08 December 2007

Gardener's Library: Whiteside's Wisdom

Gardening is meant to be a pleasure, but sometimes, as with anything, we go overboard with it. We fall victim to the notion that we have to change our garden d├ęcor around the way vapid fashionistas change their wardrobes, and we set ourselves up for a lot of work, some of it backbreaking. Then we berate ourselves because the rest of our lives are busy and we don’t have all the time we want to work on those garden projects.

Enter Katherine Whiteside. In her recent book, The Way We Garden Now, Katherine takes us back to basics, and reminds us that gardening is meant to be "energizing, inspiring, edible and fun"— not stress-creating and body-aching. She lays out her mantra right from the opening preface.

"This is not your mom’s garden book. Nothing against your mom, but just as we have changed the way we arrange our homes, do our work, cook our meals, imagine our families, get our exercise and spend our spare time, we nesters have changed the way America gardens. The unattainable goal of ‘perfection’ is a relic of the past, and I am here to yell ‘Whoopee!’"

This gardener is yelling "whoopee!" right along with Whiteside. This is not a book of projects that must ALL be completed in order for you to have a paradise in your yard. Rather, as the cover suggests, these are pick-and-choose projects that you can do as you wish — or not at all. But as you read through each chapter, you’re going to find yourself tempted to try many of the projects for yourself.

Why? Because Whiteside is a smart writer and gardener.

At the beginning of each chapter, she answers the question, "What’s the Payoff?" After all, if we’re going to take on a project, whether it’s creating a gardening journal or building our first compost pile, it’s always a good idea to know why we’re launching into this. And Whiteside’s payoff reasons are smart; these are not projects to give ourselves more to do (or more to feel guilty about not doing), but practical, delightful and even fun to begin — and accomplish.

The Way We Garden Now is divided into five sections, each with a catchy title to encourage the reader. First we begin, of course, with the basics, including simplifying and organizing our tool collection (Don’t be a tool fool) and learning the essentials of bed building, fertility, and dealing with both nice garden visitors (birds) and those that are less welcome (weeds, bugs and deer). Next, we foray into the world of garden design. Don’t worry if you always figured garden design was only for professionals. Whiteside tells us "The One Big Design Secret" and presents us with a range of design projects that enhance a yard without overwhelming the gardener/labourer.

Of course, the best part of a garden is choosing the plants and here the author doesn’t disappoint either, giving some excellent suggestions for all kinds of ornamentals. For those who crave produce straight from their own gardens, there’s an entire section devoted to edibles, (including some delectable recipes using those home grown veggies). The final section is entitled "Keep on Going and Never Stop Growing", which is a celebration of the four seasons of gardening.

You didn’t think there were four seasons? Whatever do you call winter, if not the season of dream-gardening? I know that many of you are nodding, understanding that perfectly well; hopefully we're enticing others of you to think the same way about winter, as the snow blows around your dooryard and the wind whispers seductive songs down your chimney.


  1. Jodi,

    I just saw your comment and came to check out your feed. It is already short but if you would like to make even less of it scrapable here's what to do.

    Since you're already signed up and have a feed go to your "Settings" tab in Blogger. Click the "site feed" link. Make sure your feed url

    Is in the box next to "Post Feed Redirect URL." If it isn't just paste it there. If it is already there sign into FeedBurner and go to the "Optimize" tab. Scroll down and on the left-hand side click "Summary Burner." On the box on the right you can choose the length your feed will be and add a message to it. I've chosen 33 characters to show and have made a custom message about what my blog is about.

    And you're all set.

  2. Interesting. Loved the part you wrote about dream gardening. Sitting with a stack of new seed and plant catalogs in the cold winter is something I enjoy doing.

    By the way, I already have six for the new season.

  3. Another book to add to the ever-expanding reading list! Great review, Jodi :-)

  4. Great book report Jodi. This sounds like a good read. I am what I call a moody gardener. When I am in the mood I garden. I think my Mom would approve of the results but not the way I get there. She always said that she could tell my mood by the way the house looks. Well, I think this translates to the garden.

  5. Gardening and cats go together like coffee and pie.

    Good writing and good pictures don't hurt: like adding a little bourbon to the coffee.

  6. Thanks for the great review - I'll have to check this book out.

  7. "The one big design secret"? I'd get the book for just that!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  8. Sounds like an interesting winter read. I'm still not sure though how you can garden and not have body-aches. When you have to haul in dirt before you can plant and when you have to dig in hard clay, well...the body aches. But it is a good ache, with a feeling of accomplishment that to me can't be compared to any kind of indoor housework. It is energizing.

  9. Goodness, I'm always learning _something_ here! I just learned how to get my feedburner to work (thanks to MrBrownThumb)! I'll have to try that too.

    Jodi, there is a gardening feature on CBC tv coming up on Wed. that you may be interested in -- I posted the info today (plus a photo contest). Thought you'd be interested in both.

    Garden cheers,
    Diane, Sand to Glass

  10. I'm running WAYYY behind again, partly because of web issues, partly because of pre-Christmas deadlines. But I'm finally able to respond, if briefly.

    Mr. Brown Thumb! Thank you for all your help...not just to me, but to other bloggers unamused by feed scrapers.
    Sandy, what seed catalogues do you have?
    Glad you enjoyed, Colleen! Do you need more bookcases like I do?
    Lisa, that's a fun description. My garden usually looks a bit better than the house, except when Long Suffering Spouse does the housework--which he does regularly, bless him!
    Weeping Sore (interesting name!) Thanks for visiting. Can I add single malt rather than bourbon to the coffee?
    MMD, glad you enjoyed, and Carol too.
    Robin I have perpetual body aches due to fibromyalgia, arthritis and some other damn undiagnosed thing, so just sitting writing creates pain. But I'll keep gardening supposing I have to crawl.
    Diane, glad you also learned from MBT's helpful information. Thanks for the info ont he show, and I'll pass on the photo contest, as you can tell by the reply I left. I despise Harrowsmith magazine!


Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment! It might take me a bit, but I will return the compliment whenever possible.
Spammers--need not apply. Because I delete your comments and they will never make it here. Kthxbai!

Search Bloomingwriter

Custom Search