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Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

on 8 March 2002
Let me say, I'm not much of a gardener. Gardening these days is about perennials, terracotta pots, patios and shrubs. Well, the backlash has started! Gardening is about the special feeling you get when you grow and give life to something beautiful. Forget painting your garden fence purple, look at at your plants, and I mean really look. Each has a different aspect, texture and releases different appreciative feelings. Remember the excitement of growing nasturtiums at primary school?
This little book brought it all back for me and the variety and sheer diversity of annuals. James Fenton brought me a sense of release from the vigours of containing plants to a design. Annuals are second class citizens in the world of gardening and yet they are where the fun and pleasure should start..
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on 12 May 2002
It makes a change to read a gardening book which champions the raising of plants from seed.
At a time when garden makeover programmes and books are all too often advocating expensive designs, incorporating plantings of mature shrubs and perennials mixed with elaborate architectural features, this book's thrifty planting ideas are a welcome change.
The thesis of the book is, as the author states, "only a game" and most gardeners will therefore still want to leave some room for shrubs, perennials and bulbs. This is not a criticism, as the author is not seriously suggesting that the reader should turn their whole garden into an annual meadow, only highlighting another way of doing things.
My only criticisms of the book are pedantic and relate to its layout. Firstly, the graphic designers must have been wearing sunglasses after a heavy lunch when they came up with design. On some pages the typeface is orange on a purple background, and only really legible in natural light. The abstract illustrations behind the text often distract the eye. Not a book for the visually impaired.
Secondly, the addition of an alphabetical list of the 100 plants would have been a great help to those who want to try some of the ideas suggested. Cross-referencing the list with my unwieldy gardening encyclopedia and seed lists was a chore.

An excellent present for any enthusiastic gardener.
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on 29 June 2014
I got to know James Fenton through his poetry. I am a professional gardener so was interested in his take on starting a garden from scratch. I found it interesting prose, but a lot of his ideas derive from other more famous gardeners. I was not sure who this book was aimed at, as the beginner may find it bewildering and the more experienced a little frustrating. I did not really understand the aim of the book, or who the intended audience is. I wish he would write more poetry.
His poem 'In Paris with you' is arguably one of the best 21st century poems ever written, in my humble opinion!!
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on 28 November 2014
Great book
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VINE VOICEon 21 May 2004
This is a pleasant little book; basically a series of essays on the writer's one hundred favourite plants that can quite easily be purchased and grown from seed.
I enjoyed the personal approach to gardening and plants, and also the relaxed random-ness of it. The snobbery of design and planning, of garden bones and vistas, does not hold this writer in thrall. He knows and loves plants, and he wrote these essays about them.
In truth there isn't much substance here, but it makes a pleasing, quick read, and the book would make a nice little gift for a friend.
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