African Garden + wildflower

Thoughts About "Green Thoughts"

The October/November selection for the Garden Blogger's Book Club is Eleanor Perenyi's "Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden." This is my first time participating. I first read this book 15 years ago. I had been gardening for a while and was beyond How-To books and books advising which plants to plant. So I was exploring gardening philosophy by reading such garden writers and designers as Russell Page, Mirabel Osler, Louise Beebe Wilder, and Gertrude Jekyll. I'd walk over the the library next to my office and immerse myself in garden literature on my Winter lunch hours. I read, absorbed, and chose what was applicable to my garden from the wealth of past and current garden writing. One of the best of those was "Green Thoughts," published in 1981. Unlike the other authors, who were gardeners who wrote books, Perenyi is a writer who gardens.
What most struck me on this second reading was how this book influenced my opinions and how my opinions have since diverged from those of Perenyi about gardening. I agree with Perenyi's dislike of the vulgar, rejecting those suburban gardens that are full of nothing but the newest hybrids. I also was influenced by her stance on annuals, where she condemns the standard American practice of "the ribbon border" of a mishmash of different colored annuals. Like Perenyi, I also have no annuals planted in the ground in my ornamental garden. Where my opinion diverges is in Perenyi's strong dislike for colored foliage. She doesn't want to see Autumn colors in Summer. I find that judicious use of purple or chartreuse foliage can add interest to a garden's down time, when little may be in bloom in a certain area.
The format of the book is user-friendly, an alphabetical compilation of unrelated essays, which may be read in small bits, or several at a time, perfect for Winter lunch break or bedtime reading.

Reading this book is like sitting in Perenyi's garden listening to her talk about gardens and gardening. In addition to sound horticultural advice (don't bother digging up wildflowers to plant in your own garden, they'll probably not survive), it is full of humor and still-timely insights. For example, she condemns any "flower whose grower thinks of it in terms of advertising and brand names" as it "ceases to be a flower and becomes a product to be marketed like any other." The same holds true for other plants as well and the brand-naming of plants seems to be a more recent phenomenon. Particularly striking, and unique in gardening books is the essay, "Woman's Place," a feminist polemic on the history of gardens, both Eastern and Western.
This is a book to make a gardener think about the place of his or her garden in the world and how each garden has an impact on the planet as a whole. If you haven't already read it, go buy it or check it out from the library. No matter your skill or experience at gardening, there is something worthwhile for any gardener in this book.

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Thoughts About "Green Thoughts" + wildflower