Archive for the ‘Anna Pavord’ Category

I think Bulb by Anna Pavord is my new favourite ‘picture’ book.  The photos in it are absolutely stunning, so much so that I’ve barely read any of the text yet.  I keep opening the book intending to read all about hyacinths or tulips or any of the other bulbs discussed but find myself flipping forward to the next sections, just reading bits and pieces as I go about whatever flowers catch my eye.  It’s is not an exhaustive guide (covering only 540 of Pavord’s favourite bulbs) but it offers a nice combination of the familiar and the obscure with lots of practical information about planting.  I’m finding the section on tulips particularly inspiring – I’m already keeping a list of which ones I want to get in the autumn!

I took a few photos of my favourite pages to share with you all.  If you click on the photo, you should be able to see a larger version of it.

Read Full Post »

Of all the gardening books I’ve read over the last few years, The Curious Gardener by Anna Pavord is by far the most practical.  I love the comedy of Čapek’s The Gardener’s Year and the romance of books that tell about the makings of a garden (like Merry Hall, Paths of Desire, and Elizabeth and Her German Garden) but none of those attempt to give any sort of guidance.  Oh yes, Nichols may rhapsodize on the virtues of various species of Berberis but does he tell you how to care for them?  No.  Those books seek to entertain and succeed in doing so.  But they will not tell me when to prune what or give deep consideration to the merits of various types of potatoes.  Pavord, in this excellent collection of articles from her newspaper column, does just that.

The articles are arranged into 12 sections, one for each month, and are wonderfully varied.  There are practical tips (including detailed notes at the end of each section as to garden tasks that should be done that month), garden-related opinions (‘I’ve never graduated to a holster for my secateurs.  Too Clint Eastwood.  My nerves couldn’t take the strain of trying to beat him to an imaginary draw every time I wanted to snap a twig.’) and wonderfully personal musings about how she came to love and what she continues to love about gardening.  In the introduction, she writes about growing up with garden-loving parents, an obsession she could not understand – until she moved into her first house:

It was at our first house and on the first patch of ground that we actually owned that I really discovered the point of gardening.  It wasn’t a Pauline conversion.  There was no sudden, blinding vision of beauty.  I didn’t see myself (still don’t) trolling through bowers of roses, straw hat just so, gathering blooms into a basket.  Nor had I any idea at first of the immense joy of growing food.  But I had at least begun to understand that gardening, if it is to be satisfying, requires some sense of permanency.  Roots matter.  The longer you stay put, the richer the rewards.

I also realised how completely I had missed the point as a child.  Gardening was not necessarily about an end result.  The doing was what mattered.  At this time too, I learned about gardening as therapy.  Banged up with small children all day for the first time, I thought I would go under.  When a confrontation seemed to be looming of a kind that had no solution (apart from giving away the children to the first person that passed by on the lane outside) I would race to the newly made vegetable patch and furiously hoe beans.  The children’s legs were shorter than mine and if I was lucky, I’d have at least a minute and a half on my own before they caught up with me and wanted to hoe too.  Later on, when they were five or six years old, gardening with the children became a pleasure.  But at this early stage – not.

I loved all these personal details and stories and could not get enough of them.  But I was equally eager to read the more technical articles as well.  With so much useful information about plant care and selection, this is a book I’d really like to own and be able to reference quickly.  And, though she admits it’s not a sexy topic, she could never write too much about soil for my tastes (though it sounds like I might be the only person who finds it an endlessly fascinating topic).

Having never read anything by Pavord before, part of the joy in reading this came from getting to know her and her tastes, which frequently (and happily) align with mine.  As is only suiting for a woman who literally wrote the book on tulips, she has much to say about my favourite flower.  I was incredibly impressed to discover that she planted more than two thousand tulips in her garden in preparation for her daughter’s spring wedding.  I can’t imagine a.) having that large a garden (being used to miniscule city spaces) and b.) how amazing it would look when they came up.  Extraordinary.  In a delightful article evaluating flower choices for Valentine’s day, it’s no wonder that she saves her enthusiasm for tulips:

TULIPS: As far as I am concerned, these are the best, indeed, the only flowers to send or receive on Valentine’s Day.  Wild, irrepressible, wayward, unpredictable, strange, subtle, generous, elegant, tulips are everything you would wish for in a lover.  Best of all are the crazy parrot tulips such as ‘Rococo’ with red and pink petals feathered and flamed in crinkly lime-green.  ‘When a young man presents a tulip to his mistress,’ wrote Sir John Chardin (Travels in Persia, 1686), ‘he gives her to understand by the general red colour of the flower, that he is on fire with her beauty, and by the black base, that his heart is burned to coal.’  That’s the way to do it.

A wonderfully entertaining and educational book that I must add to my collection (having read a library copy).  It’s also made me determined to read Pavord’s other books: The Tulip, Bulb, and The Naming of Names.

Read Full Post »