done it again! Your second publication offers us a lighter, happier subject matter, one that anyone who is even remotely familiar with you can attest to being one of your true life passions, and all the luckier for those of us who have had the pleasure of meeting you. We simply must find a way of meeting in the here and now, and maybe even embarking on yet another nursery crawl with Carol and whomever else we can round up. Kind thanks again for the unexpected shout out! I am waiting ever so patiently to see how your Anemonopsis does for you. It will sweep the feet out from underneath you. Dare I ask what you have slated next on the agenda? Winter is Coming after all!