With the gift giving season drawing near I want to spread the word about new books that would please gardeners of every sort. In my house books are the one gift we know will delight.
The Half-Hour Allotment by Lia Leendertz
When The Half-Hour Allotment book showed up in my mailbox I was delighted to think of a system that would teach me to work an allotted half-hour at a time. How understanding such a system would be for those gardeners among us who might not be in our first youth any longer.
But then, as I sat down to read the book with its beautiful photographs of vegetables and gardens that included flowers for bouquets, and ways to prepare the soil, I realized the book had a British publisher and the allotments being talked about were the garden spaces away from the house. After the original shock of wondering how this would translate for American gardeners, I knew that was not an issue. We can allot a part of our own yard for use as a vegetable garden. And like the author of this book we can also think of allotting ourselves a half hour schedule so that we do not overtax ourselves.
The British have ever more popular allotment gardens and here in the United States we have ever more popular community gardens, both sharing the same principles. Our climates may be different, and the gardening schedule more extended in England, but the basics of gardening thoughtfully and efficiently are the same. The Half-Hour Allotment by Lia Leendertz (Francis Lincoln Limited $20) is useful to young, and not-so-young gardeners in the US and Britain.
Gardeners begin wisely when they begin by choosing their favorite vegetables and calculating how much space can be given to each. A small garden needs to make use of space on the ground, and space in the air for beans, peas and other crops that are happy to climb. There is a section that suggests the sufficient number of plants for each vegetable. For example, four courgette (squash) plants might be all you need, but 20 broccoli plants might be more sensible for the family. I thought this was wonderful advice.
Individual sheds are very common on British allotments. Leendertz gives suggestions on what necessities to put in your shed including a folding camping chair, a pair of old shoes, and an old hat and jacket as well as basic planting tools. I suspect American community gardeners also stop to chat and visit between the rows.
This engaging book provides excellent gardening instructions, but it also gives a delightful view of gardeners in a different clime and slightly different culture. Read, enjoy and learn.
The Artist’s Garden by Jackie Bennett
The Artist’s Garden: How Gardens Inspired Our Greatest Painters by Jackie Bennett (White Lion Publishing $40.00) is also a British book. It is lushly illustrated with paintings of gardens and people in their gardens, with photographs of acclaimed artists’ houses and their gardens. The first section of the book is titled The Artist at Home and at Work with a list of artists beginning with Leonardo daVinci and moving on to Peter Paul Rubens, Paul Cezanne, Henri Le Sidanier and others concluding with Salvador Dali. The stories of their careers are fascinating. Cezanne’s father bankrolled him for many years. Every year he was turned down by the jury of the Paris Salon. Though other artists admired his work, he never had his own one man show until he was 56. In 1938 eighteen of Max Liebermann’s paintings were sent to London for an exhibit supporting Germany’s so-called ‘degenerate art.’
I confess I was not familiar with every artist. Fortunately, generous biographical information is included with every display of artist, gardens, and paintings.
The second section is given over to The Artist’s Community, about the work and lives of artists like Monet with his friends from Berthe Morrisot and the Seine artists; William Morris and his circle; the Skagen painters of Denmark; the New England Impressionists; the German Expressionists; and the Charlston artists that included Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and the rest of the Bloomsbury Group.
The color illustrations give us examples of many painting styles. Renoir’s Impressionist paintings included the exciting streets of Paris and the leisures of the countryside. Kahlo blended the styles of Mexico and Europe with her own symbolisms. William Morris found designs in nature. Each artist found a unique way of seeing the world.
Sketched maps of each garden help the reader get a better understanding of the layout of the gardens. Some are very carefully and neatly laid out, while others take a more riotous approach. If the artist is lucky there can be wild, flowery spaces, as well as carefully designed layouts of trees, water and architectural elements. There is also a timeline for each artist, or group of artists, biographical information, and information about the gardens today. It does not seem that any of the artists captured in this book led solitary lives in a north-facing atelier.
I felt the richness of the book which gave such expansive views of the artists’ work, their lives and friendships. Many of the painters inspired each other. Readers like me will feel inspired when we look at our own gardens, finding some detail we can copy or play with, just like the painters did. ###
Between the Rows November 16, 2019