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Bennington, VT: A Community Gardener's Report on Garden Books

  • Subject: [cg] Bennington, VT: A Community Gardener's Report on Garden Books
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Thu, 20 May 2004 08:38:22 EDT

The BookMark
By Lani Stack - May, 19 2004

In search of the Green Thumb

I recently moved to an area in North Bennington, Vt., that has a community garden in the backyard. My previous apartments haven't had much, or any, land available for gardening attempts, so this is my first opportunity to bring out the green thumb that I know is lurking in me.
I'm starting out with a vegetable and herb garden - as my neighbor, Maurice Kahn, a former gardener for the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, has exquisite flowerbeds that I greatly appreciate, but with which I can't begin to compete. However, this doesn't stop me from gazing longingly at books on flower gardening, many of which, to my delight, are written by local author-gardeners.
An advance copy of Wayne Winterrowd's new book, "Annuals and Tender Plants for North American Gardens," landed on my desk at Northshire a few weeks ago, and, as winter melted into spring, I kept paging through the book looking for warm-weather inspiration.
Winterrowd and his partner Joe Eck designed and nurture North Hill Farm in Readsboro, Vt. Both have penned a cornucopia of books, from Eck's philosophical "Elements of Garden Design" to Winterrowd's "Roses: a Celebration," a lavish collection of essays from 33 well-known gardeners, to their month-by-month chronicle, "A Year at North Hill: Four Seasons in a Vermont Garden."
Michael Pollen, a Bennington College alumnus and author of the best-selling book, "The Botany of Desire" and of "Second Nature," a reflective gardening memoir, said of "Annuals and Tender Plants," "Everyone knows Wayne Winterrowd is one of America's most authoritative and imaginative garden writers â Between these covers you will find instruction and delight in equal measure."
My friend Tim Butterer of Readsboro, a gardening assistant at North Hill, predicted, "This is going to be a big book." He meant that it would probably attract a lot of attention, but, coming in at 576 pages, it's already a BIG book; "Annuals and Tender Plants" went on sale May 18.
My boyfriend's former North Bennington apartment was located on the border of Jamaica Kincaid's land. Last summer, we often sprawled on the hammock gazing at Kincaid's spectacular and renowned garden - and occasionally pushed through the brambles on the property line to visit a writer/poet friend who lived in Kincaid's studio at the edge of the magnificent garden.
Kincaid express her deep love for this same garden in "My Garden (Book)," a delightful and descriptive book-length essay and love story. She alternately muses on the practical and technical difficulties of gardening and the on the larger meanings of gardening for pleasure, if not sustenance. Kincaid asks herself why her weeping wisterias seem out of place on her stone terrace; why her Carpinus betulus Pendula looks so lonely amid poppies and "late-blooming monkshood" and why she likes Blue Lake green beans so much. She also nurtures philosophical questions about geography, heritage, marriage, motherhood, power, "how to make a house a home" and whether and for whom "to name is to possess."
My friend Linda Anderson lives near landscape designer Keith Davitt, in Cambridge, N.Y., and admires his stunning gardens. Davitt has written three gorgeous, instructive, landscaping books: "Small Spaces, Beautiful Gardens," "Beyond the Lawn: Unique Outdoor Spaces for Modern Living" and last year's "Water Features for Small Gardens: From Concept to Construction." All have color photos and step-by-step instructions for the garden designs he suggests. I figure I should probably have a few years of successful gardening plots under my belt before I delve into landscaping, but Davitt's alluring designs are fodder for the future.
Finally, Richmond, Mass., author, gardener and landscape designer Margaret Hensel's "English Cottage Gardening for American Gardeners" may also be beyond my abilities right now, but I love to pull it off the shelf and lose myself in Hensel's photographs of lush, riotously abundant English country gardens.
"The story of cottage gardening is the story of transformations," Hensel explained, "of weedy hillsides and junk-filled vacant lots turned into beautiful gardens. But, more important, it is about the spirit of gardening, about the delights, enthusiasms and triumphs of the imagination â Throughout 'English Cottage Gardening for American Gardeners' there is a delightful and intimate relationship between the photos and the text. Because I visited and often revisited each garden as I traveled throughout England, talking with the owners and creators of these gardens, my book is chockfull of personal stories and hands-on information about design and growing plants. It is both inspirational and practical."
"English Cottage Gardening for American Gardeners" has sold over 20,000 copies in the United States and in England. Now in its second edition, it features an index and updated sources for spring bulbs, cottage garden plants and roses.
Hensel will be a featured speaker at the Southern Vermont Home and Garden Expo at Riley Rink, in Manchester, on Saturday, May 30 at 10:30 a.m. "English Cottage Gardening" will be available at the Expo, and, along with all the other books mentioned, at bookstores everywhere.

When not weeding around her early lettuce, Lani Stack works in Northshire Bookstore's marketing office. Northshire sponsors The Book Mark every other week.

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