The Bad Tempered Gardener

The Bad Tempered Gardener
by Anne Wareham

168 pages
Frances Lincoln Limited, 2011
List price: $24.95

Having interacted with Anne Wareham on Twitter and observed many other conversations there, I really thought I’d thoroughly love her book, The Bad Tempered Gardener. I enjoy her sharp wit and her sometimes blunt frankness. But I can’t exactly say the same for her book. Perhaps the title set my mood as a reader, too.

I got into the spirit of things as I read the first few chapters, but by halfway through, I was growing weary of her not liking this or not liking that. I appreciate her honesty about gardens and gardening. I agree with many of her observations and don’t with others. But by the time I had six or so chapters to go, I found myself doing some self-talk to finish the book.

Perhaps because I’m a glass half full kind of gal, this just wasn’t the book for me. I mean no disrespect when I say it was just a bit too bad-tempered for me. I was warned, after all. But it wasn’t just the negativity; it was also the expounding on things when the same thing could be said in half the words.

Wareham and her husband Charles Hawes have created a garden of genius in the reflecting pool and wavy hedges. Brilliant. To her credit, she gives many points for gardeners to ponder and we would all do well to do a little more independent thinking, as she does.

Anne Wareham has been living and gardening in the Welsh borders with her husband Charles Hawes for over thirty years. She has written occasional pieces for the Financial Times on gardens since 1998 and accompanying articles to Charles Hawes' photographs in magazines such as The English Garden and Gardens Illustrated. She contributed a chapter to the Frances Lincoln book Vista and is a founder member of thinkingardens, set up with the support of the RHS to encourage and develop a broader, more enquiring attitude to gardens.

The publication being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine. If I like something, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that,too.

The Language of Flowers: A Novel

The Language of Flowers: A Novel
by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

336 pages
Ballentine Books, 2011
List price: $25.00

Being a gardener and seeing things through a gardener’s eyes, it was the title that first drew my attention to The Language of Flowers. But being fiction, I knew that while flowers might be a major player, they just as easily might not be. They are.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s debut novel tackles a subject that few of us are really familiar with - the life of foster children – and joins it to the Victorian custom of using flowers to convey thoughts and feelings.  As we hear about Victoria’s life in a volley of chapters that tell of her difficult past and then her equally difficult present, we come to want her to succeed, despite her struggles with herself to do so. She has those in her life that want her to have a good life, too, if she can only come to believe in their sincerity – not an easy task for a child who has grown up in a series of foster and group homes.

In case you’re wondering, there’s romance here, but this is no romance novel. It is an inspiring and at the same time, enlightening tale of a complicated life about a girl we somehow like straight away. We do learn about the language of flowers and a bit about viticulture, but we learn a great deal more about the human spirit.

I read The Language of Flowers in two days and not because I didn’t have anything else to do. It captured my interest in the first few pages and never let go until I reached the end. Very few books do both for me. As I made my way through each chapter, I tried to figure out how it all would work together to come to a satisfying conclusion. I never quite figured it out until I read it and that’s a good thing.

It’s hard for me to believe that this is a first novel. Diffenbaugh has made herself a tough act to follow, but I hope she does.

To write The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh found inspiration in her own experience as a foster mother. After studying creative writing and education at Stanford University, Vanessa taught art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband, PK, have three children and live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is her first novel.

The publication being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine. If I like something, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that,too.