Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Book Review: Bringing a Garden to Life

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Looking for a holiday gift for the gardener in your life?  This just might be it!  In our November View, Pat McGivern reviewed Bringing a Garden to Life, by Carol Williams.  The book sounds so intriguing that I wanted to share the review with you!


A book review by Pat McGivern


Bringing a Garden to Life, by Carol Williams

Illustrations by Newton Stubbing

(Bantam Books 1998)

Carol Williams is a gardener who writes from her knowledge and experience to create a simple and encouraging guide to making a garden and sustaining it as it grows and changes.  Publishers Weekly, in choosing this as a Book of the Year, described her as “having the soul of a poet” who “conveys her enthusiasm to readers in apparently effortless, graceful prose.”  Michael Pollen (author of Second Nature) described this book as “consisting in equal parts of instruction and delight….that rarest of modern gardening books:  one that manages to combine the philosophical and practical sides of gardening with grace and wisdom.”

The author eloquently sets forth the basic processes of gardening, from Making a Place (chapter 1) and Preparing the Ground (chapter 2), to further chapters on Composting, Beginning from Seed, Transplanting and Propagating, Weeding, Pruning, Flowers, Vegetables, Herbs, Trees, and Tools and Time.  Each chapter begins with quotations or poetry, and is laced with practical wisdom and lovely drawings or sketches from nature. The author’s focus is not to only find joy in a finished garden, but to enjoy the work at hand and your presence in nature.  She quotes Shakespeare in support:  “Things won are done, joy’s soul lies in the doing.”  For instance, in writing about weeding, the author states, ” I have found there is another kind of beauty, and some mystery, in the garden that gets away, goes a little wild, allows entry to the unexpected.”  Later giving her practical suggestions, she will stress, “Whatever one’s goal of weededness, the real secret of weeding is to enjoy it.”

I would recommend this book to both experienced gardeners and novices for positive and upbeat winter reading that contains plenty of gardening advice, plus the author’s philosophy that we garden not to escape from reality but to observe it closely, and to renew ourselves in experiencing the connectedness of creation.



See you in the gardens.


Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

November 30, 2011 at 1:05 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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