Monday, July 23, 2007

Book club

My Summer in a Garden, by Charles Dudley Warner, the June/July gardener's book club selection, shown on my unmade (of course) bed, where it resided for the months of June and July.

I indicated to Carol that I found this book to be a snoozer. And it was - in a good way. The flowery prose of the late 19th century inevitably makes our 21st century text-messaging, keyword-searching brains rebel. But once into the flow of the tale of a summer in Charles’ garden, the rhythm was easy to pick up, the long (and longer) paragraphs easier for the eye to scan. I felt right at home in that garden, and the comfortable, inexorable cycle of gardening is what lulled me to sleep each night as I read this book.

Didn’t it seem like a curmudgeonly old gent wrote this? He hated children, his neighbor’s cow that often wallowed in his garden (imagine that!), cats and chickens, and he belittled his wife. In fact, Warren was only 41 years old when he wrote this, which gives credence to my theory that people used to behave (and look) much older than they actually were. 60 may be the new 40 now, but back then a 40-year-old could easily pass for a 60-year-old codger. But since most of the book was written tongue-in-cheek, the reader has to assume that this book was meant to be read then as we’d read Dave Barry now.

I guess my favorite part of this book was Charles’ hatred of “pusley”, “a fat ground-clinging, spreading, greasy thing” which I can only assume is purslane. It’s nice to know some things never change, while others did. His antiquated views on certain topics are merely something to wonder at now, but a fact of life in his day. And his way with a phrase is what kept me engrossed and occasionally laughing out loud, such as “the cucumbers cumber the ground – great yellow, over-ripe objects” which put me in mind of May Dreams’ squash, as did Charles’ raptures over his new hoe. There were lots of other great passages but I couldn’t highlight them since I got this book from the library and they probably wouldn’t appreciate it. I don’t want to go back and re-read the whole darn book to find them again, amusing as it was. I’ll just finish this with Charles Dudley Warren’s observation that “a garden is an awful responsibility.” But he found a most amusing way to deal with it.

Here's my own summer-in-my-garden latest photo, the Rose of Sharon, which decided to bloom just in time for my daughter's visit.

It has an abundance of pretty little flowers, in pink of course. I have friends who've recently planted the blue ones, but I haven't seen any pictures of theirs yet and of course their plants are still quite small.

Not like this behemoth that would like to reach the height of the now-defunct basketball hoop. My neighbor's house in the background is higher on the hill than I am, and you can just see the roof of my garage on the right to get an idea of the height. I've had to trim this bush to the ground several times over the years because heavy snows tend to smash it flat and then the limbs grow all twisted instead of springing back into shape.

While I was waiting for my daughter to get off the plane, I took this shot of the greeting area at DIA. Nice fountain under the "circus-tent" roof, and a long line of variegated something-or-others all lined up in their pots. Charles Dudley Warner would be amazed.


Carol said...

You don't make your bed every day? I'm shocked!

But I am delighted you have joined in the Garden Bloggers' Book Club with a review for us. Well done, I'd read the book again, if I hadn't already done so, after reading your review.

I picked more squash last night. The neighbors took some of it off my hands, I think it was more out of pity than desire to have squash... Charles and you are right, "a garden is an awful responsibility"!

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

Lynne said...

Your Rose of Sharon is beautiful! It seems quite a few bloggers have this plant (or is it a shrub). I think I'll have to look and see if there is a hardy variety for zone 4.

Annie in Austin said...

Lost Roses, you are definitely my kind of woman. Chocolate, stockpiled books and unmade beds.
I finished reading the book but didn't do my review yet. Your post made me laugh, and agree with a lot of what you said - but I never thought of the author as an old curmudgeon.

I don't think it's such a good idea for 60 to be the new 40... I already did 40. No do-overs!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Bev said...

Lost Roses, I enjoyed your review and usual humor. Now, I had NO idea "Charlie" was only 40 when he wrote this?? Yea, I wonder what he would think of DIA? I agree with the "snooze" factor until you could get used to his prose.

The Rose of Sharon enocurages me. We moved mine (blue) from the back where it wasn't getting enough sun. Yours sure is happy there. Mine does have some buds so I will take a photo for you when they bloom. It will take it a while to get used to the new location, but so far, so good. It's good to have you back, unmade bed and all.

Mary said...

I never made my bed on weekdays. I just make it "look made". :o) You are no alone.

Your descriptions of the book sounds like something I'd enjoy and I wrote a note on my pad to check it out! I'm a Dave Barry fan. I think I'd like Charles Dudley.

My Rose of Sharon just started blooming (very late). It's out of control, too.

Your photos depict a great time! I'm sure you enjoyed spending good days with your daughter :o)

LostRoses said...

Carol, there's just no point in making beds, do you think? Throw the top sheet somewhere up near the pillows and you're good to go!

I did think Charles waxed rhapsodic about his veggies, so it really did put me in mind of you! Glad you got rid of some more squash, that's not easy to do.

Lynne, thanks! I think with some protection you could do zone 4 on the Rose of Sharon. It really has held up under the worst conditions and as I mentioned, even when I have to cut it back to just a foot tall or less, it comes right back quite nicely.

Annie, I agree, no do-overs! Well, maybe a couple of things. But, been there, done that!

I don't know why I thought Warner was an old curmedgeon but that was the impression I got immediately and you know how it is when you get the wrong end of the stick. It's hard to let go! I'm looking forward to your review.

And I'm glad I'm not the only one with unmade beds!

Bev, Thanks for the welcome back and I'm so glad to hear you have the blue Rose of Sharon! I know you'll have some great pictures eventually, and I'm glad you moved it. Sometimes it seems like too much trouble but I've made a habit of planting things in the wrong place so I've had my share of successes and failures in moving them!

As for Warren's writing, I'm sure it was the "thing" in his day, we're just not used to it.

Mary, my Rose of Sharon started blooming just a couple days before my daughter arrived, I was very pleased since she loves that bush. We were watching some Stargazer lily buds getting fatter and fatter, and they bloomed the day AFTER she left. Figures.

We did have a great time, it was kind of like a time warp having my daughter back home again! She doesn't make her bed either.

Yes, you'll probably like Charles Dudley, it just takes a while to get through it!

Andrea's Garden said...

Hello, thanks for your book review. I love the rose of Sharon and I will have to look it up. The hibiscus that I have outdoors are all doing well even in hard winters and believe me we do have those at the Alps (except last year was unusual). It is called Hibiscus syriacus and it stays outdoors.

EAL said...

Is that Denver airport? I was just there and I don't think that fountain was finished--you could see where it would go.

Nicole said...

I love your book review, quite amusing. I agree, people looked and acted really old for their age back then!

LostRoses said...

Hi Andrea, hard to believe that gorgeous hibiscus is hardy, but then I don't know what zone you garden in, but Alps sounds cold! It's a stunner, regardless. I'm glad you showed a photo of it.

Yes, Elizabeth, that's the Denver airport. That particular fountain (there are others) is located in the main terminal building. They do shut it off occassionally to clean it, but it sounds like what you saw was not finished. They're always re-doing things out there. Did you catch the Indiana Jones-style, crumbling, vine-covered ruins on concourse B? Or the American Indian Prayer music playing eerily on concourse A? They say the drumming is to appease to spirits of the dead since the rumor is that DIA was built on an Indian burial ground. Not true though, apparently. I kind of like the stone gargoyles sitting in stone suitcases at baggage claim.

Nicole, the age thing is weird and something I've noticed all my life. Of course, I grew up also thinking people lived in a black-and-white world back then!

kate said...

I guess I have to join in on the unmade bed question. I haven't read this book ... it sounds like an interesting, quirky sort of read.

Thanks for your blog comment. I love the Chinese proverb and am definitely not going to let the birds make a nest in my hair.

I'm glad you had a good time with your daughter and that your Rose of Sharon was in bloom while she was there. It is gorgeous. I like the colour... I don't think I've even seen a picture of the blue one.

Oh I've just had another glimpse of your granddaughter with her parasol. That is such a cute pic.

Dirty Fingernails said...

I have a white double and pink double rose of sharon.. I love it, but make sure I cut it back to keep it in check.. It can get out of control here.

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Love that greeting area at DIA, very pretty and relaxing.

That was a fun review of Summer in a Garden! And you are right, people were old at 40 then unlike today.

Your Rose of Sharon looks wonderful, although that name always makes me think of Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, now there's a book I love to read again and again. ;-)

BTW love your choice in bedlinnen! :-D

Carol said...

Lost Roses... I updated my picture of the book to go with your picture of the book... check it out when you have some time.

LostRoses said...

Kate, I recommend the book, it's quite amusing in its way. And just where do you stand on the unmade bed issue? LOL

I think there is an "ancient Chinese proverb" for every situation, isn't there?

I love that photo of my granddaughter, it makes me smile everytime I see it!

Dirty fingernails, before I knew what a Rose of Sharon was I saw one as tall as a tree in someone's yard and stopped and asked what it was. That was a good example of one out of control, but they had the room for it. Though I'd hate to see what some of the heavy snows we've had in recent years might have done to it!

Yolanda, thanks! TJ Maxx's finest Ralph Lauren markdown. It was flowery and pretty and that was good enough for me.

Good heavens, I'd forgotten about Rose of Sharon (how could I?) in The Grapes of Wrath.

Carol, now that's a good picture!

kate said...

The unmade bed issue - I only make it when friends or my parents are coming over!

jodi said...

OOOOh--I've found a new hero: books? chocolate? Plants? Unmade beds? I'm in! Well, our bed gets left unmade sometimes because there are cats sleeping on it and we don't want to wake *THEM* up now, do we?

I'm just starting to explore through your blog, but am already delighted. Your review made me want to read the book even though I'm so backed up with books to read now....

LostRoses said...

Kate, I've been known to succumb to social pressure also.

Jodi, you've reminded me why I quit making my bed, I didn't want to disturb the cat! No cats anymore but old habits die hard.

Just add the book to your stockpile, someday we'll get through them all, won't we?

Thanks for visiting, I'm off to see your blog.

Entangled said...

If Mr. Warner is a curmudgeon, and I see myself reflected in Mr. Warner, does that make me...? Nah, I'm older now than he was when he wrote the book. :-) The man was a much better weeder than I am, though.

I once read a quote about unmade beds - if it's good enough to get out of, it's good enough to get into.

LostRoses said...

Entangled, now that's a good quote, and one to live by! I think you have to be at least 70 to be a curmudgeon, don't you? Before that, we're just crabby.

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