Wednesday, April 4, 2012

New Leaf, Writer

I am "draft post" crazy right now, stacking up a number of post ideas after the drought of the last two winter months.  Pictures of the early garden blooms are running my SDcard over and demanding that I honor them with a blog.  But at the same time, I'd be negligent to my purpose of celebrating garden writers if I didn't blog on my latest read, A New Leaf, by Merilyn Simonds.

I'll state it flat out;  this is the most delightful garden read I've had all year, maybe the best for several years.  Ms. Simonds is, by reputation, an established fiction writer, new to the genre of garden writing, but her previous experience shines throughout this book of garden-focused essays.  I marveled over and over, and was humbled to my core, by the wonderful use of language, the phrasing, and the vivid descriptions, heedless of whether her subject was daffodils, hollyhocks, or fungus.  Lord, how I wish I could write at her level.

Some examples:
All my gardening life, I have wanted to grow in swaths...But I have not always had the luxury of landscape.

The beds that seem so sedate in April, and maybe even May, spiral out of control in June.  The self-seeders are getting it on like teenagers home alone.

I have always thought of peas as too much work: all that popping and thumbing of pods and for what?

People come to the the same time they come to the psychotherapist's chair:  when they reach the halfway point, when the number of years that stretch ahead are no more than what's behind.  The summer solstice of a life.

Daffodils are, to my mind, the very best of Spring bulbs.  They don't ask for much more than a bit of April sun and rain to rise golden into the air.

See the point that I was feebly trying to convey?  Despite  a self-described reputation as a voracious reader, I am rarely tempted to repeatedly slow down and enjoy the feel and flow of the language.  Ms. Simonds, in A New Leaf, took me beyond the garden into a fresh garden of words and pages.  A garden that blooms in phrases and imagery every bit as well as the physical garden it describes.

I wait now, Winter biding time for Spring,  hoping that there is another set of garden essays coming from Ms. Simonds in the near future.  And I'm challenged by her example to write better; to set garden images in words instead of digital pictures; to churn the soil in words as effortlessly as with a spade.


  1. I think you sell your own writing short. That last sentence, as well as a few others, might well give the talented Ms. Simonds a run for her money.
    This is a book that I have wanted to read for a while. I cut the review from the Globe and Mail newspaper, when the book was first published, and added it to a long must-read list. Your review, so full of praise, may be the impetuous I need to move it to the top of the list.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Jennifer. I was inspired and trying (obviously) harder than normal.

      A New Leaf is definitely a good read. Hope you enjoy it.

  2. I am going to run out and get this book! What a delightful review, and yes, when I was reading her words, I slowed down to imagine in my mind what her words had described. Like you, I usually read very fast and it's nice to find a writer that makes you really contemplate what you have read, and to also inspire. Thanks so much for joining in!

  3. Looks like a wonderful book! Thanks for the quotes. What a wonderful way to describe garden scenes.

  4. The book sounds like a perfect way to mull about gardening.

  5. I'm always looking for good writing. Garden writers don't always, sad to say, write as beautifully as they garden. I shall find a hammock, collect a glass of homemade lemonade and enjoy this book.


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