Time and the Gardener: Writings on a Lifelong Passion

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A new collection of essays by one of America's premier garden writers

From her vantage point as an octogenarian gardener, Elisabeth Sheldon knows that one of the most important elements in the making of a garden is the passage of time. This is true in the making of a gardener as well; no great gardener is young. Now, in Time and the Gardener, Sheldon brings this perspective...
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Overview

A new collection of essays by one of America's premier garden writers

From her vantage point as an octogenarian gardener, Elisabeth Sheldon knows that one of the most important elements in the making of a garden is the passage of time. This is true in the making of a gardener as well; no great gardener is young. Now, in Time and the Gardener, Sheldon brings this perspective to bear on the process of gardening, in discussions of her favorite plants, and in a handful of portraits of some gardeners of yore.

Sheldon's long life in gardening has yielded a plethora of lessons—for instance, novice gardeners should not take gardening books too seriously, gardeners should never berate themselves over plants that die, and gardening in deep woods can be remarkably satisfying. Sheldon is a plantswoman par excellence, and in Time and the Gardener she writes delightfully about many of her favorite plants—columbines, lysimachias, clematis, and astilbes. Even gardeners in other times have inspired Sheldon, and in this book she gives us colorful portraits of Jane Loudon, Gertrude Jekyll, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and others.

Marvelously written yet intensely opinionated, witty, and wise, Time and the Gardener is vintage Sheldon and will appeal to her legions of fans.

Praise for Elisabeth Sheldon:

"Elisabeth Sheldon is one of the few writers whose work I clip and file. Some garden writers inform, some inspire; she does both."
—Pamela J. Harper, author of Designing with Perennials

"Elisabeth Sheldon is one of America's great garden inspirations."
—Holly Shimizu, Lewis GinterBotanical Garden

Elisabeth Sheldon studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago. She is the author of two books, The Flamboyant Garden and The Proper Garden, which won two awards from the Garden Writers of America
Association. Her writings have appeared in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, and other magazines. She lives and gardens in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.

"Passionate articulate gardeners make the best teachers, and Elisabeth Sheldon's many years on her hands and knees in the garden have given her a perspective on gardening and plants that is both inspiring and instructive. Wisdom is a commodity in short supply these days and Sheldon has it along with courage and a sense of humor."
-Lynden B. Miller, public garden designer

"Elisabeth Sheldon's collection of essays in Time and the Gardener are no-nonsense, honestly frank, yet warmly passionate in this retrospective look at her decades-long love affair with flowers and gardening."
-Bobby J. Ward, author of A Contemplation Upon Plants

"Elisabeth Sheldon is an extraordinary gardener, writer, and designer. This book reveals her humor, honesty, and intense curiosity about plants, gardens, and some of the people who share her passion. Reading her collection of essays is the next best thing to having a leisurely tour through her garden with time for reflections on her life and the garden's place in it. Time and the Gardener is a beautifully written treasure."
-Nancy Goodwin, co-author of A Year in Our Gardens

"Elisabeth Sheldon offers everything one could want in a garden writer. Her fine prose achieves poignant lyricism on one page, and mordant humor on the next. Her scholar¹s mind presents information with lucidity, but every fact and opinion is tested against her own vast experience. She never scolds or intimidates - or worse - talks down to her readers. That is the loveliest compliment. For who, really, can match her in experience, or in her passion for gardening? Readers of her previous books should be very glad for this one, which she is publishing at the age of 85, and which is as good as it gets."
-Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd, authors of A Year at North Hill

"Time and the Gardener is a treasury of garden wisdom by a seasoned gardener who is companionable, amusing, and full of surprises. I'm sure Gertrude Jekyll would have enjoyed visiting her garden-- wish I could be a fly on the tree trunk at that tea party!"
-Diane Ackerman, author of Cultivating Delight

"Lovely and lyrical, Sheldon's prose is enough to boost even the most dedicated armchair gardener from his or her seat and into the garden. Not since Thalassa Cruso has there been such a lucent, informative voice."
-Michael Weishan, Host, PBS-TV's The Victory Garden; Gardening Editor, Country Living Magazine

"Elisabeth Sheldon's elegant prose is always a pleasure to read. In these essays she shares, with infectious joy, knowledge gained through decades of study and hands-on gardening."
- Pamela Harper, author of Time Tested Plants

"Looking back on a life of gardening, Elisabeth Sheldon shares her insightful opinions, practical knowledge of gardening, and fun yet definitive plant information that all come from dedicated experience. This book will make any gardener smile."
-Holly H. Shimizu, Executive Director of the U.S. Botanic Garden

"Time and the Gardener is an entertaining and highly educational book from a real American gardener who is a plantswoman and real writer. Sheldon's garden is in a beautiful but tough spot high above one of the Finger Lakes of New York State. Thus, she has dealt with problems all of us face. And she has written one of the handiest and most enjoyable garden books of our era. A good read!"
-Gregory Long, president, The New York Botanical Garden
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"I wonder," writes Sheldon, "is anything more fun than gardening?" If not, reading this collection of her essays certainly comes close. Like Katharine White, Sheldon is both a knowledgeable gardener and a fine writer. Each of her 33 "discussions" imparts solid information and advice without being prescriptive or didactic. Instead, the reader is treated to the very personal and frankly opinionated perspective of a hard-working gardener with a sparkling personality. Sheldon imparts wisdom from both her successes and her mistakes, such as the cylindrical rock garden she formed that ended up resembling "a sort of furry wishing well." From "The Anxieties of Spring-Growing Plants from Seed" to "Fall and Winter Color," her stories are as enlightening as they are entertaining. In "Timeless Plants-Some of My Favorites" she explores several important plant groups and types; and in "Gardeners of Other Times" Sheldon offers five incisive portraits of the creators of modern garden style, complete with a meditation on gardening and personality ("The Ill-Tempered Gardener"). A welcome relief from the glossy fluff so often passed off as gardening literature, this book will be a joy to readers with an interest in gardening, from neophytes to seasoned experts. (Feb.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
"'I wonder,' writes Sheldon, 'is anything more fun than gardening?' If not, reading this collection of her essays certainly comes close. Like Katharine White, Sheldon is both a knowledgeable gardener and a fine writer. Each of her 33 'discussions' imparts solid information and advice without being prescriptive or didactic. Instead, the reader is treated to a very personal and frankly opinionated perspective of a hard-working gardener with a sparkling personality. . . A welcome relief from the glossy fluff so often passed off as gardening literature, this book will be a joy to readers with an interest in gardening, from neophytes to seasoned experts."
Library Journal
Though in her eighties, Sheldon (The Flamboyant Garden) still gardens in the Finger Lakes region of New York and shares a lifetime of knowledge and observations in a collection sure to please her fans. The short essays are divided into three sections: Part 1 covers general aspects of gardening such as shade gardening, mail-order plants, gathering seeds, combing colors, and so on; Part 2 is devoted to Sheldon's favorite plants, which include columbines, astilbes, gaura, chrysanthemums, variegated plants, and plants with purple foliage; and Part 3 profiles a few of the great British gardeners, including Gertrude Jekyll, Jane Loudon, and Lady Mary Wortley Montague, in fascinating detail. Sheldon writes engagingly, and, more important, her prose sparkles with common sense. Recommended for all libraries.-Phillip Oliver, Univ. of North Alabama Lib., Florence Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Natty essays from the garden: brassy practicality with pungent opinions handed out like garlic. The collection shows Sheldon (The Flamboyant Garden, not reviewed, etc.) at her best not-quite-formal style: controlled but fluid prose from the gardening trenches, generous, experienced, capable of a little mischief. The self-contained essays fuse into a kind of journal of information and observations that displays a broad, widely encompassing enthusiasm-which even to Sheldon can be "alarming, though: for what if one should be left with nothing to hate?" A number of pieces concern themselves with hard facts, like the payoff of keeping a log or how to gather seeds and plant from them. The author admits when she's flummoxed ("Do other people's primulas stay tidy all summer? If so, how do they do it? Mine become spotty and yellow, quite hideous") and gives her chapters sporty titles like "Shrubs for the Mixed Border" and "Putting the Garden to Bed." She writes with a precise touch about elements of gardening that touch her soul, like the atavistic pleasures of a woods garden or why one should take garden snobbery and stick it deep underground along with the bulbs, perhaps paint it, as she does sumac, "with poison ivy killer." (She also writes about systemic herbicides, so readers averse to such treatment, beware.) Sheldon includes spare paeans to some of her garden favorites-columbines, astilbes, cranesbills, goatsbeards-as well as vest-pocket introductory biographies of Gertrude Jekyll, Jane Loudon, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Alexander Pope, and Horace Walpole. Most of all, she embraces the process, the unfolding, of garden and gardener, the chance additions, the blunders that teach, thesuccessful or disastrous working of ideas. Now an octogenarian, Sheldon writes, "I myself would like to meet Death in the flower garden-falling facedown onto a cushion of Dianthus gratianopolitanus, if that's not too much to ask." No, but not for a while, please. Agent: Christine Ward Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807085561
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 2/1/2003
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 9.66 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Elisabeth Sheldon studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago. She is the author of two books, The Flamboyant Garden and The Proper Garden, which won two awards from the Garden Writers of America Association. Her writings have appeared in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, and other magazines. She lives and gardens in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.
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Table of Contents

Time and the Gardener 1
Part 1 What I've Learned over time
The Anxieties of Spring: Growing Plants from Seed 11
Gardening in the Woods 16
Horticultural Discrimination 33
Tall Plants 37
A New Home for Rock Plants 45
Shrubs for the Mixed Border 53
To the Plant Breeders--Thanks and No Thanks 62
Shade Garden Revolution 68
Mail-order Plants 71
Help! 78
Problems in the Tapestry Border 84
Seed Gathering 87
August 98
Autumn 105
Putting the Garden to Bed 108
Fall and Winter Color 115
Part 2 Timeless Plants--Some of my Favorites
Columbines 123
Lysimachias 130
Some Border Clematis 137
Legumes for the Flower Border 144
Astilbes 149
Gaura 156
Chrysanthemums 159
Gardening with Purple Foliage 170
Nepetas 178
Two Small Plants 185
Annuals for the Perennial Border 188
Variegated Plants 197
Part 3 Gardeners of Other Times
Miss Jekyll 215
First Lady of Gardening: Jane Loudon 223
Lady Mary's Garden 240
Two More Eighteenth-Century Gardeners 248
The Ill-Tempered Gardener 256
Plant Index 261
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