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Report From An Opinionated Gardener – January 3

Today begins my experiment with an on-line book club, focused, in the main, on gardening books. As I announced on Dec 3rd, the book that sparked this idea was Best of Green Space by Duane Campbell, published by B.B. Mackey Books. When I was reading the articles in this compilation I immediately wished that I could share my delight with others and the Grateful Gardeners Book Club was born.

My idea is that I’ll write a few thoughts about this book today, and anyone who wants to chime in with their views will do so in the comments. Duane will even check back here periodically and answer questions, so if you want some of the inside compost directly from the author, this is the place to ask.

Let me begin by echoing what one of my GardenLine callers said last week. I reminded my listening audience that we would discuss this book on-air next Saturday, and one of my callers commented that he had gotten two copies, one to read and one to give away. What he loved about the book, he said, was that there was practical information and a great deal of good humor.

Smiles abound when you read Best of Green Space, but don’t read this in bed late at night while your spouse sleeps because you’re likely to wake him or her when you laugh out loud. Try and stifle those chuckles and you’ll shake the bed as surely as the hotel beds that vibrate when you put in a quarter.

Duane writes with a strong personal voice…I don’t know if he speaks the same way because I’ve never met him, but his columns read as if you’re walking with him in the garden. Perhaps you’d be helping him with something in the garden because I can’t see him letting an extra pair of hands remain idol if there are some scrounged rocks to sort or something. Or maybe I’m thinking of my husband.

In any case, there are single sentences here that delighted me. An example can be found in the opening of the article called Soil on page 65: “Gardeners talk about loam the way preachers talk about grace.” Amen! (And it gives me a clue as to why my radio audience is convinced that C.L. stands for Compost Lover.)

Those who get a kick out of doing things inexpensively will love this book. It’s filled with ideas for saving money in the garden or with your indoor plants. This is not only useful for those who have yet to be successful germinating Money Tree seeds, but helpful to give less costly but equally effective alternatives to expensive products. So new gardeners take note: if you want someone who will truthfully tell you which product is worth spending money on, and which one to pass by in favor of a cheaper alternative, Campbell is your guy.

Duane points out on page 36, for instance, that the inexpensive shop light fixtures and plain florescent bulbs that you can buy in any hardware store or home center are as effective as fancy “grow lights.”  (Check out the last photo on this post from 2009 to see a shot of shop lights at work in my basement.)  And he explains how useful this tower of power will be in the coming seasons.

If I had to distill what I appreciate about this book down to one word it would be this: enjoyment. In all of the articles in this book you feel the author’s sense of delight and satisfaction with plants and gardening. And because that pleasure is the rich soil in which all of his ideas and experiences are planted, Duane makes the reader want to garden too.

Next Month’s Gardening Books Book Club selection: Our Life In Gardens by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd – discussion February 3rd.

Duane Campbell's book, with bookmarks for things I'd like to bring up on the radio on Saturday.

Next month's selection, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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