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The Story of a First Garden

by Amy Stewart

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 2001
ISBN: 1-56512-240-2
Publisher: Algonquin

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.