DEAR MR. JEFFERSON by Laura Simon

DEAR MR. JEFFERSON

Letters from a Nantucket Gardener
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Like her garden, Simon's imaginary correspondence with the nation's most illustrious gardener is a beguiling mix of history, whimsy, and practicality. Writing and gardening on Nantucket since 1973, Simon, in the best tradition of the genre, is both agreeably forthright and curious--traits that serve her well as she shares her delight, her concerns, and her knowledge with a man whose gardens at Monticello still reflect his own curiosity and expansive visions of what could be cultivated in the new republic. Deferring to the seasons that define a gardener's year, Simon writes her first letter in late October and her last in mid-August. These times respectively mark the end of one gardening year and the point when the garden for that year ``is Done''--a vague but nonetheless recognizable moment that is ``simply a state of being that commences at a certain time in summer and continues until a killing frost.'' In the letters that precede this point, Simon introduces her varied household and describes both the current state of her garden and appropriate seasonal activities. In her first letter she describes drawing the map of her garden, which will be her guide for the next year's plantings. In others she discusses the merits of various plants and practices; comments on native plants and historic seeds, pondering what varieties Jefferson himself grew; opines on the best tomatoes for pasta sauce; and, as she evokes the exquisite indecision of making her annual catalog orders, reviews seed catalogs' history, which dates back to the early 1700s. Harvesting her garden's bounty, Simon observes how this moment connects to the past and to Jefferson himself, whose favorite ``Tennis Ball'' lettuce she is currently enjoying in salads. Literate evocations of a place and a passion that, like the best of the genre, are as much about living a richly fulfilling life as cultivating a garden. (line drawings)

Pub Date: March 4th, 1998
ISBN: 0-609-60097-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1997