Thursday, May 19, 2011

There Be A Bad Tempered Gardener

so consider yourself warned. Can't say that I've found much, if any evidence of bad-temperedness when I read the book but o well, the title is a gentle snook cocking at the book The Well Tempered Garden by Christopher Lloyd. I'm of course talking about Anne Wareham's book The Bad Tempered Gardener, of which I was sent a review copy.
And although James Alexander Sinclair waxes lyrically about said book on the cover of it, claiming it to be "At once entertaining, opinionated and deliciously annoying" I found little evidence of the latter. Entertaining? Yes! Opinionated? Certainly, with bells on, but deliciously annoying? Not so much. Which in itself is quite annoying, deliciously or otherwise.

Anne's book was a great read, it is the kind of garden book I most like to read. It's engaging, down to earth, opinionated in spades, food for thought, highly personal and, for lack of a better word, mature. No talking down to the reader, free of often well meant but highly annoying how to's, and no green lies. You know the ones I mean: gardening is pure fun, it's never a struggle, if you use product X you'll never ever have weeds/pests in your garden and ooo err, look at our glossy garden magazine/book stuffed to the gills with perfect gardens. As I said the book is very down to earth ; warts, weeds and all. Such a relief.

The Bad Tempered Gardener is not so much a continuing story as a collection of essays on all things garden-y in general and on Veddw, Anne's garden, in particular. For Anne the garden is it, the gardening itself boring, annoying, household chore-y and hard graft. The designing of Veddw falls into the agonizing category. So why does she do it? It's the garden stoopid, for Anne, when we're talking gardens, the end justifies the means.

Most garden books are geared towards the novice gardener and thus not that good a read for the more experienced gardener as we really can do without all the explain-y and how-to stuff, thankyouverymuch! The Bad Tempered Gardener is a breath of fresh air in that respect and a jolly good read for both the experienced and the novice gardener.

My pet peeve about TBTG? The photographs by Charles Hawes. Not because they aren't any good, coz they are, very good indeed, but because there are Not Nearly Enough of them. As Veddw plays such a major role in the book you simply want to see more pictures of it, much, much more.

A great help in visualizing Veddw is the map draw by Elizabeth Buckley. I always get hopelessly confuddled when I read something like : and left of the great oak tree there's a meadow and slightly to the right of that is a pond and behind that you'll find .... Well, what I find without fail is that I'm hopelessly lost at that point so map handy, very handy!

After reading The Bad Tempered Gardener I feel I've gotten to know both the gardener and the garden quite well. If I was dropped smack in the middle of Veddw one fine day, I'd instantly know where I was and be able to find my way round it.

I don't often do book reviews on Bliss but as this was such a good read I thought I'd give it a go.

Here's a link to a radio interview Anne Wareham and sister garden writer Lia leendertz did earlier this week.  Have a listen!

copyright 2011 Y.E.W. Heuzen