Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Principles of Gardening / A few thoughts

Dear Readers,

I am still feeling a bit under the weather - now I have a mild migraine on top of everything else. But I am at the library returning a book I wanted to tell you a little about.

The Principles of Gardening by Hugh Johnson, Simon & Schuster, New York, ISBN 0-671-50805-9 - This book is practically an encyclopedia all on its own. It starts with a compressive discussion of soil, and ranges from there through various types of gardens, plant types, and a little history. Hugh Johnson is a British national, and is touched by a bit of that wry British humor and also a bit of ethnocentrism when it comes to which types of gardens he thinks are best. There are times I actually found myself wondering if he even thought anyone would read all his words. He disparagingly discusses young boys use of the shrubbery and other asides that caught me off guard.

I found the sections on the soil and plant nutrition to be particularly interesting, as that is something I have been thinking about recently. (I have an article on soil nutrient cycles being considered by the local newspaper.) I found it particularly interesting, and not just from this source, that the British do not seem to be as prissy as we are in the US about what goes into a compost pile. All vegetable, garden, and animal waste seems to be fair game as far as they are concerned.

Well, personally I wouldn't put certain things in the compost pile. I get my hands in the compost, and there are certain things I don't want my hands in. Then there is the problem, especially around here, of attracting animals. Some of the stuff I don't want in my compost pile, I will bury. But once I buried a souring pot of chili, and some animal or other dug it right back up and had it for a midnight snack. Live and learn . . .

Another thing I have noticed in this book, and in other books by British authors, is they tend to bury things in the garden. And while I am definitely not British, I suffer from the same tendencies. I haven't seen any British authors discussing this activity as feeding the worms - which is why I bury all kinds of stuff. But they discuss the soil and nutrient building properties of creating little compost heaps under certain heavy feeding plants.

Not that this particular book is all about vegetable gardens. Quite the contrary in fact. It is more about high brow landscapes and estates. I did enjoy reading the sections on the history of these extravagant gardens and exploring the photos of gardens around the world. I came away with a better idea of the sorts of landscapes that are pleasing and restful, compared to those that are busy and chaotic.

However, they all have their merits and they all evolve. We may start out with a "seed packet riot," but over time the shrubbery grows . . .

Hope you all feel better than me!


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