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Deep-Rooted Wisdom: Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners
     

Deep-Rooted Wisdom: Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners

by Augustus Jenkins Farmer
 

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We have begun to lose some of the most important skills used by everyday gardeners to create beautiful, productive gardens. With a personality-driven, engaging narrative, Deep Rooted Wisdom teaches accessible, commonsense skills to a new generation of gardeners. Soulful gardener, Augustus Jenkins Farmer, profiles experienced and up-and-coming gardeners who

Overview

We have begun to lose some of the most important skills used by everyday gardeners to create beautiful, productive gardens. With a personality-driven, engaging narrative, Deep Rooted Wisdom teaches accessible, commonsense skills to a new generation of gardeners. Soulful gardener, Augustus Jenkins Farmer, profiles experienced and up-and-coming gardeners who use these skills in their own gardens. Enjoy this chance to get planting, propagation, and fertilizing knowledge handed down directly from the experts in the field. 

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/03/2014
With a relaxed, Southern charm evocative of lush greenery, muddy swamps, perfumy hedges, hidden lanes, and steamy backyard gatherings, Farmer, who farms crinum lilies and designs gardens, invites readers into his community of plants, people, and landscapes, gently urging readers to adopt old gardening ways and adapt them to 21st-century life. He covers trendy topics, such as layering functions, no-till gardening, building the soil web, saving seeds, and favoring hand tools and imperfections over machines and pesticides. Yet unlike many other authors in this genre whose roots are relatively recently planted, Farmer, who’s been digging, foraging, and planting since the third grade, consults old-timers in his neighborhood—especially his mother—and ventures further afield to glean advice from “fellow ‘dirt’ gardeners” about such diverse topics as rooting cuttings, the art of machete-wielding, and opening the senses in order to discover and work with the spirit of place. Although the practical advice may not be all-new to many dirt-diggers, garden clubbers and permies alike will find inspiration in Farmer’s gently, richly passionate stories of natural and cultural history embedded in gardens and the gardeners who create and inhabit them. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

“With a relaxed, Southern charm. . . . Farmer invites readers into his community of plants, people, and landscapes, gently urging readers to adopt old gardening ways and adapt them to 21st-century life.” —Publishers Weekly

“Engaging. . . . Each chapter describes a time-honored skill or idea, introduces people who have mentored Farmer in these older ways, and shows readers how these practices can be adapted for modern times. . . . This treasure trove of homespun botanical advice will remind growers why they fell in love with gardening in the first place.” —Booklist

“Farmer’s enthusiasm for sharing his and his mentors’ knowledge shines through the text, and the color photographs are beautiful and useful.” —Library Journal

“I can’t think of a recent gardening book I have enjoyed more. Nowhere else could I have met so many wise gardening mentors or learned about a ‘sapro-entrepreneur’ and ‘rose rustlers.’” —Garden Rant

“A compelling tour through generations of hard-won gardening wisdom and traditions, through the eyes of Jenks Farmer and his own garden mentors.” —The American Gardener

“Farmer is a natural storyteller.” —Somerset Daily American

Deep-Rooted Wisdom: Skills and Stories from Generations of Gardeners is not nostalgia or reminiscence; it is a guide to how old skills and ideas can be adapted, using the latest science, for modern gardening. . . . Farmer is an original, in the best sense of the word, and Deep-Rooted Wisdom is a highly original book.” —Cherokee Library

“Peppered with stories and humor, this treasure trove of down to-earth gardening advice passed down through generations is a great read for both the new and the master gardener.” —Charleston Daily Mail

“This is a down-to-earth handbook of traditional gardening methods. . . . A wonderful gift for the gardener in your life.” —Norwich Magazine

“A delightful retro guide to simpler yet successful ways to grow and enjoy plants.” —Carolina Country

“This is a delicious book to pour over because there are so many connections between people and plants.” —The Herald-Journal

“Novice gardeners, veteran planters and everyone in between can find something to enjoy inside the pages. . . . features practical lessons, oral histories and DIY pointers.” —Columbia Daily
Lowcountry Weekly

“Novice gardeners, veteran planters and everyone in between can find something to enjoy inside the pages… features practical lessons, oral histories and DIY pointers.”

Booklist - Carl Hays
“Engaging… Each chapter describes a time-honored skill or idea, introduces people who have mentored Farmer in these older ways, and shows readers how these practices can be adapted for modern times. .. This treasure trove of homespun botanical advice will remind growers why they fell in love with gardening in the first place.”

Columbia Daily

“Farmer’s enthusiasm for sharing his and his mentors’ knowledge shines through the text, and the color photographs are beautiful and useful.”

Library Journal
02/15/2014
Farmer, who is part-owner and operator of LushLife Nursery in Columbia, SC, which specializes in growing Crinum (a subtropic genus of the amaryllis family), is also a garden designer and lecturer. Here he advocates going back to a simpler time in gardening and shares wisdom from the past, updated for today's gardener. His topics include stacking up (gardening with multipurpose plants), tilling, sowing pass-along plants, building soil, watering by hand, saving seeds, creating handmade garden structures, using hand tools, scavenging plants, controlling pests and weeds, and telling stories through gardens. Each chapter is divided into three parts: introducing a past commonplace and commonsense garden idea and sharing how it has become complicated over time; introducing people who have shared the old ways and their gardening techniques with him; and how he has updated these techniques for today's gardener. VERDICT Farmer's enthusiasm for sharing his and his mentors' knowledge shines through the text, and the color photographs are beautiful and useful. One reservation: he suggests composting animal products, including pets' waste, which most garden experts strongly discourage. While the general topics covered apply to all gardeners, many specific examples are for Southern gardeners, making the book most useful to them.—Sue O'Brien, Downers Grove P.L., IL

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781604696004
Publisher:
Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
03/25/2014
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
248
Sales rank:
836,128
File size:
33 MB
Note:
This product may take a few minutes to download.

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction
If you’re like me, you can look at a situation, a style, a practice, and see beyond groupthink and rote activity to find simple, effective, and fun ways of doing things. People might call us pot stirrers—I don’t know how you caught it, but I was born this way. Looking beyond convention and questioning anything and everything has led me to create gardens stripped bare of the purchased and pretentious, overflowing with (to quote Joan Baez) the “special, miraculous, unrepeatable, fragile, fearful, tender, lost, sparkling ruby emerald jewel, rainbow splendor” stuff of life.
    
It was in the third grade that I became a gardener. My parents set me up in a paradise—an old farm full of rocks, boards, and scrap metal; an ancient yard filled with crinum and red spider lilies, right next to a magnolia forest carpeted with ferns. Those were my supplies. I was free to dig, transplant, and make little walkways and rooms in any way I wanted. I pruned the vitex tree, divided giant squill, and with old paint, my daddy and I painted a 12-foot sunflower on the barn wall that my garden backed up to. It’s all still there thirty-five years later. It wasn’t even until my second year in college that I realized that other people were building their gardens from store-bought plants and stones. Through my little garden, I’d sow seeds I found in parks, cut flowers, and try to figure out how the people who’d gardened before me might have used arrowheads, china shards, or plow parts that I unearthed. I even left little caches of toys and coins for those who’d come after me. At some point, punk rock and other teenage distractions came along and kept my attention for a while, until in college one of my cousins looked past my yellow mohawk and at my collection of acorns in the dorm fridge and said, “You ought to be in horticulture.”
    
The idea had a lot of merit, but I found that the horticulture of academics and industry, with its focus on reductionist science and the marketing of newer and newer products, differed distinctly from the fuzzy, magical gardening of my youth. It still does. Nonetheless, I studied, was inspired by, and learned from horticultural scientists for almost eight years of my college education. For thirty years since, I’ve tried to mix up a holistic broth of magic, art, science, and industry with plants, worms, and dirt. I’ve watched lots of new products, new advertising, and new rules come along regularly, each creating unneeded complexities that only serve to intimidate future gardeners and obscure the joy of gardening.
    
Recently, an 84-year-old friend and I were tying plastic grocery bags around his garden—he thinks their rustling scares deer—when he said to me, “It’s like all those medicines they want me to be on: they give me one, then another, and one causes the other to go wrong, and then yet another to try to fix the problem that the one caused.” Soon, you’re wondering if all this has fixed anything. Of course, some improvements, prescriptions, and technology do make things better. But they also need constant filtering, monitoring, and editing. Much the same can be said about gardening and the myriad prescriptions that “experts” and companies offer in literature and the marketplace. When I walk through the product-lined shelves of some big-box store’s lawn and garden section, I inevitably find myself asking the same questions: How did we get here? How did we go from cuttings and manure and seeds and fun to this commercial maze? What happened to trading plants between friends and strangers? To letting things go to seed so they’d come up next year? To making a garden with things that you find lying around the neighborhood? To watering with a hose? Who ever came up with the idea of motorized garden sprayers, anyway?
    
This book is intended to help us—professionals and amateurs alike—escape some of these distractions; to find our way back to successful, joyful, simple gardening. Our grandparents gardened like farmers, applying their skills and know-how—to borrow one of my nana’s terms, they used their make-do. Today, however, we’ve lost a great deal of that; there are certain essential old gardening habits that aren’t even part of our discussion. We’ve even changed our vocabulary, losing some fascinating, useful, or simply colorful old gardening terms. Sometimes, as professionals, as lifelong gardeners, we don’t take the time to consider how we’ve arrived at modern gardening. Sometimes we wrap skills up into blind routines, a few words, and forget the nuances of the basics. Even simple instructions can be completely miscomprehended. A “water that in, please” can lead to disappointment when you later find a tiny sprinkling of droplets around a wilted plant, or a seedling smothered in a flood of roiling watery mulch. Even in the seemingly simple act of watering, there are centuries of wisdom. That wisdom used to be passed on seamlessly from older to younger gardeners, but that kind of knowledge transfer is being lost. I cherish the people who inspired me, and I cherish more than anything the chance to be a garden mentor myself, to pass on and share stories from the garden that help us understand how we got to where we are—not just as gardeners, but as people; as stewards of the earth and all of its inhabitants.
    
Growing up on our little farm, every Sunday after church we’d gather for dinner. Every aunt, uncle, grandparent, and cousin sat around the table and told stories that often ended with us laughing through tears at the absurdity of life. I can still hear them now. This book is my attempt to join into that Sunday dinner storytelling. I want to honor the people who’ve taught me and share their lessons, their charms, and their gardens with you. Gardening the way these rural people did—and still do—often seemed to clash with the horticulture industry. But digging deeper, we find that academia, science, and industry actually validate these long-used practices. We can merge the old with the new, finding new joy in our gardens. During the short span of my career, an entire new science of soil microbiology has emerged; we understand more how essential fungi are to growing plants and we have new questions that no one thought to ask before. There is always exciting new research in horticulture, creating new paths that can lead us out of the maze. In this book, I’ll describe how on that same little family farm, we try to do this today through our garden design firm and field nursery.
    
Each chapter is divided into three sections. In the first section, I’ll introduce an old skill or idea, something that used to be common in gardening, and take a brief look at how it’s changed, how it’s gotten complicated over the past few decades. In the second part, I’ll introduce people who’ve taught me about the old ways of doing things. I’ll share the wisdom of my mentors and other teachers. While most are older, there are many young gardeners who inspire me, too. And most are southern. But like lots of farm boys, I ran hard before I came back; I found teachers across the globe. In the third section, I’ll combine that wisdom with commonsense ways that I have adapted and updated these lessons for modern gardening. Sometimes I do that on our farm, and sometimes in the gardens I design for my clients. In all our work, we arrive at combinations that can be artful and soulful and sometimes even absurd.
    
The most important lesson that I can pass on in this book has been taught to me time and time again by the gardeners of all ages that I’ve met along the way: take care of the earth and help others to love and respect the beautiful rainbow of the stuff of life.
 

Meet the Author

Augustus Jenks Farmer’s vision for reflective gardening guided gardeners, craftsmen, volunteers, and scientists to create two lauded public botanical gardens as well as art museums, city parks, and private enclaves. His connoisseurs’ nursery promoted the renaissance of the crinum lily, a forgotten plant of early American gardens. He’s listed as one of Garden & Gun’s most interesting people and is regularly featured in Southern Living. While his focus is on subtropical gardening in the South, he’s written and lectured internationally.

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