The Down-to-Earth Gardener

Suzy Bales knows I love her books. Ever since I first read her amazing book "The Garden in Winter," I've been collecting her extraordinary books on the simple but entirely consuming art of gardening: "A Garden of Fragrance," "Garden Parties" and my personal favourite, "The Down-to-Earth Gardener," which is the subject of this particular post.

Suzy was gracious enough to send me two review copies of her books, including "The Down-to-Earth Gardener" when she read my glowing review of "The Garden in Winter." Always thankful for such random acts of kindness, I sent her a thank-you card and since then I've been scouring her books for all the tips and insight needed for the outdoor cultivator. (I should point out here that I do not have a garden of my own and could easily write a book entitled "The Eventual Gardener" since much of my existence in the spring and summer months is spent pining restlessly after flowers and plants that do not grow on my premises.)
Suzy Bales and a fluffy companion in her garden, pictured on the cover of the book. Many fans of Martha's publications will relate to the well-written and personal perspective of Suzy's advice.

I've always loved good gardening books, and I've collected my share. Suzy's books find venerated spaces on my bookshelves amid my gardening-tome collection. It's precisely this 'down-to-earth' perspective she has mastered that first hooked me on her writing in her book about understanding and loving the garden in the cold, foreboding season of death. Even the concept of such a book intrigued me. In "The Down-to-Earth Gardener" we see Suzy at her best, tending and loving and exploring her property in the Hamptons with the wisdom and fearlessness of a gardener with focus.

What makes her books unique is their conversational tone. You feel, sometimes, that you are sitting on her patio, gazing out at the landscape, listening to her speak about this section of the garden or that one. Or perhaps you're strolling with her through her lilac and peony walkway, inhaling the incredible fragrance as she directs your eye to a particular cultivar the average visitor may not notice.

The book is filled with 'vignettes' - little moments of wisdom that will prove to be invaluable to you as you plan your own garden. Though the advice stems from her personal experience in her personal garden, it is applicable to any northeast garden and to any gardener.

Below are some photographs from the book. I highly recommend it!
A breathtaking scene along Suzy's driveway. An ornamental crabapple tree and a linden are dressed with skirts of early blooms, including tulips and forget-me-nots.
Climbing roses and Boston ivy grow profusely along the walls of the carriage house on the property. Suzy explains in detail some of the successes and hardships she has had with climbing roses.
The entrance to the lilac and peony walk on Suzy's property begs the explorer to linger a little on a quaint iron bench.

A walk along the lilac and peony walk in spring must be a fragrant delight!

A large pond at the base of a hill on Suzy's property is filled with perennial water lilies, lotus and fish. The pond adds a light, reflective element to the property. Hydrangeas bloom along the shore.


Anonymous said...

Just stunning! Thanks for sharing, Andrew! I like her book, "The Garden in Winter", such an overlooked topic in the world of gardening. But I must say, I can't help but think of Martha when looking at Suzy's cover pose, with garden basket on the arm, small dog at her feet, she even bears a resemblance with her sophisticated, blonde bob, and her denimblue shirt and khakis. I'm sure the similarity wasn't lost on you, either!


Not lost at all! :-)

Brent said...

Hi, Andrew

In August Suzy is the guest celebrity gardening judge in America's Oldest Largest Garden Party contest. What tip will you submit to impress her?


Hmmm, I'll have to think of a good one, Brent. Now you've got me thinking...