A GENTLE PLEA FOR CHAOS: The Enchantment of Gardening by Mirabel Osler

A GENTLE PLEA FOR CHAOS: The Enchantment of Gardening

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A rhapsodic but utterly unsentimental appreciation of gardening's varied pleasures and torments. In recounting how she and husband Michael dealt with the grounds adjoining their Shropshire home, Osier makes clear her distaste for picture-perfect landscapes. Instead, the author champions a sort of antigardening. Her apparently artless approach is inviting in that it admits of constant error amidst the promise of wonders great and small. On the other hand, she cautions, counterculture demands (save in winter) full measures of devotion, plus copious amounts of blood, toil, tears, and sweat. In return for helping nature to take its often perverse course, Osler suggests, diligent and perceptive tillers of the soft can experience sensuous joys akin to those conveyed by Robert Herrick's ""Delight in Disorder."" Ostensibly, the loely organized discourse focuses on trees, walls, water, roses, and bulbs. Invariably, though, these nonbinding categories serve as launching pads for flights of fancy on subjects ranging from gardening's roots, its patron saint (Fiacre de Breuil, who also looks after Parisian cabdrivers), and the soul's tendency to shrink from regimentation through the rhythms imposed by seasonal cycles. Osler (who acquired the un-English habit of lolling about her garden during a seven-year sojourn in Thailand's searing climate) does not scant fauna--frogs, kingfishers, newts, et al.--in her rambling audit of flora's possibilities. Nor does she pretend that even intuitive gardening is anything other than work with an abundance of stoop labor and heavy lifting. Nonetheless, in Osler's book the game is well worth the candle as an act of faith in the future--and for the rewards it affords bearing witness to renewal. There's a jolting postscript that notes without comment that Osler's husband died in April after the manuscript was completed. In some fashion, then, the eye-opening and handsomely illustrated text (which should beguile both armchair and active horticulturists) serves as an enduring memorial to his contributions to the Oslers' garden of earthly delights.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Simon & Schuster