Every Garden Is a Story: Stories, Crafts, and Comforts [NOOK Book]


Susannah Seton reminds us in Every Garden Is a Story that reader and gardener alike have much to learn from their gardens. The poignant and touching stories -- from her father's quest for a seven-headed sweet pea to cancer survival and magical portraits of moon gardens --take readers on a journey through garden beds, along the way reinforcing how to care for themselves and their loved ones by caring for the Earth.

From the book: Some of the ...

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Every Garden Is a Story: Stories, Crafts, and Comforts

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Susannah Seton reminds us in Every Garden Is a Story that reader and gardener alike have much to learn from their gardens. The poignant and touching stories -- from her father's quest for a seven-headed sweet pea to cancer survival and magical portraits of moon gardens --take readers on a journey through garden beds, along the way reinforcing how to care for themselves and their loved ones by caring for the Earth.

From the book: Some of the most touching stories remind us that we don't have to have a big yard or a lot of money to have a garden.

Every Garden Is a Story is a thoughtful and inspiring gift for any gardener. Did you know you can grow your own luffa sponges?

  • * Contains dozens of recipes, tips, crafts and an extensive resource section of garden centers, online seed catalogs, and recommended reading.
  • * Appeals to burgeoning eco-conscious readers with a desire to get back to basics.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609253486
  • Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
  • Publication date: 11/1/2007
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 13 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Read an Excerpt


Stories, Crafts, and Comforts

By Susannah Seton

Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 2007 Conari Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60925-348-6



Whenever I arrive in my garden, I "make the tour." By "making the tour," I mean only that I step from the front window, turn to the right, and make an infinitely detailed examination of every foot of ground, every shrub and tree, walking always over an appointed course.

There are certain very definite rules to be observed when you are making the tour. The chief rule is that you must never take anything out of its order. You may be longing to see if a crocus has come out in the orchard, but it is strictly forbidden to look before you have inspected all the various beds, bushes, and trees that lead up to the orchard.

One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.


You must not look at the bed ahead before you have finished with the bed immediately in front of you. You may see, out of the corner of your eye, a gleam of strange and unsuspected scarlet in the next bed, but you must steel yourself against rushing to this exciting blaze, and you must stare with cool eyes at the earth in front, which is apparently blank, until you have made certain that it is not hiding anything. Otherwise, you will find that you rush wildly round the garden, discover one or two sensational events, and then decide that nothing else has happened.


Working in the garden gives me a profound feeling of inner peace. Nothing here is in a hurry. There is no rush toward accomplishment, no blowing of trumpets. Here is the great mystery of life and growth. Everything is changing, growing, aiming at something, but silently, unboastfully, taking its time.


My father was an ambitious man, though not in the usual way. His garden of beautiful roses was important to him, but most of all, he wanted, with all of his heart, to grow a seven-headed sweet pea. To his knowledge, this had never been done before.

The harsh climate and stony soil of the nor theast coast of England was more conducive to the production of stalwart vegetables, coarse in quality but gargantuan in size. Local gardeners competed in shows for the biggest and best. My father was a different kind of dreamer. His soul walked with flowers.

Each flower is a soul opening out to nature.


We lived in a dirty, decaying city grappling with the decline of ship building and coal mining. Our small red brick house was skirted on three sides by the tiniest of gardens, its perimeters defined by the ubiquitous privet hedge. Reluctant sun struggled through the constant, dour overcast of clouds and was mostly blocked by nearby buildings. Did he not realize that roses needed sunshine?

Then there were the cutting arctic winds, icy as snow stars that keened year round through every crevice. They blew the hope out of such fragile blooms as sweet peas. As I said, he was a dreamer, utterly convinced that a seven-headed flower could be coaxed from his plants, not by the technicalities of cross-fertilization, but by sheer love and devotion.

Our neighbors—if they had gardens at all—had geometric patches of grass bordered by regimental rows of marigolds and snapdragons. His was a rock garden with cascading lobelia and alyssum, sheltered by a richly hued copper birch tree. Then there was the rose bed, each plant named with pride of place, leading to his favorite, the exotic, heavily scented Crimson Glory. And there was the bed of sweet peas, each plant supported by elaborate scaffolding. Everything flourished.

My father held his ambition lightly. It was the process of gardening that delighted him. With the diligence and dedication of an acolyte, he was out daily, fumbling with loving but clumsy hands at the delicate tendrils of the sweet peas as he cajoled them into climbing further up their supporting frames.

He nourished them with more than love alone. The manure heap sat by the kitchen door. It was supplemented by steaming pails of fresh droppings from the horse-drawn produce, fish, and coal carts that delivered to our street. Fly papers flapped from the kitchen ceiling. Mother yelled to keep the door shut.

Inevitably, it happened. One day we were all called out to see the pale lavender, gossamer, seven-headed sweet pea. Its photograph was ceremoniously taken. With utmost tenderness, my father brought it into the house, surrounding it with maidenhair fern and reverently placing it in a vase at the center of the table. Never have I seen a man so blissful, so content.

I've had many gardens, big and small. Now, in my old age, I have only a tiny deck. It's overflowing with an abundance of flowers, all a little out of control. The blistering sun and brassy blue skies of California cruelly discourage sweet peas. But there are the roses, masses of them in pots, among them the exotic, sweetly scented Crimson Glory. Now there's a memory.


Old roses are not only beautiful, but they have the advantage of being more disease resistant and drought tolerant than the finicky hybrid tea roses.


As children we often spent summers with family in the South, summers filled with shade trees, brazenly colored flowers, and choking vegetation in the form of wild morning glories and patches of kudzu that resembled small green seas. With so much growing and tangling about you, it's easy to understand why my family and I love gardening so much. My Uncle Robert loved vines and cultivated, catalogued, and saved seeds, which he doled out to the rest of us. His prize was the moon river vine whose rather ordinary looking seeds held within their brown casing nothing short of a miracle to my cousins and me. Early each summer, Uncle Robert would take the seeds out of an old pill bottle and give us each 3–5 of them with instructions to plant them near a trellis or porch column and keep them watered. Within six weeks, there would be a delicate vine with papery thin leaves that grew at an astonishing rate. By mid-July, the buds would appear luminous white, like twisted-up tissue paper.

The Snowdrop is the prophet of the flowers; It lives and ides upon its bed of snows; And like a thought of spring it comes and goes.


From then on, every summer night at dusk we'd gather on the porch with our iced tea and try to act blasé as we furtively glanced every few minutes at the buds of the vine. Our childish patience would eventually be rewarded with a smalls way from the vine, sometimes a tiny twitch, then ever so slowly a bud would begin to open before our very eyes, eventually, over the course of about half an hour, unfurling into a saucer-sized pure white flower. The smell was heavenly—magnolias and jasmine—but fainter and more elusive. We were never allowed to touch the flowers or—God forbid—pick them, and I honestly don't think I ever wanted to. I was awestruck by their amazing aliveness. Sometimes we'd turn off the porch light and get to stay up a little later than usual to see if a lunar moth would visit their resistible flowers; sometimes even a tiny bat would appear. Beyond the porch the lightning bugs would signal to one another, and a symphony of night sounds serenaded us. It was magic.


A moon garden is one that has only white flowers. It's particularly striking at the moment of summer twilight when all colors except white fade and anything white takes on a luminescence that is breathtaking. That makes it a wonderful spot for evening entertaining and for those of us who work so late we only ever see our gardens in the moonlight.


As a child, I was fortunate enough to have an aunt who loved to garden. She had a beautiful old-fashioned garden in the Ohio valley with many plants that had been handed down through generations of my family. I can still smell the lilac from a bush that was over one hundred years old and home too many bees. When I was barely old enough to toddle along behind her, Aunt Ruth would show me her tricks of the trade—rooting, transplanting, deadheading, even grafting.

All my hurts My garden spade can heal.


I quickly learned that, by admiring one of my aunt's flowers heartily, I would usually be given a seedling, a cutting, or a whole plant. In her infinite wisdom, she decided that I could be taught the craft of gardening and help her clean and thin some beds at the same time. This became a marvelous arrangement that persisted well into my adulthood until I moved 3,000 miles away to a different "zone." Now, as a city dweller, my dream is to have a little garden patch of my own where I can carry on the family tradition.


Simply cut off a stem, strip off lower leaves, and place in water. (Don't touch the surface of the cut—bacteria from your skin can make the stem rot.) In a month or so, it will have rooted and you can transplant it into a pot. Avoid rot by placing a couple of charcoal chips at the bottom of the container.


The ancients believe that asparagus was an aphrodisiac. It certainly tastes good enough to be, but even if it isn't, the prospect of your own tender shoots each spring should entice you enough to give it a try in your garden. It takes about three years to get enough asparagus to make planting it worthwhile, but a maintained asparagus bed will last for twenty years, so you'll get plenty of spears for your efforts. While asparagus prefers cold winters, it will grow just about anywhere in the United States. The trick is to dig a one-footdeep trench and half fill it with compost and ¼ cup bone meal per one foot of trench. Plant roots 18 inches apart, and don't fill in the trench with dirt until roots begin to sprout.


Once you've grown them and had your fill of steamed, give this a try. It is delicious!

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon water or chicken broth
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 ½ pounds asparagus, ends snapped, and cut into small pieces
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
½ cup minced fresh basil
½ teaspoon sugar

Combine the soy sauce, sherry, and water or broth and set aside. Place a large (at least 12-inch) skillet over high heat for 4 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons of the oil and heat for 1 minute or until the oil just starts to smoke. Add the asparagus and stir-fry for about 2 minutes or until barely tender. Clear the center of the skillet, add the garlic, ginger, and 1 teaspoon of oil, sauté for 10 seconds. Remove skillet from heat and stir the ingredients to combine.

Place skillet back on heat, stir in the soy sauce mixture, and cook for 30 seconds. Add basil and sugar and cook for another 30 seconds. Serves 4.

Every thing is good in its season.



One easy way to entice your child into the garden is to make a patch with their name.

Simply trace out his or her name in the loose soil and trace a big heart around it. Then plant a variety of fast-growing greens (leaf lettuce, radishes, watercress, arugula) in the furrows made by your tracings, water, and wait for his or her name and a big green heart to appear. Chances are your little one will not only enjoy helping, but he or she will eat salad too!

Green fingers are the extensions of a verdant heart.



This is a salad from Provence that uses an unusual variety of late-spring greens and herbs.

1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon hot water
4 cups arugula
1-2 cups watercress, large stems
1½ cups escarole
¼ cup parsley, stems removed
½ cup curly endive
¼ cup small basil leaves
20 small tarragon leaves
10 small sage leaves
5 chives, minced

Rub the garlic clove halves all over the inside of a large wooden salad bowl. Whisk in the lemon, salt, olive oil, and water. Add greens and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Serves 4.


We all know roses mean "I love you," but do you know the nonverbal messages of other flowers? The Victorians used to practice the "language of flowers," in which they would send little nosegays of homegrown flowers that were actually nonverbal poems. A bouquet of coreopsis and ivy, for example, would mean, "Always cheerful friendship." Such floral messages are called tussy-mussies, a term that dates back to the 1400s when these nosegays first came into fashion; they were routinely carried by both men and women.

The language of flowers was quite complex. If, for example, the flowers were presented upside down, the message was the opposite— an upside down rose, for example, meant "I don't love you." If the bow or the flower bent to the left, the message referred to the receiver "you have beautiful eyes." If it bends to the right the message refers to the sender. "I send loving thoughts" says the left-leaning pansy. If you added leaves to your tussy-mussy, they signaled hope, while thorns meant danger. When you received a tussymussy, touching it to your lips meant you agreed with the message's sentiments. If you tore off the petals and threw them down, you were sending a strong rejection of the sentiment.

Flowers preach to us if we will hear.


Tussy-mussies are easy to make. Simply decide on your message and pick the appropriate flowers, leaving six inches of stem. Strip stems of leaves, and pick the largest flower for the center. Wrap its stem with floral tape. Then add the remaining flowers in a circle, taping the stems together as you go, keeping the height even, until you reach a diameter of about 5 inches. Then add greens, if any. Finish off by winding tape down the length of the stems, and add a ribbon streamer or a piece of lace as a bow. Voila! Send with a card explaining the flowers' meanings. Tussy-mussies should be kept in water.


Apple Blossom: Preference

Azalea: First love

Coreopsis: Always cheerful

Cornflowers: Healing, felicity

Daffodil: Regard

Red Dianthus: Lively and pure affection

Heliotrope: Accommodating disposition

Ivy: Friendship

Johnny-jump-up: Happy thoughts

Lamb's Ear: Gentleness

Lavender: Devotion

Lily of the Valley: Return of happiness

Love-in-a-mist: Kiss me twice before I rise

Mint: Warmth of feeling

Oregano: Joy

Pansy: Loving thoughts

Red Salvia: Energy and esteem

Rosemary: Devotion

Scented Geranium: Preference

Thyme: Courage and strength

Violets: Faithfulness

Wallflower: Fidelity in adversity

White Clover: Good luck

Yarrow: Health

Zinnia: Thought of absent friends


There was a sadly neglected corner of my parents' yard that had an ancient bedraggled shrub my mother called the bridal wreath. I thought this eyesore was undeserving of such a poetic name since it hardly produced even a handful of white buds and seemed to have a blackberry bush rapidly overtaking it. I had recently learned the fine art of pruning and decided one late fall afternoon to try it on this tired old shrub. I really went at it with the shears and, with the help of my father, got rid of the blackberry invader and hacked away until not much was left of the venerable old bridal wreath. I remember my mother nearly cried when she saw the havoc we had wrought; her mother had planted this plant fifty years before. I told her not to worry and to wait and see what happened.

The garden is a love song, a duet between a human being and Mother Nature.


It sat there all fall and winter, pretty much forgotten. Then, one early spring day, we all had the most wonderful surprise—the bridal wreath had turned into a showpiece overnight with dozens of sprays of perfect white flowers that lasted for weeks. My mother was happiest of all. Evidently, the bridal wreath had been her mother's pride and joy and was now fully restored to its former glory. It was amazingly beautiful. The sprays were indeed perfect for a bride's crown.


Here's something lovely to make mom or grandma for Mother's Day.

¼ yard lace
Dinner plate
Disappearing ink marker
Cereal bowl
Tapestry needle
2 yards ¼-inch-wide wired ribbon
2 ounces lavender or potpourri
2 yards 1-inch-wide ribbon

Place the lace on a table and lay the dinner plate on top of it. Trace the edge of the plate with the disappearing ink marker. Remove plate and cut around marker to make a circle of lace. Turn the cereal bowl upside down in the center of the lace circle and trace the edge. Remove bowl.

Thread the tapestry needle with the thin ribbon and stitch around the inner circle you have just created. (Size of stitches doesn't matter.) Tug gently on the ribbon so the lace gathers to make a pocket. When the opening is the size of a silver dollar, pour the lavender or potpourri in until full (about the size of a walnut). Tug the ribbon tight, tie in a knot, and cut the ends short.

Tie the wide ribbon into a beautiful bow. Repeat until materials are gone. Makes 5 sachets.


Living with cancer myself, my healing lessons seem to come now from the garden. No small surprise since it is the place where I find culture and nature meeting. I love this land by the lake fiercely. I am forced to find sanity in the earth. Whenever I get back from traveling, I drop my suitcases at the door, strip off my shoes, and go directly to the dirt.

Yesterday I spent almost two hours being instructed by a huge Siberian iris plant that didn't bloom last year. I guessed it should be divided—a task I'd never attempted before. Indeed, as I dug in with a pitchfork, I saw that the roots were so entangled, so thickly enmeshed;

Life begins the day you start a garden.

Chinese proverb

I had to use a hacksaw to even begin to separate them all. It felt exactly like my mind, like my life. The iris plant has survived fire engines, two dogs' digging, and extreme frost. But what it told me is that its roots got so enmeshed because it didn't have the space it needed to go as deeply as is necessary to bloom. It will take me days to separate all of this complexity and then to build a new raised bed with very deep soil where each shoot can have the room it needs to root deeply enough so it can blossom.

That feels exactly what I need to do with my life as well.


You just take the plant out of the pot, divide it into two or more clumps, roots and all, and replant into two or more pots.

Excerpted from EVERY GARDEN IS A STORY by Susannah Seton. Copyright © 2007 Conari Press. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Foreword by Carolyn Rapp          

Down the Garden Path          

His Soul Walked with Flowers          

Moon River Vines          

In Aunt Ruth's Garden          

Ode to Asparagus          

Heartfelt Greens          

Speak the Language of Flowers          

The Bridal Wreath          

May, Home          

The Tao of Gardening          

The Garden Grows You          

Planting the Seed          

The Wonders of Wildflowers          

The Delights of Fantasy          

Lei Day          

Four O'Clocks          

The Problem of Plenty          

The Boldness of Tulips          

Summer's Healthful Harvest          

The Pleasures of Periwinkle          

Ghost Garden          

Aromatherapy Basics          

Public Gardening          

Spade Work          

Sustaining Delights          

The Shape of Things          

Weeding Vacation          

Crisp Delight          

The Satisfactions of Herbs          

Remembering Lilacs          

Edible Blossoms          

My Cutting Garden          

Morning Glories All Day Long          

Skin Remedies          

When You Water, Water          

Zillions of Zinnias          

In Winter Garb          


Fragrant Fires          

Garden in a Jar          

Wake-up Call          

Window-Box Basics          

Personalized Pumpkins          

Fresh Herbs          

Grow Your Own          

The Way to a Woman's Heart Is Through Her Nose          

Attracting the Birds          

Almost Homegrown          

The Ultimate Mud Pie          

Wildflower Power          

Dragon-Lady Dahlias          

Fairy Bouquets          



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