Thoughtful Gardening

Overview

In Thoughtful Gardening, award-winning historian and Financial Times gardening columnist Robin Lane Fox takes readers on a delightful journey through each season of the gardening year. From fending off vine-weevils to visiting Yves Saint Laurent’s private gardens in Marrakech, Fox imbues each of his musings with grace, sophistication, and charm. Essential reading for anyone planting a new garden or taking stock of one after several years, Thoughtful Gardening offers expert advice and a touching reminder of the ...

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Thoughtful Gardening

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Overview

In Thoughtful Gardening, award-winning historian and Financial Times gardening columnist Robin Lane Fox takes readers on a delightful journey through each season of the gardening year. From fending off vine-weevils to visiting Yves Saint Laurent’s private gardens in Marrakech, Fox imbues each of his musings with grace, sophistication, and charm. Essential reading for anyone planting a new garden or taking stock of one after several years, Thoughtful Gardening offers expert advice and a touching reminder of the power of art and literature to deepen what we see and experience in nature.

Combining a vast understanding of horticulture with witty and stylish storytelling, these vignettes form—season by season—a rich reflection on the lessons, challenges, and joys of life with a green thumb.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this collection of 80 essays, the Financial Times gardening columnist and Oxford historian presents a convincing case that gardening is about far more than horticultural skill. For Fox, flower gardens are human creations informed by art, history, science, politics, and personality. He takes readers on a year-long tour that combines practical guidance, serious reflection, and humorous provocations. There are essays on individual species, rich with detailed information on exceptional cultivars and best cultivation methods, throughout the year. Other essays reveal Fox's candid, personal impressions of well-known gardeners, including some surprising insights about Christopher Lloyd and Rosemary Verey. He shares his sensitive impressions of distinguished gardens around the globe and the Sisyphean struggles in his own garden. Fox's iconoclastic beliefs and nonorganic methods might alienate some purists, but most gardeners will delight in this rich collection. Opinionated, witty, and erudite, this collection is an example of the best garden writing. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
Penelope Hobhouse, author of In Search of Paradise: Great Gardens of the World
Thoughtful Gardening is clever, educational, inspiring and replete with witty asides—we are the fortunate readers. This is not an ordinary ‘how-to’ gardening book but a brilliant exploration of a gardening passion.”

Gregory Long, President of The New York Botanical Garden
 
“For everyone who loves plants and gardening, this ‘mixed border’ of a book will be one of the best reads ever—erudite, sensible, fearless. Dip into these brilliant essays, and you will have so much fun—laughing at Robin’s stories and his sardonic wit; learning about good plants and flower gardening; reveling in the author’s pithy profiles of celebrity gardeners; thinking about the rich connections among gardening, history, and literature; and traveling with him to important gardens all over the world, where he always has an original take on the history and horticulture of the place. This is garden writing at the highest level."

Town & Country
“[A] collection of witty essays about the pleasures of working the land. Fox, the long-time gardening columnist at the Financial Times, finds delights everywhere from Capri to China, but his greatest inspiration seems to be home: England.”
 
Booklist
“As the venerated gardening columnist for Britain’s Financial Times, acclaimed author, and Garden Master at Oxford University, the acerbic, intuitive, and erudite Fox trots out his own well-honed appreciation for specific cultivars, shares his frustrations with stealthy squirrels and belligerent badgers, and dishes on horticultural divas from Nancy Lancaster to Christopher Lloyd in a seasonal collection of expressive essays in which he travels the world, from his own cozy Cotswold garden to Yves Saint Laurent’s opulent Marrakech retreat.”
 
Publishers Weekly
“For Fox, flower gardens are human creations informed by art, history, science, politics, and personality. He takes readers on a year-long tour that combines practical guidance, serious reflection, and humorous provocations…. Opinionated, witty, and erudite, this collection is an example of the best garden writing.”
 
Library Journal
“After writing weekly gardening columns for the Financial Times for 40 years and penning two gardening books (Better Gardening and Variations on a Garden), Lane Fox still has plenty of observations to pass along. Like many wise gardeners, he strongly believes in thoughtful flower gardening—knowing plants’ origins and growing them well in places suitable for them and for humans…. The appreciation of the arts he interjects throughout this work is unusual in a gardening book and quite pleasurable.”
 
Gregory Long, “What He’s Reading,” Crain’s New York Business
“One of the most brilliant garden books in years.”
 
Helen Dillon, The Financial Times
Thoughtful Gardening is undoubtedly the best gardening book for the past 30 years—provocative, full of information, witty and very funny. Lane Fox is the leading gardening writer in Britain and can say exactly what he thinks. I love this book and wish I hadn’t read it all in one go.”
 
The Times Higher Education (UK)
“Arranged under the four seasons are many of the challenging articles on gardening that Robin Lane Fox has written over 40 years in his weekly column for the Financial Times…Leavening it all is a genial bawdy wit and the unrepentant defiance of a politically incorrect fox-hunter who is not content merely to trap and kill the squirrels that raid his flower beds, but also offers tempting recipes for cooking and eating them.”
 
The Spectator (UK)
“[Thoughtful Gardening] is a summation of the Lane Fox gardening doctrine, this time mixing more or less practical advice on particular plants — Later Clematis, Sociable Deutzias, Desirable Dahlias, the Etna Broom — with more discursive essays, recalling great gardeners, visiting gardens from Texas to Odessa, all these pieces, which are organised seasonally, being deftly linked to make an easy continuous read.”
 
Booklist, Top 10 Craft and Gardening Books: 2010
“This immense wealth of practical information and insight supports the maxim that sometimes devoted gardeners love reading about gardening almost more than the actual act itself.”

Chicago Tribune
“In Thoughtful Gardening, we have this thoughtful gardener’s musings — wit and wisdom in equal measure — boiled down into its richest essence, as he squires us, passage by passage, through a gardener’s year…. This is that rarest of species that makes us not merely keener gardeners, but wiser human beings. If your aim in life is to live it richly — in thought, in habit, in articulation — then grab the book, fluff the cushions and settle in for some necessary winter’s reading. Higher praise, we can’t imagine.”

Financial Times
“The FT gardening columnist for the past 40 years gives us his educated, outrageous and entertaining guide to gardening…. [An] excellent book.”

The Economist
“This, [Mr. Lane Fox’s] third gardening book, is also his first in 25 years, but little here feels fusty or irrelevant…. His years of practical plantsmanship result in deft delineations of the colour, needs and suitable companions of specific flower varieties… But although fecund with practical advice, this is not a how-to manual. Rather it is an episodic expression of Mr. Lane Fox’s ‘thoughtfulness’, and his wry acknowledgement that despite all his best efforts – like his triennial battle to prune his classical patte d’oie of ornamental pears – real gardening begins at the moment you understand that nature ‘can never be pinned down’. It’s a philosophy worth getting your hands dirty for.”

Books & Culture
“[Thoughtful Gardening] is a quintessential combo-pack of information, brilliant prose, and wonderful morsels of history, botany, and practical experience. It is also a mélange of exceptional humor…, engaging travelogue, and memoir. What more could a gardener or reader want?”

Marilyn K. Alaimo, GardenClub.org “[A] fascinating collection of short chapters…. [A] literary gem…. The book is highly recommended for its success in guiding both novice and experienced persons into becoming more knowledgeable gardeners.”

CountryGardens
“To turn a popular saying on its head, well-crafted prose in a gardening book is often worth a thousand pretty pictures. Proof of this is Robin Lane Fox’s latest book, which takes the reader through the four seasons with a series of essays as entertaining as they are informative…. [T]his erudite Englishman is unafraid to share his opinions, which might tickle or prickle (depending on whether we agree with him), and which are based on years of experience tending his own gardens and hobnobbing with some of the best gardeners in the world…. This thought-provoking book on this dirty subject is one any thoughtful reader will return to again and again–for information, inspiration, and perhaps a chuckle or two.”

R•Home (Richmond) “A deliciously odd hybrid of gardening how-to, history and memoir, this book can tell you about irises, Plato, Aldous Huxley and hallucinogens—all in one chapter…. Lots of solid gardening advice is woven throughout, but it’s the author’s crackling wit that makes this book such a great read.”

Library Journal
After writing weekly gardening columns for the Financial Times for 40 years and penning two gardening books (Better Gardening and Variations on a Garden), Lane Fox still has plenty of observations to pass along. Like many wise gardeners, he strongly believes in thoughtful flower gardening—knowing plants' origins and growing them well in places suitable for them and for humans. He takes us through the seasons, sharing experiences from his British home garden, his position as Garden Master at New College, Oxford, and his gardening travels. Primarily known for his readable books on classical history (e.g., The Classical World), he's adept at relating anecdotes about famous gardeners. The appreciation of the arts he interjects throughout this work is unusual in a gardening book and quite pleasurable. VERDICT Overall, the work is more appropriate for knowledgeable American gardeners than beginners. Readers should be forewarned that Lane Fox's methods are not organic. He also does not believe in the garden as wildlife habitat: he gleefully feeds weed-killer-laced milk to pesky rabbits, for example. Recommended for the largest public libraries and extensive gardening collections.—Bonnie Poquette, Milwaukee
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465021963
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 11/9/2010
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 718,410
  • Product dimensions: 14.90 (w) x 11.14 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Robin Lane Fox’s gardening column in the Financial Times is the longest running in print today. The author of Better Gardening and Variations on a Garden, he currently oversees the grounds at New College, Oxford, where he is University Reader in Ancient History. He lives in Oxford, England.

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