YOU MEET THE nicest people working in plants. I’ve spent countless hours with plants people in and out of their garden spaces. Others, both living and passed, have become treasured comrades in compost and sisters in soil after reading about their gardening life. Collectively, these stories of trials and successes, and intellectual and even spiritual inquiry, enrich my own relationship with the garden.
Just in time for gift season, here are some of my favorite garden books of the past year.
● “Windcliff: A Story of People, Plants, and Gardens,” by Daniel J. Hinkley (Timber Press, 2020). Hinkley’s gift for storytelling transports readers around the globe and back home again to his garden in Indianola, Washington, as he honors the people and explores the places that grew him into the gardener he is today. Remarkable photographs by Claire Takacs brilliantly capture the light and movement of this kinetic and lively landscape. I should know: While offering an editorial assist to Hinkley, I had the privilege and pleasure of spending many hours in this very special garden. I might be biased, but this book is a gem.
● “Slow Flowers Journal: the Best of Slow Flowers from the pages of Florists’ Review,” by Debra Prinzing (Wildflower Media, 2020). Prinzing, a good friend and cohort on many a garden adventure, is one of the country’s leading champions of floral artisans and industry professionals committed to working with local, seasonal and sustainably sourced flowers. As I wrote in a blurb for the book’s back cover, “ ‘Slow Flowers Journal’ offers an inspiring look at floral designers, florist-farmers and botanical artists whose passion for working with seasonal blooms and commitment to sustainable practices is changing America’s relationship with flowers.”
● “Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World,” by Kathryn Aalto (Timber Press, 2020). Determined to course-correct a body of nature writing the author describes as “a club for white men,” Aalto examines the work of 25 women from throughout time and across diverse cultures who dared to wander on their own and record their wonder. Their words, as well as those of many others that Aalto suggests for further reading, offer a fresh perspective on connecting with and understanding the natural world. So many (s)heroes.
● “A Way to Garden: a hands-on primer for every season,” by Margaret Roach. (Timber Press, 2019). Without getting too meta, I am especially drawn to writers who garden and write about gardening. Roach, one of America’s best-known garden writers, weaves strong sentences about practical topics such as weeding, plant identification and pruning, with a personal narrative as she examines life, love and loss, in the landscape and otherwise. Roach’s discussion of even the most onerous chore or persistent pest makes me a better gardener; her words inspire me to keep going.
● “The Earth in Her Hands: 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants,” by Jennifer Jewell (Timber Press, 2020). The author is a plantsperson with a deep abiding love for gardens and plants and for those who tend their plots thoughtfully and with respect for natural systems. Jewell pours this passion into her new book, which profiles contemporary women who are planting spaces, exploring and preserving the botanical world, and those who spend their days creating and crafting with words, images and blossoms. Several of the women mentioned above are featured in the book, including, how shall I put this: me. I’m both honored and grateful to have such good company on my journey in plants.