Mr. B’s Reading Year No. 6: Thoughtful Gardening: great plants, great gardens, great gardeners by Robin Lane Fox (2010)

Thoughtless Gardening would be a better title for this book!  I haven’t been as stimulated by a book as this one, for some time.  However, it isn’t for the right reasons.  The Oxford academic author and Financial Times gardening columnist has gathered his writings into the calendar year in short column chapters.  The fact that each is short is a blessing.  To give him his due, he does have an excellent understanding of cultivars and the best chapters focus on individual groups – asters, peonies, roses, etc., etc. - where useful experience and information is passed on.  In a similar vein, some of the descriptions of individual gardens are good.  However, the overall tone is of pomposity and name dropping, rather than of passing on a genuine enthusiasm.  What comes over is a rather opinionated writer, probably reflecting a life spent in an Oxford college and London.  What really grates is that here is a writer that apparently likes gardens and gardening (one wonders if they really do in their heart of hearts), but who has little grasp of ecology and the natural world.  “Wildlife” seems to be just the four-footed variety and a problem to be eliminated. The value of beneficial invertebrates and pollinators is foreign to the author.  In fact, one chapter seems sufficient evidence to bring a criminal case against him under the Wildlife Act.  He describes putting out baits laced with weed killer to kill mammals in the garden.  This is just the practice used by some unscrupulous landowners to kill kites, eagles and harriers and now vigorously prosecuted by police and wildlife protection organisations. It isn’t clear, but it could be that the “poison” used was glyphosate, which of course is not toxic to mammals – again highlighting a lack of knowledge and understanding.  Surprising and irritating.

19th May 2011: Our garden, with granddaughter Abbie aged 6+ months.


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