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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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An Omitted Author.

Flower Gardens, Penelope Hobhouse, Frances Lincoln

A reader contacted me a short while ago because she noticed that I had omitted an internationally renowned author from my list of recommended books on gardening. That list appears to the right of this page. While the omission was not an oversight, it was, at first, difficult to write a response because the reader, a garden blogger in her own right, is someone I respect immensely.  At first I had difficulty replying spontaneously because I did not want to offend her. In time, I was able to collect my thoughts and deliver them in, what I hoped was, a polite manner.

The omitted author is Penelope Hobhouse. By coincidence, one of her books, Flower Gardens, is the first I ever purchased when I began gardening. It was the initial inspiration for planning and planting an English style garden. However, there were shortcomings to the book that I was unable to articulate until a few years later when I purchased a similar book by Tony Lord, Best Borders. Then, by comparing the two, I understood what made Mr. Lord’s book better than Ms. Hobhouse’s.

Flower Gardens is a beautifully written ode to gardening. The author takes us on a journey not only through her favorite gardens but also through the garden ideas in her mind. Reading her work is like walking beside her, collecting pearls of wisdom along the way. Sadly, some of us do not have the time or inclination to stop and savor all that Ms Hobhouse offers us.

The generous amount of information that she shares with us is so all encompassing that it is overwhelming. There is too much to read and too much detail to absorb. Nevertheless, this is an exceedingly well-written, lavishly illustrated, and impressive-to-give-or-receive publication. Unfortunately, it is not as useful to practical gardeners as are other books.

Mr. Lord’s book, on the other hand, is leaner and more focused; the text is more accessible, and the photographs of flower beds, some identical to those that appear in Flower Gardens, are more effective, by comparison, to those taken by Ms. Hobhouse’s photographer, Andrew Lawson.

Changing lifestyles and new technologies have transformed some of us into impatient readers. Few have the time to curl up with a book. We merely consult them to learn how-to-do things. As for the information we seek, some of us expect it to be distilled to its essentials; then to be delivered efficiently and effectively. Above all, we demand superb photographs and idiot-proof illustrations that instruct and inspire the reader rather than decorate the book's pages.

In making the selection of recommended garden publications, I have chosen those books that deliver information instantaneously. I seek out practical, quick-to-find, methodically organized, and easy-to-follow advice, because like many others, I am a time-deficient gardener.


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Reader Comments (1)

Well Mr. Becker, I bet you've never been accused of beating around the bush or garnered such comments as, "You're not telling me what you REALLY think." I read your previous post with interest. Your daughters have been extremely lucky to have a father who takes such an interest in their education. Kudos to you.

I understand what you're saying about many blog authors' writings being sub-par. I sense you're somewhat of a purest and attracted to well-written prose. Admirable.

As a kid, I felt immensely intimidated by the plethora of red scribblings from my teachers. It scared me. I felt like a failure. Not until I reached eye-level with such discriminating authority figures did I have the confidence to give writing a go once more. Further, with the advent of the computer and its well-oiled backspace button, [which I rely upon far more heavily than the pseudo grammar check.] my confidence has risen a bit. Ironically this has helped me develop what I hope is a healthy tolerance for those who don't possess the same convictions or gifts that I have. In other words I'm learning to interpret the heart of the writer rather than the mechanics.

I've enjoyed both Ms. Hobhouse and Mr. Lord's writings. More interesting to me, however was watching a video series featuring Ms. H interviewing garden owners as they observed various plantings. Her British is so entertaining. I don't remember the name of the video series as it was from the library several years ago.

And finally, thank you for your unfettered comments on the subject of my blog's appearance. They are duly noted. My desire from day one has been to create a blog that reflects who I am, foibles and all. I'm quirky, my garden is quirky, my blog is quirky. I'm a pseudo-tekkie, pseudo-graphic designer in addition to being a seasoned gardener and wannabe writer. That said, nothing is cast in stone. I may opt for a different layout tomorrow, a total makeover next week. For now I'm happy with my rendition of quirky and amazingly, some people seem to like it. The response has far exceeded my paltry expectations. My disclaimer, in my sidebar, is as salient as I could make it. If you're looking for serious gardening how-tos, you've come to the wrong place.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

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