First, bear with me while I indulge in a bit of history.
When I began to garden, I was nineteen years old, married and living outside Del City, Oklahoma (near Tinker Air Force Base) in a mobile home. At the local Wal-Mart, I bought three rosebushes, their bare roots encased in plastic (ugh). Because I didn’t know any better, I planted R. ‘Tiffany’, R. ‘Double Delight’ and the grandiflora ‘Queen Elizabeth’ in a straight row in a bed next to the sidewalk, surrounded them with other plants, watered and waited. In spite of my lack of rose know-how, they flourished, and I loved them.
I was also in college at Oklahoma University studying to be the next Great American Writer, and since I had 200 pages of a novel due my senior year, gardening was probably the furthest thing from my mind. However, shopping one day, I saw Barbara Damrosch’s Theme Gardens, and I was entranced because she wove a bit of fantasy in with her information. I could see myself in a gossamer gown hanging out in the rose garden, or the butterfly garden, and I bought the book although I had almost no money or space to implement her plans.
After graduation, we moved to a small house. In the front border were three peonies, two of which were probably the classic, ‘Karl Rosenfield’; the other was white. I increased the size of the border and added several roses. The economy slumped, so I put off being a novelist and worked first as a legal secretary and later, when I earned another degree, as a legal assistant. I then had more time to garden, and I began dabbling in vegetables. I still didn’t know much, but I read a lot and had enough success to keep trying.
Although unhappy in that house which was not a home, when I moved alone to an apartment, I still mourned the garden I left behind. So, on my apartment balcony, I grew everything I could in containers, which was quite a lot. I also read and learned more.
Then, when I was twenty-six, I met HH again, and he swept me off my feet to my dream home, a log cabin overlooking a small spring fed pond/lake. When spring came, the garden urge rose like sap within me, and he tilled a vegetable garden in the place where the new potager is. It was my first garden on our acreage, and after I amended the sandy soil with composted cottonseed hulls, manure and other good things, I had a beautiful vegetable garden. Twenty-one years later, we have come full circle.
What made me so reflective was a book I’m reading. I’m sent a lot of garden books for review, and I read them all. Many are good, but rarely does one call to me from the shelves. Garden Anywhere, by Alys Fowler practically leapt off the shelf at me. Part of the appeal was the cover. It looked all earthy, productive and beautiful. It sang of dirt and good things to eat; plus Alys (who I wish I knew, but she lives in England, so I can’t just pop over) is so cute, you just want to follow her spade in hand.
The tagline is “How to Grow Gorgeous Container Gardens, Herb Gardens, Kitchen Garden, and More–Without Spending a Fortune.”
This is a smart book. With that tagline, she is making gardening sound possible, and she is talking thrift. This will engage young people. When I started, I had no money, but the idea of growing my own food was appealing. Now, I am more comfortable, but I love the way vegetables, picked fresh from the garden, taste so I’m still growing much of my food. By the way, I ate my first red chard and bok choy today in a stir fry with a couple of green onions, tofu and chicken. Tender and crisp, bursting with flavor, why doesn’t everyone grow a little something? Because, they are afraid of failing.
I’d recommend Garden Anywhere to anyone who is starting out, or who wants to re-purpose things and save money. Alys won me over with her intro which she calls The Slow Lane. As she described her life and career path, I found myself nodding along. I’ve been in the slow lane ever since I decided to stay home with the Diva and ASW fourteen years ago. Alys was once a presenter on British TV’s Gardeners’ World.
Pardon me a moment while I again complain about the lack of garden programing in the U.S. I’ve resorted to watching Martha reruns on the Hallmark channel and videos of Ruth Stout on YouTube. Nuff said.
The book is structured much like those of the You Grow Girl franchise. The subjects are short and to the point with beautiful photos that make you want to go dig in the dirt. I find these look much like blogs, and Alys has done some blog writing for Gardener’s World. One of the things I find most appealing about the book is Alys working in many of the photos. She isn’t just standing pretty holding a plant or walking through a perfect English meadow. No, she’s got her Wellies on and is down in the dirt, planting, dividing, designing and pruning. In short, she is a gardener. She has the horticultural pedigree too, but I am more impressed by her willingness to do the work.
The point of the book is to just get on with it. Which is what reminded me of my own story. Everywhere I’ve been from my mother’s house, where I grew houseplants in macrame holders (it was the 70s after all) to my present home where I’ve created an English country garden with Oklahoma plants, I’ve always gardened.
Always. Forever. Amen.
This book should give anyone who wants to garden, but doesn’t know how to do it where they’re at, the impetus to get in there and as Nike says, “Just do it.”
According to an article on Alys Fowler, she has a new BBC series which started on April 7, starring her backyard. There is also a companion book. I wish we could see it, but alas, no. Come on BBC America, show us something other than Dr. Who.
In the meantime, here’s a video of her having tea and pulling weeds in the allotment. You don’t get more British than that.
Thanks for putting the link to Alys’ show! I’ve been trying to watch her new BBC show but it is sadly “not available in your area”.
.-= Willi´s last blog ..Vegetable Trellis Round Up =-.
Willi, don’t you just hate those words, “Not available in your area?”~~Dee
Carol, May Dreams Gardens says
Loved the review of your gardening history, and of this book. Great video, too. I love her line in the video “that’s it, job done”. So much of what we do in gardening is pretty simple stuff, but people just don’t realize it. It seems all so mysterious to them, so we need good books like this one to show them the way, to show them, “that’s it, job done”.
.-= Carol, May Dreams Gardens´s last blog ..Free The Clematis? Free The Clematis! =-.
Linda Lehmusvirta says
I love this story! Reminds me of my life, first garden beds (in a straight row, with plants from the goofy nurseries/box stores), and hoping to produce classic drama on PBS! And write the Great American novel.
Indeed, you can garden anywhere, as I know from our first apartment balcony, rental duplex, and now on clay soil where weather goes against us a lot of the time.
But hey, Central Texas Gardener isn’t that fancy or anything, but you can watch online anytime for some inspiration that’s more or less close to home! http://www.klru.org/ctg Not as fancy as Maupassant for PBS but life brings us interesting spins.
.-= Linda Lehmusvirta´s last blog ..Out of control garden, multitask plants, herb tips, oak pollen on steroids =-.
Linda, I love Central Texas Gardener and often watch it online. I should talk about it more on the blog. It’s a refreshing change from the landscaping shows.~~Dee
A great review, Dee, but most of all I enjoyed immensely reading about your own gardening history. I, too, once wanted to write the “great American novel”:) That never went very far, so I think I have a better chance of having a beautiful garden one day. Though I got a late start on ornamentals, I’ve been growing vegetables for years; they do taste better than anything from the grocery store, not to mention being healthier. I’ll come back when I have more time to watch the whole video…too bad we don’t have anything like this on our channels anymore. Every hour there are dozens of various reality TV shows; you’d think we could have a reality gardening show!
.-= Rose´s last blog ..May Day Garden Musing =-.
Hey! I used to make those macrame plant hangers back in the 70’s. great artcile. I tried to post once but I think it got lost in space. I hope its not a duplicate
.-= Tammy´s last blog ..Dealing With Fibromyalgia =-.
Gloria Bonde says
I enjoyed your story. Great rose that Zephrine Droulin -I love that it is thornless.Gardening is so a part of us. I never want to leave the garden in spring or summer. I tell my husband that the scent of the garden in the morning feels like vacation. Winter, please take me somewhere.
.-= Gloria Bonde´s last blog ..Spring in the Hills – Pictures =-.
Gloria, I completely understand. With kids, we sometimes travel during summer vacation, and I miss the garden terribly. However, I always try to see other gardens while on my trip. Makes it easier and gives me something to write home about. I love ZD too. Did you also know ‘Basye’s Blueberry’ is thornless? He’s a charmer too.~~Dee
How wonderful to hear the tale of your gardening history, Dee! It was mesmerizing, and knowing you, I could picture you and your row of roses. I did the same thing, Tiffany and Double Delight were included in my first attempts as well. Who could resist their charms? Ms. Fowler is cute as a button. She has a monthly column on veggie growing in Gardens Illustrated, the British mag that is simply astounding, if pricey. I am with you on the BBC America showing us some of those millions of gardening shows. Enough Fawlty Towers! HA And HGTV, you should be ashamed to use that G.
.-= Frances´s last blog ..April Drive By Ootsing =-.
Frances, isn’t that funny we both chose two of the same plants as our first leap into gardening. Those cultivars must have been very popular at that time. I just noticed that column is written by Fowler. Yes, HGTV is the pits.~~Dee
Dana Nichols says
Thank you again for a glimpse into the art of gardening and the path that lead you to this place. Love this you tube video!
Dana, thank you for taking the time to read it.~~Dee
Cindy, MCOK says
Dee, your life’s path may have twisted and turned but you found and created beauty all along the way … for that, I salute you!
Thanks Cindy. It’s a full life for sure.~~Dee
well i for one want more of alys…she is inspiring sitting on her allotment drinking tea and eating straight from the garden. what could be better than that? i am going over to amazon.com and order her book asap.
after reading how you got started, i am wondering three things…are you still at the same dream house(log cabin)? who is HH? and did you ever go back to writing?
thanks for coming to visit my blog about life on our farm with gardening, animals, and changing our way of living.
happy april gardening.
Hi Marmee, HH is my husband and stands for Handsome Hubby. I did go back to writing. I wrote two novels, but they didn’t sell. About six or seven years ago, I started writing articles. Then, I decided after being mentored by my good friend, Debra Prinzing, to write more about gardening which is my true passion. I now write and speak on gardening regularly, and I’m so glad. As to the log cabin, yes we and our kids, dogs, cats and chickens all still live here. I am blessed. Thank you for asking.~~Dee
Dee- what a wonderful story of your gardening history – with book recommendations. Who could ask for more. I got a very slow start in the garden beginning when we bought our first house. I was 24 and had four (soon to be 5) children. I had fantasies and I planted annuals and plants I was given for a bank ‘rock’ garden. I didn’t progress much beyond that stage for nearly 20 years, but the passion just kept building. Now I’m in heaven with veggies and flowers, lawns and bowers.
.-= commonweeder´s last blog ..Trees – Glorious Trees – Arbor Day =-.
CW, what a beautiful story your garden story is. I was afraid mine was very self-serving, but I wanted to explain how I don’t have a green thumb.~~Dee
Kelly Bundy says
Dee, your story of how you began to love growing things was so interesting. My earliest memory of trying to grow things is in my early teens and it involved starting an avocado tree with the seed, toothpicks and a jar of water. haha I have actually grown a few spindly trees in my past. Of course, they never got over a foot tall, but still…
Enjoyed the video of Alys Fowler. Thanks for sharing that and the info about her book.
Have a great weekend!
.-= Kelly Bundy´s last blog ..What’s happenin’ on the Bunderosa =-.
Oh Kelly, that brings back memories. I did the avocado seed too. What were we going to do with those trees in a cold state I wonder? Alys Fowler is now my young hero.~~Dee
Er, I’ve still got a plant hanging from a macrame hanger in my living room window; do I have to put on the gardener’s dunce cap? And speaking of being out of it, I’ve never had cable and only just got a converter box hooked up to my TV, so I wasn’t really in a position to check out my impression that the Brits had access to lots more gardening shows than we do. It’s nice to hear that I was right, though there’d be definite advantages to being wrong: good gardening shows, for instance.
Thanks for this delightful post, Dee.
No, darlin’ Kate, you don’t. I actually love macrame.~~Dee
Hmm, looks like a great book. And I enjoyed the video (yes, tea with gardening, how civilized!). You reminded me of my first starts at gardening – building a raised bed on my apartment balcony (what was I thinking? there was a roof over it!), lots of house plants, moving our compost pile from our rent house to our first home, etc… It was all fun.
.-= Jean´s last blog ..Catching Up with Spring =-.
Hi Jean, yes, it was all fun, and we’re still having a wonderful time.~~Dee
Pam's English Garden says
Dee, Thank you so much for sharing your story with us … I love your wonderful gardening history. As a senior, I am so happy when I hear of young people who are passionate about gardening. I intend to read Alys’s book. You made it sound delightful as well as informative. Love the video. Pam x
.-= Pam’s English Garden´s last blog ..What a Difference a Zone (or Two) Makes =-.
Thank you Pam.~~Dee
Lisa at Greenbow says
What a delightful read this would be. I would hear her voice as I read her book. Reading about your first attempts at gardening got me to thinking…. Oh those were the days.
They were my friend.~~Dee
This sounds like a good book.
I agree about the lack of garden programs. There used to be a few on HGTV…but, now it’s all quick make-overs. You don’t learn much from those.
Thank goodness for garden bloggers. And, thanks for the review.
.-= Linda/patchwork´s last blog ..Making Some Progress…Update #2 =-.
Yes, Linda, those programs were all in reruns. There is a new program on some PBS stations, Growing a Greener World, and I wish our local programing carried it. Apparently, one of the PBS affiliates in Oklahoma will, but not OETA, although I’ve written them. For those who live in Oklahoma, please ask for this program. Thanks.~~Dee
Delightful post, Dee. Loved your story and how it blended into the lovely book. You have a gift and are blessed!
.-= joey´s last blog ..‘BREAD FEEDS THE BODY … FLOWERS FEED ALSO THE SOUL’ ~ BERGENIA (FRESH TOMATO & BASIL BRUSCHETTA) =-.
Thanks Joey, and thanks for the gluten free bruschetta link.~~Dee
Helen at Toronto Gardens says
P.S. Gayla would probably chuckle at the idea of You Grow Girl as a franchise.
.-= Helen at Toronto Gardens´s last blog ..What makes a garden great? =-.
Yeah, she probably would, but that’s what I always think of when I see her books, website and blog. Surely one person couldn’t do all that?~~Dee
Helen at Toronto Gardens says
Dee, That was an entertaining visit with you, and makes me want to track down Alys’s book, too. BTW, I agree wholeheartedly about the dearth of good garden programming in North America. Same up here in Canada.
Yeah, Helen, what’s up with that?~~Dee
Gardener on Sherlock Street says
When I left the farm to go to college, I took along a houseplant. I got more houseplants in my first tiny apartment after graduation. The first house my wonderful husband and I rented had a huge yard with a garden space that just needed retilled (yea). Our next two rentals didn’t, so I used containers. When we bought our house, I immediately started planning a garden. You can garden anywhere. Sounds like a great book. I will need to check it out!
.-= Gardener on Sherlock Street´s last blog ..Getting Bushier =-.
GOS, thanks for telling me your story. It sounds so similar to mine.~~Dee
nola at alamo north says
How I well remember macrame hangers! Don’t tell anyone, but I think I still have one or two in the garage. You are right, the first step is to “just do it”. As far as being thrifty, that’s easy enough if you have friends who garden. I’ve never had a gardener friend I didn’t share plants with; can’t get any thriftier than that.
.-= nola at alamo north´s last blog ..Frozen Friday =-.
Yes, gardeners who share are a great blessing.~~Dee