Tottering in My Garden by Midge Ellis Keeble was the first book in this genre to come my way. Billed as "a romp through 40 years of gardening," this Canadian actress, broadcaster and teacher describes the six gardens she has established in the various places she has lived. She conquers many challenges, including clay, sand, shade and tired soil.
I learned two important lessons from this book. First, that every gardener has more than one garden within. And second, that gardening is an endeavor worth sharing through story.
This last observation – the evolution of the gardener – is the reason I love gardening memoir. I am always curious about the motivations and passions of the people who create gardens. These stories remind us that gardens thrive on imagination as much as they do on compost.
Sadly, Elizabeth Smart's book may be difficult to track down I suggest making a request at your public library if you want to read it.
Just this week, a colleague shared Alexander Chee's story, The Rosary, published in The New Yorker (April 18, 2018). It's a rather improbable account of establishing a rose garden in the ruined yard of a Brooklyn apartment. It's a story of blind faith and rambling rugosas that strikes at the heart of garden memoir. It made me smile.
If you need a break from watching the snow melt or your tomato seedlings stretch toward the light, I highly recommend stories shared by other gardeners. They will cheer you. They will encourage you for the season ahead.
Elizabeth Smart (1913-1986) was a Canadian poet and novelist. Her novel, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, detailed her romance with the English poet George Barker. Published in 1945. her book is widely considered to be a classic of the prose poetry genre.
Midge Ellis Keeble (1913-2011) was an actress, author and broadcasting pioneer who worked in the early days of CBC. Her obituary in the Globe & Mail.