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The Backyard Parables – Book Giveaway

by Rebecca Sweet

The Backyard Parables revised coverFor those of you who read my blog, you’re probably aware that I’m very photo-driven.  I can’t get seem to get enough beautiful garden photographs and have to use restraint when writing a new post.  I love taking them, I love looking at them, and they’re often the only way I know best how to communicate (or at least reiterate) what I’m thinking and trying to say.  That being said, I rarely read a garden book that doesn’t have its own hefty dose of photos.  So when I received an early copy of Margaret Roach’s The Backyard Parables, cracked it open and realized there wasn’t a single photo in the entire book (except for the gorgeous cover, that is) you can imagine how I felt.

Now, flash forward to a few weeks later.  Here I am, proudly confessing that I’ve never felt more honored to be asked to review a book.  It’s as if  Margaret was able to climb into my head and heart to magically pull together my random thoughts and feelings  about my own garden (some of which I didn’t even know were there).  And on top of that, she taught me lessons about gardening.  I guess that’s what she means when she says “If I’ve ever produced something that embodies my mantra of ‘horticultural how-to and woo-woo – a blend of philosophical and practical, or spiritual and scientific – then this is it.”

Yes indeed, Margaret, this is it!NewBar

DSC_0347_MARGARET FIELDFor those of you who may not be familiar with Margaret Roach, she was the first garden editor for Martha Stewart Living magazine and the editorial director of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia for many years.  Impressive, right?  She came, she conquered and then left it all for a 2-acre garden in a upstate New York.  Her blog, A Way To Garden, is hands-down one of my favorites and one that I would highly recommend any gardener visit.

This book is a magical blend of 25 years of garden experiences mixed with equal parts memoir, philosophy and practical gardening advice.  It’s divided into 4 chapters representing the 4 seasons, with titles of the elements indicating the overall theme of each (water, earth, fire and wind).  To say her style of writing is powerful is an understatement.

Here’s one example of where the ‘parable‘ part of the book’s title comes in to play and why it’s touched me so. The first chapter is titled Water (representing winter) and the timing couldn’t have been more appropriate.   I began reading this book in early January, while freezing to death in Lake Tahoe (our family home for the past 47 years).   I’ve written many times before about my love of Lake Tahoe, the home that my grandfather built, the garden my grandmother tended and now the garden reinvented by my mother.  In a way, this home and garden is not only where I began (quite literally) but also where my love of gardening began as well.

However, over the past few years I’ve become aware of how much I truly dislike the winter up here.  Okay, dislike isn’t the right word -hate is more like it.NewBar

Icicles trying their best to break into our kitchenOur front garden absolutely smotheredBelieve me, I’ve struggled with this emotion.  How I could possibly  hate something that I love so much?  Its only until recently that I’ve accepted (though with a bit of guilt) the way I feel about the oppressive amounts of snow everywhere, trying to crush everything I love here under its deceptively light weight.

Throughout my entire life I’ve grown up seeing my family worry with each heavy snowfall, fearing our deck will collapse under its weight.  I’ve grown up seeing my family scramble over and over again to make sure the water is turned off before an unexpected early freeze, shrubs are securely tied (in hopes of protecting them against the weight of the snow), bulbs lifted and stored, etc.  I’ve grown up seeing the disappointment each spring as the snow finally melts away only to reveal the obliterated shrubs, now broken and deformed (thanks to the city’s careless snow-plower who has once again refused to heed the tall orange stakes along the property line indicating where to not direct his machine’s violent, spewing snow).  It’s easy to become discouraged when gardening in this harsh climate.NewBarapple and snow rotator

After reading The Backyard Parables, Margaret has managed to remind me of something that I lost along the way, of those wintery moments that are truly magical and like none other.  Margaret is a woman who not only endures her own oppressive winters, but actually embraces them for what they are – a reflection of the ebb and flow of life and a reminder to practice the fine art of patience.  It is somehow comforting for me to read about her own personal winter challenges (not only on the garden but on the gardener, as well) and how she’s turned these often harsh and frustrating months into something positive and wonderful, a time to be cherished.

“None of us can have his or her or its way, at least not now; we must simply try to lay low, each in our own manner, until it’s over…We wait, all of us – though some more quietly and uncomplainingly than others…Winter, in particular, takes a taming of one’s passion and extended patience.

I, for one, have never been accused of having too much patience which is probably one more reason I dislike waiting out winter’s tight grip.  But in her wise words she reminds us the importance of having faith (and patience) that things will once again resume:

“Just as I think I can bear no more, it lets go – literally.  It was a noisy end: Ice that had gripped like mad to everything finally shattered – as if some frequency of sound had been reached and it all just blew apart, millions of giant glass beads or chandelier crystals suddently exploding into the air, glinting a moment in the sunlight that had been their undoing before they crashed…There is hope, and the proof is in all of it.

Lest I give you the impression that this book is melancholy and purely introspective, let me reassure you that it isn’t.  On the contrary, Margaret’s style of writing is both introspective and humorous at the same time – not an easy thing to do!   But the book also contains hefty doses of  ’horticultural how-to‘ liberally sprinkled throughout.  Margaret shares very specific gardening advice, such as: how to store a year’s worth of green herbs, how to use math to calculate how many (and what type of) seeds to buy each year, how to mulch, animal-proof flower bulbs or how to ripen a tomato.

In a nutshell, this book is a perfect blend of contemplation, reflection, humor, inspiration and practicality.

As I mentioned before, I’m honored to have been invited to review this book.  Which makes me even happier to offer a copy for you, as well!

Here’s how to win your own copy: Just leave a comment below, telling me a little something about your own garden (what you’ve learned, what it means to you, any tips you might have, etc.)  I’ll pick a random winner by midnight, January 31st.   Oh, and please remember that I won’t be able to respond to your comments as it’ll mess up the random number generator used to pick the winners, (but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy reading what you all write, because I most certainly do!)

……………………………………………….

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher to review. All expressed opinions, however, are absolutely and without a doubt, my own.  Trust me, I receive books to review all the time and only a few actually inspire me enough to write about them.

* This giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only, who are over the age of 18 years old.  This sweepstake is void where prohibited by law (not exactly sure where this might be, but I’d sure hate to live there).  By entering this giveaway, you are agreeing to these conditions.

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UPDATE:  Congratulations Sara – you’re the lucky winner!  Please email me with your address and Grand Central Publishing will send you a copy of The Backyard Parables.  I hope this book brings you you much happiness!

I also want to thank everyone for their comments.  I received a record number of them and many were so touching and meaningful.  It’s really lovely to hear from you all!  

 

{ 73 comments }

T January 31, 2013 at 9:24 am

What a great review of Margaret’s book, Rebecca. I had read one of her teaser excerpts on her blog not too long ago, and this sounds like another necessary book for our home :) Recently, we’ve had to learn that life situations suddenly change your approach to gardening, and with better planning, the future could be less intimidating. Time will only tell, but right now, a garden tended to by two will have to have the same amount of work done by one… at least for several months while Lynne recovers from major surgery this winter. It will be a learning experience, one that we will share together. Thanks for the chance to win Margaret’s latest musings. ~ @SolakNC/Tom

Evelyn Hadden January 30, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Sounds like an amazing book. I was able to visit Margaret Roach’s garden during an open day last year, and I fell in love with her frogs. Gardens are like people in their varied quirks and their ability to support, comfort, and teach us; Rebecca, you are fortunate indeed to have such a lengthy relationship with one.

Lydia Plunk January 30, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Everything important in life I’ve learned in my garden. There I spend hours on bended knee, in prayer that whatever is out there with me won’t bite):-

Gaye January 30, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Dream, plant, grow, harvest, reflect … the garden’s cycles are the same as mine. Now if I could only be as gracious with ‘change’.

Your blog is beautiful, Rebecca. Thank you or sharing!

Sara January 30, 2013 at 11:10 am

I’ve been working on my 2 acre garden for close to 21 wonderful years. My husband and I have put so much of our hearts and souls into this property. I’ve learned so much about myself and life while planting, weeding, planning, and admiring. I’ve come to believe that gardens are a reflection of the gardener.

I’m delighted to have found your blog and will plan to visit again.

Glenda January 30, 2013 at 10:08 am

Gardening has given me deeper understanding of the Scripture: “To everything there is a season”

Gracia January 28, 2013 at 5:14 pm

My garden teaches me that life is full of surprises and hope springs eternal.

Louise January 28, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Biggest lesson I’ve learned about gardening has directly translated to life: There will be some mistakes. When I bought this house and tired garden 15 years ago, I studied and slowly, carefully picked the “perfect” plants for the sun/soil conditions in all the nooks and crannies of the garden…and around 80% worked, while 20% just didn’t take in the spots where planted. I learned that I cannot do things perfectly right in the garden; I need to make educated guesses and truly enjoy the process of spending time with the plants and garden settings, and not worry too much about the mistakes that result. Any day spent in the garden now is a good day for me.

KathyG January 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Oh gosh. I think I’ve learned everything important about life from my garden. Along with music. Probably the most comforting thing I’ve learned is that there is always next year. No matter how well I plan, no matter how the weather cooperates (or doesn’t), something unexpectedly fails and something else unexpectedly does well. Our winters are quite varied, and only a couple of years have we had so much snow all at once that we thought a) the backyard would fill up and/or b) the roof would collapse. What changed my resentment, impatience & general dislike of winter was learning astrology. For one thing, I am a summer baby (Leo) and for most of my life (before astrology) I hated winter. I used to think of February as the armpit month of the year, and thought it would best be removed from the calendar altogether. Once I realized February was my solar opposition time, and that one’s life force tends to be at ebb at this time, I stopped ‘pushing against it’. Then I began to integrate astro-wisdom with my gardening experience — for us here (Oregon high desert) February is the first hint of springlike weather, and although ‘winter weather’ and ‘spring weather’ are pretty much interchangeable until, many years, June, I began to appreciate the lengthening days, the aerial courtship rituals of ravens, and the time to do lots more garden planning (and accomplish my procrastinative seed orders) before the real frenzy time strikes in April and May.
I am really looking forward to reading Margaret’s book (I hope I win it!), and I am also excited to have found your blog!

Amy January 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm

I have learned that keeping a garden going all year (as in, if you want to harvest off of it all year) has quite the learning curve! I’m still struggling to learn how to succession plant, keep plants happy, keep new plants growing and still squeeze in between the plants to make sure the soil is getting what it needs.
They say that growing is easy, that you just step back and let mother nature do the work….I respectfully disagree mother nature certainly makes some magic – seed sprouting, plant maturation is a damn miracle if you ask me, but there’s alot of human sweat equity in there too. What a fulfilling quest though. Far more challanging and meaningful to me than most of the things I’ve done in my “day job”.

Autumn January 28, 2013 at 11:48 am

I’ve learned that asters and joe pye-weed will grow wherever they darn well want to! and that I don’t mind that!

Edith Ellis January 28, 2013 at 11:03 am

You can see my gardens on my website, http://www.sunnysidegardens.com. I aspire to create a great garden. Many say I have, but the garden is never finished, there is always room for one more plant and an improved design. I love visitors!

Andrea January 28, 2013 at 10:43 am

My garden teaches me patience (a difficult lesson) and that every day is a another chance for renewal.

Mel January 27, 2013 at 2:30 pm

My garden has taught me that just when I think I know something for sure, something changes and I am brought back to the only constant: change. Love Margaret; she’s definitely my gardening hero. Would love a copy of this book! So please to have found your blog; the photographs are (literally!) breathtaking. I’ll be back and back. I garden because I can. I garden because I always have. I garden for what I can create. I garden to be outside. I garden to meet my neighbors. i horto, et ergo sum.

maggiewann January 27, 2013 at 1:00 pm

It’s been evolving over 25 years or so, a lot of hard work and many enjoyable hours have been exchanged.

Jeannie Hanson January 27, 2013 at 11:54 am

What I’ve learned is that things don’t have to be perfect to be pleasurable. I’d like a picture-book garden and yearn for it. That doesn’t change. However, there’s so much beauty in the moment if you’re there to experience it.

Brandy January 27, 2013 at 11:22 am

I am still learning to balance my backyard garden with an active dog and two active boys under 5. Always learning!

Benjamin Vogt January 27, 2013 at 11:18 am

I’ve actually written a collection of lyrical essays about my 1500′ prairie garden: http://deepmiddle.blogspot.com/p/sleep-creep-leap.html My garden is 80% native plants, pics here: http://deepmiddle.blogspot.com/2011/12/garden.html

Barbara January 27, 2013 at 11:05 am

I’ve learned that nature abhors a void …..

Jan Evancho January 27, 2013 at 10:54 am

I just brought up a plate of jolly, ripe, red cherry tomatoes from my basement–the last of the lot of green ones I stashed down there to ripen last fall. I’m smiling and proud as I realize it’s the end of January and I’m eating red tomatoes grown in my own garden! What a miracle!

Susan Levin January 27, 2013 at 9:50 am

I have been working on a glorious garden in Devon, PA, a suburb of Philly and can hardly bear to leave it. But my husband is retiring and we bought a place in Beaufort, SC which I have been spending a few weeks each spring and fall building raised beds and starting kumquat and pomegranate trees and transplanting my beloved blackberry and raspberry bushes (thornless!!) I can hardly wait to be able to garden year round!! It will be heaven. The only sad part is knowing I will have to replace a few northern favorites (poppies, peonies and lilacs) with equally wonderful new specimens. But I’m ready for the new frontier!!

Tina Knezevic January 27, 2013 at 9:36 am

What I learned about my garden is when I add new flowers, vegetables and decorations every year makes me very happy. I love how my garden transformed from barren yard to a beautiful Shangri-La paradise.

Sharon January 27, 2013 at 6:33 am

The fact that a tiny seed grows into a plant, a shrub, a tree has and always be mind-blowing to me. Participating, monitoring,assisting and appreciating this process is a gift for which I will be eternally grateful.

Irena January 26, 2013 at 11:01 pm

What a beautiful introduction to the book. Can’t wait to read!

My garden is actually a two feet wide strip along the walls of my townhouse that is part of a big condominium. Because the condo wasn’t really taking a good care of the lawn, I dug into it, just around the house so that nobody complains about a loss of unified look. Under the surface – it’s all broken bricks, rusted nails, leftover cups and utensils of construction workers and so on. Digging in was very challenging and still is, but now I not only have a mini garden, but even a composter! Unfortunately, the new board president removed it in fall, but now he, too, is gone, and in spring the composter goes back out. There are unique challenges to an urban gardener, but perseverance helps. It helps me stay calm no matter what challenges life brings on.

Nora G. January 26, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Bought our first house 2 years ago, being married for over 41 years, raising 3 kids, and now working on 6 grandkids. Lady that owned our house has flowers planted all around. Seems like when one kind of flower starts fading out another bunch starts blooming. Now here it is almost the end of January and green shoots are coming up. I know one set is crocuses, not sure what the other is that is coming up in a different area. One thing for sure, all the flowers are beautiful no matter what time of the year they come up! I need to get a plan, make a map of the yard and learn the names of these flowers and maybe add more. I appreciate your website and can’t wait to read more of what you have written. You were a great discover for me tonight! Keep up the good work!

Gretchen January 26, 2013 at 8:44 pm

My garden has taught me that weeding can calm a restless mind, that a little craziness and chaos in color can be quite beautiful, and that clearing new garden sites with large rototillers should be done by teenage sons, not their mothers!

Donna G January 26, 2013 at 7:07 pm

I’m getting–getting to that time of life when I first think of adding shrubs. Thankfully, my garden is not SO large that I don’t feel like I can take care of it all. I’ll be keeping my roses, lilies, and all the other assorted lovelies, at least for some years, yet (I hope). The dry winters and springs are a worry, and will probably change my way of gardening first.

Kathy Brenner January 26, 2013 at 5:32 pm

I’ve learned to test and then repeat.

josette January 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm

I garden organically for 37 years at this location…raised beds….make and sift compost smell the earth, am in awe of how one tomato seed can produce 8 pounds of cherry tomatoes ….my tip: be patient, feed the soil and it will in turn feed your soul.

Debra Stenberg January 26, 2013 at 8:48 am

Winter has taught me to love the beauty of the sleeping gardens. I love the twisted branches of the lilac bushes, decorated with lichens, and the deeply furrowed bark of the ancient ornamental plum. The details of the rockeries emerge and the brickwork glistens from the rain.

Vickie January 26, 2013 at 6:24 am

If the Latin name of a plant ends in “japonica”, beware. It will probably be more invasive than you want it to be.

nfmgirl January 26, 2013 at 6:16 am

I inherited an extremely overgrown and weedy garden when I purchased my home in 2008 (it had been abandoned for awhile and was being maintained by the bank). Since then, never having had a garden before, I’ve been too intimidated by the jungle to take control of it. So last year I finally hired my cousin to come in and start the clean-up process, and now it is finally coming together. I’m working on it every weekend to keep gaining ground, and now I have my first beans and peas started (I live in South Florida, so we are ending our cool season and have mostly been in the 80s this winter), and finally got the grapevine I’ve been wanting since I bought this place. And I have a passion flower vine that is blooming like crazy, and smells like grape juice! I hope to build my first raised garden bed in the next month or so. We’ll see if I can get the hang of this gardening thing!

country mouse January 25, 2013 at 10:57 pm

I’ve learned to accept the noise of nearby highway 17, as well as the song of the thrasher. I’ve learned that I can support seeds to grow into plants. I’ve learned that I love working with stone and that I suck at designing gardens. I’ve learned that some weeds spring back year after year no matter hard I try to get them all before they set seed or nutlets. I’ve learned that the weeds also feed the wildlife and it’s sometimes better not to disturb things. I’ve learned that I love gardening.

Elaine January 25, 2013 at 9:16 pm

I’ve learned that nature isn’t perfect and it’s okay to have spots or just to be different!
Thanks for the great review!
Elaine

Maria January 25, 2013 at 4:23 pm

I’ve learned that things in the garden don’t always go as planned.

BooksInGarden January 25, 2013 at 2:31 pm

I garden in S. CA but I grew up in England. I loved my childhood gardens on loam. I have come to love gardening in the disintegrated granite of my present home. We have no true winter but it is a different season – a great one in which to be out and gardening. I can grow pomegranates, lemons, oranges. There are fantastics succulents, Yucca whipplei, Agave Victoriae-Reginae, Amaryllis belladonna, Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora, Aeonium Sunburst. Roses that do well with no fertilizer or watering: Rosa Califoria, Rosa minutifolia, Cecille Brunner, Lady Banksia. The salvias are endless: canariensis, clevelandii, spathacea, waverley, guaranitica, chamaedryoides are just a few. Ceanothus and Abutilon palmeri do beautifully. Primroses for here are: tall Oenothera biennis and ground cover Calylophus serrulatus. Grow where you are planted, work with your environment and reap success, peace, happiness.

Angela Hunter Geiss January 25, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Working on my garden plan for the winter. Mulching beds and perusing seed catalogs…Winter a time for everything and everything in it’s time…

michele January 25, 2013 at 10:53 am

Though I live in NC, we do get some cold icy weather, like today, and all I can do is bake bread and dream about spring!

Claudia January 25, 2013 at 10:46 am

This looks like the kind of book that would be a wonderful read this winter, while I await what ever Mother Nature sends our way this upcoming growing season…

Diane January 25, 2013 at 7:58 am

Dear Rebecca: What a wonderful description of the SNOW in Tahoe; I leave this am for my cabin at Donner Summit and several hours of shovelling out the driveway. But when it is beautiful up in the Sierras in winter it is a photographer’s dream. In your blog you described how much you love garden photos; I am equally smitten or shall I say addicted so Margaret’s book would be quite a challenge, especially since she takes incredible photos as well.
Thank you for the recommendation and the give away.

LaVern January 25, 2013 at 7:44 am

We have a 113 acre farm in MO. We are converting everything back to native plants and need lots of patience for that endevear. We both would love the opportunity to read Margaret’s book.

Diana/SharingNaturesGarden January 25, 2013 at 7:03 am

What a fascinating book that sounds like. I believe the garden is a great teacher — not only about gardening and nature, but about ourselves and how we live our lives. The most important lesson I’ve learned from my garden? I am NOT in charge. That’s such an important lesson for me, a serious type-A control freak on every level. Yes, I still butt my head against the garden wall to try to control things sometimes, but it has also taught me to just BE.

Caroline Rose January 25, 2013 at 6:16 am

I lose all sense of time & simple be.

andrea January 25, 2013 at 2:33 am

I love my succulent garden that I made as a necessity for my well being. The plants were lovingly chosen and planted. Someone I know gave me 3 bobcat loads of topsoil from a condo project and I designed the raised “bed” and outlined it with large, round river rocks. So nice here in Ocean Beach, CA. I have agaves, aloes, hen and chicks, small jade, pancake plant, lots of small succulents to fill empty spaces. A large tall aloe and other tall succulents too. All of this is supplemented with appropriate chotzkies. It truly is a labor of love. I just wish I had mad it bigger than 8 feet. I have learned that everywhere I live and then I have to move, to leave a place a lot better than when I found it. This garden is a gift to me for me and then when I go, a gift to others. It is pretty much a non labor garden so who ever will not have much to do. Thank you for reading and all of your inspiration to me thru your blog. Best, andrea, a gardner.

Veronica January 24, 2013 at 11:17 pm

I too may prefer winter garden-dreaming to the real thing. I spend more time reading garden blogs and books than gardening. I haven’t had a lot of luck but I can’t quite quit; there’s always something I have to try to bloom in my yard.

Melinda Louise January 24, 2013 at 10:29 pm

First of all, I love your “disclaimer;” got a chuckle! Enjoyed your article; the description of winter struck me in particular. I live in Phoenix, Arizona, and we feel that way about summer here . . . “Will it ever end!” Learning how to grow plants — more with an eye/ear to whether they’ll be able to endure the unending summers, and then occasional freezes. When I moved here in ’94 every plant I brought with me from Southern California died within a short time (I moved here in August!). Once I became and Master Gardener (now Docent at the Desert Botanical Gardens) and learned about the amazing beauty of the Sonoran Desert, I learned much more about how to grow a desert garden. Looking forward to reading “Backyard Parables” . . . I’m on the hold list through my local Library; they’ve got three copies on order! Can’t wait! Thanks so much for telling me about this book.

Susan January 24, 2013 at 8:23 pm

My garden is teaching me patience and that I cannot control it. I have to listen to it and then work with it. Even in winter!

Deborah B January 24, 2013 at 7:05 pm

My husband and I moved to our current rural home in upstate NY from a house in an old industrial town outside Philadelphia. My previous yard was considerably less than an 1/8 of an acre; we now live on 210 acres, mostly wooded. I have a big perennial garden around the house, and shrub borders expanding out into the fields, and entertain fantasies of primula beds spread through the woods and unusual trees and shrubs at every turn. In reality the rocky soil makes planting difficult, and then anything not fenced in or caged is likely to get eaten by hungry deer and rabbits. But this place and my garden means everything to me. I love living in a rural place. I work in the garden while listening to the red-winged black birds calling from the spruce trees. I can weed in my pajamas if I like, with no one to notice. On the other hand, when the Jacob Cline bee balm is at its peak of blazing color in front of the barn, I have to make a phone call or two to find someone to come admire it. No one will be strolling past on a sidewalk and stop to talk about the garden.

Linden January 24, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Having inherited a veritable botanic garden when we purchased this upstate NY property almost 9 years ago, I have learned an enormous amount about patience in gardening, about rolling with the punches and simply working with whatever survives and whatever doesn’t (when the weather doesn’t cooperate). We have survived ice storms, heavy snow, two microbursts that took out major trees, someone crashing their car into our front yard and destroying multiple plants, bushes, and trees…. You name it, we’ve seen it, and yet every year the garden comes back. Bruised sometimes, lacking some plants that did not make it sometimes… But there to be loved, learned from, learned with, and to provide its glorious sense of quiet beauty. I do not mourn what I lose in the winters, I celebrate what I still have, and plan again for further creations.

Alice January 24, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I learned quite a bit about soil quality and how different elements effect the growth and production of different veggies and plants. Although I learned the hard way, it was great to get out there and practice and learn by doing… especially in a new country where I had never gardened before and where there wasn’t much information about the soil quality…

Barb January 24, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Don’t take any plant offers when your friend says “it’s easy to grow.”

theotherlibrarian January 24, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I love to garden, to plan the garden, and yet, the plans are set aside for those plants that are on the sale rack at the garden store, those seeds which were too odd to pass up, the seedlings which were so healthy that they took up more space than the spindly runts, the little oddities that bred themselves out of the compost pile…never a dull moment.

Meridith January 24, 2013 at 11:45 am

Terrific post! My garden is a perpetual journey. After years of growing only useful plants, I slipped in a few annuals this year and found it gave me more joy than I expected, even though they couldn’t last. I’ll be doing the same this year, giving up my anti-annual stance for a pop of brilliant color. It’s worth it!

Crystal S January 24, 2013 at 11:21 am

I’ve learned to have more love, patience, and humor :)

Elizabeth Brunner January 24, 2013 at 10:57 am

My garden showcases flowers in the front yard and an edible landscape in the backyard. I believe that soil quality has primary importance. Thanks for your blog and this giveaway.

Lizzie January 24, 2013 at 10:48 am

My garden is currently under about two feet of snow, so I am *totally* feeling you on the oppressive, cold, never-ending Winter. And I too, just recently, had a sort of crisis-of-faith when I thought about how I can hate what turns out to be a big chunk of the year, but still LOVE it here, so so much, with my little 100+ year old house, and our amazing yard and garden that we have cultivated and created over the years. I feel trapped by the scary icy sidewalks, and this snow that just stays. However, under that snow, and a layer of leaf mulch, are sleeping over a hundred garlic cloves, biding their time, and preparing to push up their tiny green shoots as one of the first signs of Spring. This thought alone helps get me through the days when the Winter blues (or should that be whites? :p) threaten to crush me.

Jo Pomeroy January 24, 2013 at 10:30 am

As a transplant from Pennsylvania to northern California, I feel fortunate. Even as I grow weary of dormancy and mildly cold winter, I see the daffodil shoots coming up and the topmost part of my magnolia starting to share its lovely pink blossoms. In January.

Jennifer January 24, 2013 at 10:12 am

My garden may not look like my dreams, but it is the only place where I can completely lose track of time when I am out there puttering, weeding or pruning.

Brenda January 24, 2013 at 10:06 am

I love the seasons…of life & of the garden as they give me time to reflect, imagine, learn & grow. During the winter months (which are mild compared with yours!), I sketch my upcoming year’s beds…what worked left out …or tried again along with something new & embracing those lovelies that have come through the seasons. This year, Rosemary is looking wonderful and ready to be used any day! love the energy and life I feel from my gardens…and photos of others’ gardens as well~ thank you!

Lisa mitchell January 24, 2013 at 9:46 am

When I bought my home my entire garden was covered in concrete…literally. I had been owned by a very eccentric man who used it as a storage yard for auto parts. I had always dreamed of having a garden of my own and it took years for me to slowly and painfully bring my garden to life. There were so many times when I almost gave up but the project was my refuge from the struggles of raising four young children…two with special needs. When I finally uncovered everything what I found was soul that was gorgeous…it had been composting undies turned by the elements for 30 plus years. My garden thrived and is one of my greatest joys. This was literally a huge life lesson in endurance, patience and being rewarded for hard work.

John Williams January 24, 2013 at 9:25 am

My garden is to enter another time and place. When I am in the gardens the world around is blocked out and I am among all the creatures of the garden. Very relaxing and tranquil place to be.

susan morrison January 24, 2013 at 9:11 am

Wonderful post, Rebecca! Knowing how much you enjoy and respond to photos, for you to enjoy a book so much that is completely devoid of them is high praise indeed!

Randy Galmish January 24, 2013 at 9:03 am

I have learned that make your garden just that, your garden. If you love the plants you have, the way you have them, then you will enjoy it much more.

Diane Ciardello January 24, 2013 at 8:30 am

Every year as the holidays approach I dread January approaching and not being able to garden, I wonder what else will I do? Fortunately, I gradually go with the flow and look for “inside” things to do. I live in the bay area of SF so we do have mild breaks where I can get outside to prune my roses, etc. This winter clean up gives me the hope that spring will soon be here and it starts all over. I enjoyed reading the article on the book review, I learned a couple of things along the way.

Terri January 24, 2013 at 8:09 am

I learned there is no such thing as perfectionism in gardening! ha!

Laura January 24, 2013 at 7:49 am

I grew up with really cold winters, I wasn’t much of a gardener then. Now I live in the Bay Area, we have a mild winter here. I have learned that in winter it is time for the garden to rest, so I mulch the unused veggie beds with straw and plant cover crops. It is time to get rid of plants that didn’t do well the season before, and plan for other ones. I also learned that after the winter solstice plants start waking up with the days lengthening, so I go out and notice all the plants getting ready to bloom, the winter veggies getting bigger, the bulbs sending their leaves up. I also concentrate on the hungry birds, feed them, and wait for their daily visits.

Winter is magical I think, yes it is long, but it is a time to relax, reflect, and like Margaret’s wrote, practice patience.

Paulette Nelson January 24, 2013 at 7:34 am

Hi,
I too am a long time lover of plants,nature,and gardening. I come from a long line mixed up generation of farmers from Kentucky. I started my love in high school through horticulture. Got married, had a house in Ohio snow (yuc) became a Master Gardener ect. got a devorce. Anyway, went to work for a big box store as a nursery specialtist in Ky. Got a job offer to work on a island in South Carolina and said YES. The job intailed me to take care of and design all rotation color beds. Wow it was fun and peaceful all at once. The island’s name was Daufuskie and my soul is still their. Eagles would fly over me as I would set on my knees and plant the annuals in the beds. After the tragedy of 9/11. The orners of the club went bankrupt and switched owners laying off 200 people including me. The week that I was layed off I was also expeting my first born. Yes I worked full term. Hey working in paradise was awsome. Anyway had my beautiful son. I decided to stay in this coastal area. Answered an add to take care of plants for Hotels in Savannah, Hilton Head area. So I meet alot of really enjoyable folks had a cool job, wonderful family until I got hurt (working like a man). I hurt my back really bad and can’t work anymore. But that doesn’t stop my drive for nature and everything living. It actually keeps me sane so to speek. So I too know the different enviroments and ,weather mother nature can give us. Thanks for letting me rant….

Rebecca Salsbery January 24, 2013 at 7:16 am

After packing my bags to go to Hawaii this AM I read your post on your blog. Just as I begin to feel my winter patience waning, I see your Lake Tahoe in Winter pictures and realize we all have our own winter challenges to overcome. We have a family island in northwest Ontario and have always looked forward to pictures of winter there, and find they’re not all that different from yours. Lots of snow and ice and cold. It’s a testament to the hope in all of us that we still know that spring will once again grace us with its appearance and we will once again be able to enjoy the best of mother nature! I love the passage stating that we simply must lay low and wait it out! My husband and I have been saying that for 38 years, and spring always does finally arrive!

donna helmes January 24, 2013 at 6:11 am

My garden is the place where I find solace and comfort. I took to gardening after amy cancer diagnosis. I loved the beauty of flowers and felt that they provided me peace during a scary and difficult time. I live outside of Philly were the winter of Philly where the winters are relatively mild. I, however, do miss the snow having grown up on Long
Island

Heather January 24, 2013 at 6:08 am

My garden is a place to escape after a long day of work, a place to keep myself nourished mentally and physically, and a place to be reminded of all that is good (and keeps me busy!) while my husband is deployed. I am so glad for it.

Robin January 24, 2013 at 5:44 am

I love winter. Snowshoeing, snow tracking, ice fishing, the pure beauty of snow sparkling as the sun rises, it’s all beautiful. The cold is horrendous right now, and I want it to be over. It’s -14*, wind chill of -24*. I bundled up to water, feed and check on the poultry, brought in an extra arm load of firewood, and I’m settled in for the day with seed catalogs. I will spend the day daydreaming of my new garden shed that waits to be planted decorated. I’d rather be weeding (honestly, love weeding).

Iris January 24, 2013 at 1:02 am

sometimes I wonder if my winter garden dreams are actually even more satisfying than spring’s rebirth, summer’s growth and fall’s harvest… but then I suppose each of those season’s dreams are the best… if only at that particular moment…

Loree/danger garden January 23, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Reading about your and Margaret’s ways of dealing with winter reminded my of my own thoughts earlier today. After several back to back disastrous winters we now look to be having a couple of mild ones in a row. My crazy zonal-denial heart is starting to think of replanting a few things (Phormium) that I’d sworn off for ever. We gardeners are ever the optimists.

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