The Story of a First Garden
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A novice beguilingly describes making her first garden, understanding that this project involves as much learning about life as about digging a flowerbed.

Stewart, raised and educated in Texas, moves with husband Scott to Santa Cruz, California, where they rent a bungalow opposite the local fairground and across from the boardwalk. Being within walking distance of the ocean and the beach more than compensates for the noise and lack of privacy in the summer, though on one occasion Stewart finds tourists sunbathing on her patio. The garden has been neglected and, with the exceptions of a lemon tree, an orange tree, and a wisteria, is mostly bare dirt. Stewart knows what she doesn’t want: something that looks like the lawn-covered suburban tracts she grew up with in Texas. Appending a collection of helpful tips to each chapter, she recalls beginning the garden on her first Saturday in the house, when she starts clearing the weeds and finds herself contending with the ubiquitous and obdurate oxalis. Soon she is a regular customer at the local nursery, where she splurges on plants and learns about the value of adding compost and raising red worms. When a houseguest is expected, she suddenly discovers the benefits of planting already blooming (but hitherto despised) annuals. Stewart writes about her two cats’ delight in sampling newly planted catmint; her vegetable garden, which eventually has to be corralled into more formal beds; the gratifying sensations of eating homegrown lettuce and tomatoes. She closes in October, as she puts the garden to bed for winter and observes migrating Monarch butterflies enjoying the last of her summer flowers. While gardening, she learns about her neighbors, about the town itself, and about the seasons that order a garden and a gardener’s life.

A rich feast of a book that celebrates the extraordinarily satisfying joys of making and keeping a garden.

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 2001
ISBN: 1-56512-240-2
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2000

Kirkus Interview
Amy Stewart
September 8, 2015

In her first novel Girl Waits With Gun, Amy Stewart, who’s well-known for her nonfiction, crafts a solid, absorbing novel based on real-life events—though they’re unusual enough to seem invented. Constance Kopp and her sisters, Norma and Fleurette, are driving into Paterson, New Jersey, on a summer day in 1914 when a motor car rams them, splintering their buggy and mildly injuring all three women and their horse. Drunken lout Henry Kaufman thinks that owning a local silk manufacturer entitles him to ignore Constance’s reasonable request that he pay for the damages, but he’s misjudged his opponent. As Constance’s first-person narrative unfolds, we see that she’s a bold woman unafraid to defy convention, determined to see justice done and to protect her family. “More adventures involving gutsy Constance, quietly determined Sheriff Heath, and a lively cast of supporting characters would be most welcome,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. View video >


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