All photos in this post are from the book
This book is about creating a new garden after selling and leaving a previous garden--a famed and admired previous garden. The basic content is the same as the Dan Hinkley book reviewed a few weeks ago. The differences are the gardener's life experiences, profession, and of course the garden's climate. Northeast vs. Northwest. East Coast Educated vs. Midwest Farm Kid. One generation difference. Writer/Garden designer vs. Nurseryman/Plant explorer.
Some books are interesting in themselves, others for comparison with similar books, or for reasons outside of the book. I struggled a bit, but only a bit, to get through the book, as the climate and plants and Dickey's experiences are so very different from my own. They are very East Coast. I found in comparing this book with Hinkley's Farm Boy Goes West story, Hinkley's held my interest more than Dickey's book, though Dickey is the more polished and professional writer.
Above, Duck Hill (apparently now one big lawn)
Dickey's previous garden, "Duck Hill", was famed and loved as a garden tour highlight, while Hinkley's was famed and loved as a rare plant garden accompanying a plant nursery. Since the Internet allows for a search of the name and real estate sites, I did some looking, curious as to what happend to Dickey's previous garden and home. Her 1830's farmhouse was completely remodeled by a subsequent owner into a "modern farmhouse", and the garden appears to have been almost completely removed and replaced with a vast lawn. This is the fate of all but a very few gardens. Dickey, wisely, does not look back.
The book, like Hinkley's, begins with an introduction about leaving a garden and looking for and finding a new one, and is then followed by a description of each garden area and its development. A garden map, as was provided in the Hinkley book, would have been helpful. Each chapter contains lyrical descriptions of each area, with whys and wherefores about what is planted where.
Such descriptions are not without value, even when the plants described are plants the reader can never grow, in an amount of space the gardener will never have. Passages well written accompanied by photos well crafted create the effect of walking along with the gardener in her garden as she describes the process of creating what is there, the problems, the joys of various plants, along with the ghosts of what grew there before. What gardener doesn't enjoy visits to other gardens? It occasionally will bring to the surface garden knowledge stewing in the unconscious mind: here, a reminder that Dahlias are "stiff". Yes, they are. Stiff. Stiff until, when their flowers are at their grandest and most glorious, they decide it is time to flop. Admittedly, they flop stiffly, like Frankenstein being pitchforked. But I digress.
not a real gardener's garden book unless the author takes the
opportunity to complain about rabbits. This occurs on Page 84-85, so
that box is ticked.
The chapters on the areas of the property left natural were the most interesting--invasive non-natives to control, the history of what was there before--rock removal, farming, pasturing, a return to nature's ways. The current popular trend that we as gardeners must think of the native birds and insects in our area and do what we can to offset habitat loss is discussed and agreed with, though not extensively--poetically, rather.
Reading about northeastern woodland reminded this semi-arid-climate-gardener that plentiful year round rain brings its own issues: rampant growth of invading plants and weeds, because rain. Drought, as it turns out, has its advantages.
The photos are lovely but much less plentiful than in the Hinkley book. The prose is professional, polished, and elegant (yes, East Coast). None of Hinkley's quirky logophilia, or his idiosyncrasies.
I'm glad to have read "Uprooted", though for reasons other than the bulk of the content. For any gardener who had the chance to visit Duck Hill in its glory days, or who has seventeen acres of the Northeast to live on, it would be more interesting. I meditated instead on the cultural differences between Dickey's generation, genteel East Coast culture of education, literacy, child of parents with inherited money, and professional designer/authorship vs. Hinkley's Midwesterner Goes West. Which actually was enlightening.
My discomfort with an East Coast point of view dates to being a beginning gardener naively reading
garden books that were written by and for East Coast gardens. Which, when I started, most of them were. The plants did not work. The advice was baffling. Frost heave? "Drought" defined as three weeks without rain? Three weeks? Here six months is not drought, it is normal. What about that?
It occurred to me that my discomfort, unfamiliarity, and unease with "East Coast" is not unlike one thread in the mind of those who supported the losing candidate in our recent Presidential election.
I can, for a moment, glimpse something of the point of view of the losing candidate's supporters, and think, yes, I get some of that. When, for example, you are a Texas cattleman checking fences you need a gun to fend off the wild hogs so they don't kill you and eat you. Yes, I get that.
I feel it myself if not in politics then in matters gardening--"East Coast Elite" is alien for me, too. It does not fit my experience or region. If only the Texas cattleman would acknowledge that a homeless New Yorker suffering from paranoid schizophrenia does not need a gun.
If only such an essentially surmountable thing was the sole thing dividing us. Tragically it is not.
Note: I bought this book. It was not a freebie.