“The Backyard Parables – Lessons on Gardening, and Life” Book Review
Summary: A well written book by Margaret Roach, written as both a memoir about her ongoing life in her county garden, and garden tips and instructions. It covers a year of time in her garden, with sections about her activities, as well as wonderful inserts filled with garden tips. But it’s more than that. She leads you through the year from a unique perspective on gardening, and being at a certain stage in her life. You’ll enjoy the gardening bits, as well as the life lessons!
Gardening Experience Level: All levels of gardeners
Author: Margaret Roach
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Date of Publishing: January 2013
Format: Hard cover
Content: This is the second of Margaret Roach’s books I’ve read. I love them both. As in the first, “And I Shall Have Some Peace Here” she leads readers into her life of gardening in Hudson Valley, NY (Zone 5b). The Backyard Parables is written in four main sections, defined by the seasons, beginning with winter, and of course, ending in the fall. Through each chapter, Margaret relates stories of her days (and sometimes nights) of tending to her garden. Planning, protecting, working, creating a place of joy, along with the challenges she faces, things she experiences being a solo resident gardener, and the disappointments that come along with being at the mercy of nature in all its glory.
During winters, she plans ahead for the coming gardening months, detailing what to cut back, and what to expand. She inserts a great tip on garden design 101: Look out the window. Plan some of your garden based upon the views from your home. She also shares her thoughts on seeds, hybrids and heirlooms.
Spring comes along, and she moves to cutting back in the yard – what has outgrown its space – culling and editing the garden plant residents. Advice about deer, under plantings, succession sowing, and cutting back perennials come into the chapter as well.
With summer comes funny tidbits about her gardening attire, Jack the Demon Cat’s new antics with the resident chipmunks, and her favorites, the pond frogs. She discusses mulch, storing herbs, and which bulbs really are animal proof.
Autumn is my favorite chapter, although it was also the most melancholy one. During this chapter, Margaret tells of a too-early fall storm that comes in quickly, and results in much of her beloved garden being destroyed, or at a minimum, badly maimed. She describes the initial shock as “sharp and stabbing.” Many favorite shrubs and trees are gone or badly damaged. She is reminded by a gardening friend and helper during clean up of this advice: “Bury your dead, and fast” in order to move past the grief for her garden.
This chapter is a personal favorite as it shows Margaret’s ability to loop her gardening life with the stages of her own lifespan. After the destruction of the storm, she is reminded once more that Mother Nature can be brutal, and that nothing lasts, not you, nor her. “Leaves fall. Gardeners and their gardens? Compost starter.” While reading along with Margaret, I feel the emotions of a gardener grieving, rejoicing – the full range one experiences when investing so much of themselves in the world they’ve created and shared in partnership with nature.
The Backyard Parables will entertain you with Margaret’s gardening stories, teach you with her advice, and leave you wanting to read more about her little piece of the world.
Photos: Only black and white at chapter beginnings. The garden advice is dispensed within nicely outlined chapter inserts.
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