IN A GREEN SHADE by Allen Lacy


Writings from Homeground
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Highly opinionated rambles through a variety of gardens, most of them his own, from horticulturalist and curmudgeon Lacy

(The American Gardener, 1988, etc.)

Gathered here are cuttings from Lacy’s quarterly letter (Homeground), 84 short pieces covering an array of topics and

grouped by season. Most of them are reports of gardening adventures and meditations on Lacy’s quarter-acre of southern New

Jersey turf—as snug and sensual and safe a little harbor as ever there was. He has a cottage garden and a woodland garden, and

both are arenas of engagement—intellectual, philosophical, ecological, moral—where Lacy thrashes toward some understanding

of beauty and life’s purpose as experienced through gardening. It is not enough for him to simply like a holly bush; he wants

to know its background, which leads him into geology and botanical history and how the plant got here from there. If he likes

a plant, he sings its praises with lucidity and restraint (for Lacy is buttoned-down and generally reticent), though on occasion his

coverage of some subspecies or other reads like a laundry list. If he dislikes a plant or a gardening notion, he gives it the blade,

but always with an authority that rings through as clear as a bell—as in his intelligent response to the all-or-nothing, native-versus-

exotic plant debate—even when he is in his most priggish mood: "By now, readers may possibly detect some slight snobbery on

my part. I confess it." And how. Yet he is not devoid of humor, as he demonstrates with considerable wit when poking fun at,

say, the errant pomposities of plant catalog prose (where Katherine White once found fascinating eccentrics, Lacy finds deceitful


Lacy’s garden, like his mind, is a fine mosaic of whimsy and understatement, and a provocation for readers to go forth and

cultivate. (line drawings throughout)

Pub Date: April 14th, 2000
ISBN: 0-618-00378-9
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2000