31 January 2013

Kiss My Aster, a book review

 When I heard about Amanda Thomsen's new book coming out, I was very excited. After all, Amanda is a horticultural whizkid, who makes gardening look easy while also having fun and helping gardeners have even more fun. Whether you follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or her website, you know what I mean. She describes herself as being 'bad to the phloem', which is a delightful play on words and gives you some sense of what's coming.

As per her websites and various personae, Amanda's new book is called Kiss My Aster. Originally, the promo materials called it an Interactive Guide, but my own copy says 'A graphic Guide'. Anyway, this is a book for all levels of gardeners, from the very beginning purple-thumbed to the hardcore type like me, who has lots of experience but also knows there is always something more to learn. In this, Amanda delivers in spadefuls.

Gardening can be complicated, especially if you're starting from scratch in a new yard in a subdivision that may frown on dandelions or clotheslines or veggies in the front yard. Don't know what zone you're in? Don't know how to plant a tree or a shrub? Have no idea where to start in creating your perfect yard? Don't panic! Amanda demystifies everything from planning a garden bed to understanding soil acidity to what to plant in a sunny site. She does it with humour, charm, no small number of puns and commentary, and yet is no-nonsense in her opinions. 
In this information-laden age, we all think we have to be experts on everything we do, cranking out perfect children, living in exquisitely designed and decorated homes with perfectly well behaved plants in our yards. Well, if that's your vision but you don't have 25 hour days, or if you still aren't sure about how to start a garden from scratch, it's okay, and more than okay, to ask for and hire help. Amanda explains the difference between professional gardeners and landscape coaches (the latter knows their stuff but doesn't do installations, for example), and gives you various options to follow. That's where you get interactive: if you select A, you flip to X page and follow the advice and ideas there; if you select B, you go to another page of solutions and ideas. The main thing is, to encourage you to bloom where you're planted, however you want to (sort of fits in with my screed in the previous post, though for obvious reasons, I refuse to colour the gnome in her book.)
We are flooded with new books every year, and not everyone can buy or read or act on the advice in every book out there. But if you want my opinion, if you're starting out and you have no idea what to do with your garden, this is the garden book for you. If you want more help, you can contact me to come do a garden consult, but Amanda's book is less expensive and permanent--and almost as good as having your own coach right in your own living room. Highly recommended!


  1. Did you say there was a gnome you can colour? I certainly couldn't pass that up ;-) Sounds like a useful and fun book.

  2. Love the title of her book. She must be tickled pink with your wonderful review.

  3. Hi Jodi; the title of the page you showed "Plant it like you mean it", put me in mind of my husband planting potatoes last summer. They got planted like he meant it, mounded over and with Mark Cullen's "good oomph" to boot. With our heavy clay soil, maybe a quarter were able to get up through the ensuing brick. Sure, I knew what he was doing, but I do what I do, and he does what he does!

    Looks like a good book to add to any gardening collection, too! - Chris W.


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