Garden Bloggers Book Club: Dear Friend and Gardener

blog-chatto.jpgI am nearly finished with the December/January selection for the Garden Bloggers Book Club. This was my first time to participate, and I was excited because I love good books. A good book about gardening is even better. However, about twenty pages into Dear Friend and Gardener, by Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd, I thought, I’ll never get through this. Being experts in their fields, Chatto and Lloyd mostly used Latin names for plants they discussed, instead of common names. For me, this was a hindrance to reading their letters. When I write articles or post on my blog, I use both Latin and common names, although I know that Latin is more specific.

Instead of putting the book back on the shelf, I decided this was an opportunity to learn. With my laptop in one hand, and the book in the other, I spent the first half of it looking up Latin names. Thanks to the internet, I now have more command of garden Latin. So that’s one reason to like this book.

These two dear friends shared letters between them for one calendar year, so we read about all four seasons in each of their gardens. Chatto owns The Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex, England. Lloyd was a very famous English garden writer known, among other things, for his use of bright colors in the landscape. He owned the estate Great Dixter, which is still open to the public.

I thought one of the best sections of the book was their discussion on having open gardens. Chatto’s as a demonstration model for her nursery, and Lloyd’s as one of the great English manor gardens. The other interesting thing I noticed about these two very good friends was that they were such different gardeners. Chatto preferred to garden organically, and she was very proud of her gravel garden where she did no additional watering. Lloyd on the other hand, did use some chemicals, and also supplemental watering. It was fun to read these two people bantering back and forth about their respective styles. And yet, like all great gardeners, they had tremendous respect for one another.

I became very interested in Lloyd’s style, as I also am fond of bright colors in the landscape. My neighborhood book store was having a sale, and I found his Color for Adventurous Gardens there. The color photographs in the book were wonderful to see, as they were many of the plants he and Chatto discussed in their letters.

I have a dear friend, Debbie Chester, with whom I’ve been corresponding for years. Although email cut into some of our letter writing, we still use snail mail. There is nothing like a letter, the feel of it in your hand, the stationery, quirky or beautiful and with gardeners, often seasonal. We’ve kept most of our letters. I have Debbie’s in several hat boxes. We joke about keeping them for posterity, for when we’re famous. Now, I realize they are more important than that. They are a history, and I’m grateful I’ve had such a friend. I’m sure Chatto feels the same way, especially now that Lloyd is gone. He passed away in 2006.

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14 comments on “Garden Bloggers Book Club: Dear Friend and Gardener

  1. Pingback: » Blog Archive » 2008: A Year in Posts: Part II

  2. Diana

    Thanks for the review. And for your honesty about the Latin — I just decided to read the book (I know, I’m behind, but I just learned about the book club) and now I will do so with the right mindset. Your comments about the letters you’ve shared with your friend are lovely. Your letters are priceless, and how nice that you know that now. I’m also a scrapbooker and treasure the journaling and memories that we create now to leave behind for generations to come.

    Hi Diana, thanks for commenting. I just decided to be honest about all of the Latin. I didn’t know the Latin name for Snowdrops. I don’t even grow Snowdrops, for goodness sake. Don’t worry about reading the book late. I know Carol doesn’t mind. We’ll just be excited to hear what you think about it. I love scrapbooking too.~~Dee

  3. Nicole

    Hi I just discovered your wonderful blog! I am VERY new to gardening (I’m planning on starting a small veggie garden this spring!!) I am in Tulsa and also Catholic! I’m so glad to have found your blog!!

    Nicole, thanks so much for stopping by. I can’t wait until spring, and I hope I can help you with your new garden adventures. Gardening soothes the soul.~~Dee

  4. Lisa at Greenbow

    Dee, you are better than I am. I just read right over the Latin unless I was realllly curious about what they were talking about.
    I like a lot of color in my garden too. I don’t want it all matchy matchy. You have to have some matchy stuff or it gets too confusing but I really like it when there is a riot of color going on.

    You wrote a good review too.

    Lisa, you are too kind. I don’t like matchy, matchy either, and out here, I need color to make some impact. I really had fun doing GBBC. I’ve already bought the next book.~~Dee

  5. Karla/Grace

    What a neat idea for a book club! I am not a gardener, but would love to be. A lady in our church is going to teach a gardening class this spring, at my request so I’m eager to learn some new things. I need to add your blog to my favorites because it’s not updating correctly in my Google Reader list and I’ve missed a bunch of posts! 🙁 Oh well, it gives me a good excuse to spend more time here this morning. 🙂

  6. entangled

    You were very diligent in reading! Some of the unfamiliar names sailed past me, but I was surprised that I was familiar with many of the plants they mentioned. I always imagine anything that grows well in England won’t grow for me, with our summer heat and humidity.

    I too enjoyed the back-and-forth on the topics of pesticides, irrigation, and more. It wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting had they agreed on everything.

    I pretty much assume that most of the plants they discussed wouldn’t grow here because of the heat and humidity. It was fun to get a sense of their friendship. Thanks for coming by, and I’m glad we’re all in the book club. Everyone has a different take on the book.~~Dee

  7. CurtissAnn

    You encourage me to write notes and letters more. I do love it– the feel and look of paper and pen. yes, it is history. And oh, to read letters in a book! Captivating, like looking through windows at night.

    Hugs,
    CurtissAnn

    Dear, you are such a writer. ” . . . like looking through windows at night.” I love it! You and I are such good friends, and we write little notes too. Thanks for being my friend.~~Dee

  8. Deb

    Dee,

    There is a Garden Bloggers Book Club. I have died and gone to heaven. Thanks for coming by my site. I just saw the comments earliers. If you make it back over, check out the greenhouse monkey on the monkey label.

    Yes, dear and any garden blogger can join. They even let me in. Stop by Carol’s site and read the newest book. I’ll try to stop by later today.~~Dee

  9. grannyfiddler

    i just came across you @ the illustrated garden and wandered over… mostly because i’m currently the musical director for the play, Oklahoma! that a nearby amateur theatre is doing. and i’m so glad i did! and, coincidentally, i’m gluten and lactose intolerant too!

    Why thank you for coming over. I hope you’ll come again soon. One of the greatest gifts of the internet is the ability to meet up with like minded people, including those with the same health issues.~~Dee

  10. dlyn

    I have this book on my wish list, so I am glad to read your review of it. I know a lot of the latin names from jobs I’ve had at nurseries, but I still like the common names. It is interesting to me how much they change regionally though. As always, your blog is a delight!

    Thank you for the compliment. I’m trying hard to learn the Latin names because, as you wrote, common names are different throughout the country.~~Dee

  11. jodi

    Very nicely done, Dee. You know, *I* felt like I’d lost a personal friend when Christo Lloyd died…a brilliant, pithy, sometimes curmudgeonly but always entertaining writer and garden sage. Your review is wonderfully personable and informative.

    If you like Colour For Adventurous Gardeners, check out his latest/last, Exotic Planting for Adventurous Gardeners. It was finished by others, including Dan Hinkley, Anna Pavord, and other garden writing greats–I just got it a couple of weeks ago and LOVE it!

    Jodi, thank you so much. Being an Anglophile, I really enjoyed the book. We, Yanks love the accent. And, I like the way Brits and Canadians spell colour. Whenever I see it on your blog, I smile. I went on a garden book buying binge last week. I’ll post about it soon.~~Dee

  12. kate

    Sometimes I find too many Latin names can be distracting, especially if I don’t know what they are. Exchanging correspondence with a good friend has to be one of the great pleasures in life, especially of the hand-written variety.

    Kate, it was slow going at first, but I learned some Latin. Thank you for stopping by and for commenting. It makes my day when people comment.~~Dee

  13. Carol

    Dee… I’m very happy you joined us for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club. I agree, in some gardening books, it is easy to get lost or bored with the botanical names, but if we can get through them, then often we find much to learn and enjoy about the book. Treasure your friend’s letters, as that is rarer and rarer these days to have correspondence like that!

    Watch for the club post on the 31st.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

    Carol, you come up with some fun ideas that make all of us think. I love that. Keep dreaming.~~Dee

  14. Ann V. @ Holy Experience

    Enjoyed reading about your gardens–thank you for creating this peaceful place on the web. Followed you from Rocks in my Dryer… about travel anxiety too, but going anyways. Not wanting to live an unlived life. That resonated with me. Thank you. I agree: God doesn’t want that.
    Blessings on you and your garden….

    All’s grace,
    Ann

    Oh my goodness, Ann, what a blog you have. It is a peaceful respite on the internet, and I got chills from G.K. Chesterton’s quote. I didn’t see anywhere to comment, so I’m doing it here. Thanks for stopping by and for the compliment.~~Dee