From the Ground Up by Amy Stewart (thoughts)
I very much enjoyed Amy Stewart’s book about earthworms (The Earth Moved) and happen to be in the middle of planning my own first garden, so when I saw her memoir From the Ground Up in my library’s e-catalogue I couldn’t resist. This is an exuberant memoir of her first year of gardening, told in an informal, conversational style that’s easy to connect with. Stewart is more than willing to laugh at her own novice mistakes and offers up some helpful tips that I’ll be sure to put into action. Moreover, her love for gardening and her new little house in Santa Cruz shine through on every page.
That being said, while I enjoyed her enthusiasm, I was ultimately left wishing for a slightly deeper book: this was far more memoir than popular science, and I prefer the latter. I also suspect The Morville Hours has ruined me for other gardening books, which isn’t Stewart’s fault! Also, I hesitate to mention this, but her chapter on her cats disturbed me. I’ve no interest in getting into an indoor/outdoor cat debate, but since I happen to know both that native North American birds evolved in a cat-free environment and are thus deeply vulnerable to predation by domestic cats and that many native songbird species are declining at a precipitous rate, I felt aghast at her simultaneous sadness over her cat hunting/killing birds and persistence at allowing him free run in the garden.
In the end, while this was a (mostly) fun read, I’m not sure much of it will stick with me. If you’re looking for a light, effortless read that will make you smile and inspire you to give gardening a go yourself, definitely give this one a try (I gave it four stars after all and still intend to read her later books, which are about plants). But if you’re craving a book you can sink your intellectual teeth into, it’s probably not the best fit. I also have a request: now that I’m planning a garden, I’d love to read more gardening books. Any suggestions?
Suggested Companion Reads
- The Morville Hours by Kate Morton : a stunning meditation on Morton’s experience bringing the garden in a National Trust property to life.
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett : um, is it possible to talk about gardening without referencing this novel? A mainstay of my childhood, which I last reread in 2008, although I didn’t blog about it, it’s likely the reason behind my desire that my own garden be a cottage/kitchen hybrid.
- Suburban Safari by Hannah Holmes : in a combination of memoir and science, Holmes examines the ecosystem of her Maine backyard for a year. It also has a light, readable style but contains a bit more information.