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Osler’s plea is not so gentle; rather, it’s opinionated (though never dismissive), bell-clear, wickedly humorous, brilliant--a call for cultivated anarchy in the garden that turns an oxymoron into a sensuous, sensible act. “Why garden? God knows . . . Damn those fine mornings. It’s then that guilt seeps in like bad gas,” groans Osler, one of England’s best-known gardeners. Don’t buy it for a minute. Her love of gardening is obvious, even if “a great number of gardening jobs are pure slog.” And her garden, eclectically wanton as it is, enemy of everything regimented and overly neat, shot through with the native vitality of plants for atmosphere and mystery, brings her to her knees much of the time; untidiness requires work. She wouldn’t have it any other way. She likes a rude edge, to blur and enchant, the unruly “quality that adds an extra sensory dimension.” She loves hedges, walls, and paths--“the bones of a garden”--as long as they don’t rob the garden of its sensuality. Here she offers not so much advice as the experience of her Shropshire garden: trees for their summer crowns and bare winter branches, stone for its texture and floral affinities, water for its attractiveness to humans and kingfishers and newts, bulbs for their individuality and scope. She’s not tethered to flowers, but she loves them too (“who can go outside and kick a lily?”). Like her garden, Osler will not be confined, and she delights in moving off in many directions, to weather wars and the transporting quality of scent, botanical illustrations and the patron saints of gardening (Osler suggests a small figure of one in the garden “might be just as efficacious as a blast of Phostrogen”). Osler’s thinking is original, intuitive, and sharp as a tack; as a gardening writer she rightly sits up there with Henry Mitchell and Eleanor Perenyi.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-55970-439-X
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Arcade
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1998