For the past 36 years, Des Kennedy and his family have lived largely outside their hand-built house in intimate contact with the Earth — its creatures, its changing seasons, and its weather patterns. In this charming book’s 52 chapters, Kennedy brings readers deep into his garden, week by week, from winter’s dormancy to summer’s splendor. With his trademark self-effacing humor, the author captures the essence of the gardening experience, exploring his triumphs, failures, mishaps, and occasional ...
For the past 36 years, Des Kennedy and his family have lived largely outside their hand-built house in intimate contact with the Earth — its creatures, its changing seasons, and its weather patterns. In this charming book’s 52 chapters, Kennedy brings readers deep into his garden, week by week, from winter’s dormancy to summer’s splendor. With his trademark self-effacing humor, the author captures the essence of the gardening experience, exploring his triumphs, failures, mishaps, and occasional magic. Undaunted by setbacks and lusting for the perfect garden, Kennedy takes readers with him on a gardening journey rich with insights and adventures. The effects of devastating snow storms; the slow-food cuisine of rutabagas, parsnips, and carrots; the gardener's inalienable right to dress in rags; the outlandish behaviour and florid oratory induced by flowering poppies — these and scores of other topics meander through the book's gardening year alternately informing, inspiring, and amusing.
Nominated three times for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, Des Kennedy is an accomplished novelist and satirist as well as a garden writer. He has lived for the past thirty-six years with his partner, Sandy, in their hand-hewn home on one of British Columbia's Gulf Islands. The author of countless magazine pieces and five previous books — two novels and three collections of essays, Kennedy has also made numerous TV and radio appearances and written for and narrated documentary films. A popular speaker on the gardening circuit, Kennedy has been active in the environmental scene for many years and was a founding director of a community land trust on his home island.
Surely one of the great attractions of gardening is its endless interplay of continuity and change. In many ways the garden remains the same year after year-the precision with which a dragonfly alights on the floating leaf of a waterlily, the sweet nostalgia of honeysuckle scent on a midsummer evening, the resolute strength of stout oak limbs. Yet the place is never absolutely the same, even from moment to moment, as a sudden spill of petals changes everything, a hummingbird appears in an iridescent commotion, or the slant of light shifts to illuminate a corner in shadow moments earlier. In every garden timelessness and evanescence perpetually conspire.
Ten years have slipped past since this book of garden meditations first appeared. Back then we were hurtling towards the century's end with as much Sturm und Drang as the popular media could muster. But in retrospect that already seems a comparatively saner and gentler age, before 9/11 and the maelstrom of carnage and paranoia it unleashed. Despite the warnings of scientists and environmentalists, the monster of global climate change had not yet become real in public consciousness. Google and YouTube were not on anybody's screen.
The mania for gardening was near its apogee as the century wound down. Gardening books were flying off bookstore shelves, big garden shows were jammed elbows-to-ribs with enthusiastic viewers, and nurseries bulged with new and exciting plant selections. Interest in organic methods, native plants and wildlife gardening was at an all-time high. You couldn't turn on a television without encountering a gardening guru in full plumage.
The gardening fever that swept through mainstream culture, as it seems to do every few decades, appears to have run its course. Busy professionals discovered to their dismay how much time and effort, not to mention cost, is involved in maintaining a trophy garden. Specialty plant societies and garden clubs complain of an aging membership and lack of young recruits. Some garden shows have shrunk or disappeared entirely. Publishers who ten years ago were baying like hounds in pursuit of gardening books now sniff, "We're not doing any gardening titles at present." Television producers now bend their attentions less to gardens than to home decor and outdoor living.
So, yes, there have been tectonic shifts and slips of all sorts since An Ecology of Enchantment was published as a modest celebration of one year in a garden on a small island off Canada's west coast. I wrote at the time that "this is not a book about how to garden-a highly site-specific matter-but about the passions and raptures, the heartache and melancholy of those who do." And, in this regard, plus ça change! Ten years, forty full seasons later, the passion abides, the raptures and sadnesses recur. An affair with a garden-the book's original U.S. title was This Rambling Affair-seldom grows stale. The garden of the heart holds charms that do not fade with age, but rather deepen and diversify.
A decade ago, our ornamental garden was ten years old and I was fifty-three. The photograph on the book's cover showed a springtime garden of narcissi and tulips and precious little else. Compared with this spring's display of maturing trees, shrubs and perennials, it looks an enthusiastic but rather paltry show. Nevertheless, I could write at the time: "Walking through the garden at dawn, and again in the late afternoon when sunlight seems to glow from inside the leaves themselves, you'd have to be a hopeless oaf not to feel, for all one's woes, a thrilling sense of a perfect world emerging." That very same tingling apprehension of perfection still occurs and I suspect will continue to occur ten springtimes from now, when we may glance back at today's garden as still very much a work in progress. And that's the great beauty of it, isn't it? That the garden remains a work in progress, an artistic exercise that's never finished. But at every stage of its existence it stirs with the excitements of the creative process.