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on 25 August 2002
I picked this book up by chance when waiting for a train. At the time I wasn't even interested in gardening, I just liked the cover and was in a hurry, and yet I still found it fascinating and particularly thought-provoking.
It is a collection of losely themed reflections on gardening which, to me at least, brings insight on things beyond its obvious subject.
The author and her husband begin as relative beginners taking on a very large garden. They learn as they go along. There is information of what plants do well in what places, but only incidentally: the bread and butter of this book is reflective musings on how it feels to be a gardener, in good times and bad, throughout the year. Mirabel Osler's feeling for plants and for the landscape, her old-fashioned, broadly cultured frame of reference and the civilized assumption of an equally thoughtful and urbane reader make this one of my favourite books.
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on 10 November 2012
I loved this book from start to finish. A delightful read which brings creative gardening and nature together. Beautiful photos which illustrate her understanding of plants and how she is able to work them so well within her landscape. It is a story which takes you on a personal journey through the making of a very special garden, a garden with soul. I have owned my hardback copy for more than 20 years and it is still in my top 2, the other being Beth Chattos Garden Notebook.
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I consider myself a "proper gardener" - with 5 acres to play with and precious little help, I have to be; indeed, it's virtually my sole raison d'être. According to Osler, however, as a "proper gardner" - her term - I should have a mania for neatness, be obsessed with geometric precision, requiring precisely and constantly clipped edges and hedges, display pristine, bare soil between my plants, remove all weeds, attractive or not, disallow all self-seeding of any kind, eschew any atmosphere of mystery in my design (nothing to "draw you on") and, above all, NEVER sit in my garden.

In fact, I'm the exact opposite in every instance; indeed, my garden's ultimate, overriding purpose is to be sat in at every opportunity (not many so far this summer...).

Needless to say, for Osler the term "proper gardner" is a pejorative, the pejorative on which the book is based, being the gardner who disallows all chaos. But it's a contrivance, a writer's indulgence. A gardening archetype has been created who can be pilloried for the purpose of entertainment to earn a quid or two; and the pleas of the title are often far from gentle.

I was hoping that Osler might be a kindred spirit whose writing I could enjoy. But she effuses over things I avoid, Verbascums, foxgloves, Achilleas, for example (vicious thugs all of them, causing as much work as the worst weeds) whilst contemptuously despising so many things I enjoy, such as heathers, dahlias, variegated plants, rhododendrons and gladioli. Osler also shudderingly condemns Prunus "Kiku-shidari Sakura" (Cheal's weeping cherry); I've just planted 5 more.

The writing style is very much an acquired taste; the prose too flowery, effusive and ornate, with a hint of a Victorian flavour. Be aware, too, that Osler's garden is a garden of the wealthy, and while she has much to say that is sensible here and there, not all of it may apply to your circumstances.

I don't condemn or criticise any of the reviewers who think it's a marvelous book, any more than I do the gardners who don't garden in my style. I just happen not to share a liking for garden writers who pillory other folks' tastes, which I think is bad form, even snobbish. I detect in these pages the flavour of the "U and non-U" of days long gone. For myself, I may not like what you do in your garden, but I will defend to the death your right to do it.
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on 18 May 2015
A delightful book, read cover to cover or just dip in. Beautifully written, its one that if any page falls open you can read a short little piece and you are reminded of the beauty of gardening and plants, their form and scent, which on a cold dark day throws you back into summer and gardening and happy hazy days!
Thank you for reprinting the original which I can now circulate among family and friends.
The straight line regimented gardeners, those dependant on pesticides and herbicides; canes and endless garden twine in order to achieve perfection may not enjoy it, but, hopefully if they were to read it they may allow a little chaos, the odd floppy plant, they may free a little bit of nature, and benefit from not have a coronary over a dandelion!
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on 25 March 2015
I cannot believe the one star review so I'll just add five stars to help make up for it! I suspect the book went completely over the reviewers head.... Did he not read the title? - 'a GENTLE plea for chaos'! I read this book years ago and have read it again more recently. As far as gardening books go it is absolutely a classic. Delicately written, humorous, thought provoking. A wonderful book; don't be put off trying it.
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on 23 November 2015
Lovely book. Well written, full of hope. If you like gardening, you'll like this.
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on 20 August 2016
Well pleased
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on 30 December 2014
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