rating: 5 of 5 stars
Although there are a couple references to earlier anecdotes in the book, the chapters can be read independently of each other. The common thread is 1) Pollan’s upbringing and the juxtaposition of his father’s and grandfather’s gardens and 2) How natural is a garden?
Pollan peppers the book with contextual information on the evolution of landscape design, introduces the reader to many garden writers and historians, gives a thorough history of roses, and explores his own assumptions on nature. Chapter 10 is a fascinating case study in environmental ethics and the fork in the road: ecological restoration or “nature knows best”? His community grappled with these choices when a tornado flattened a treasured stand of old-growth pines.
“The gardener knows how tenuous his control of nature is… So why then does he go to such lengths to hide this fact, to clothe such recalcitrant land in so much lawn? Maybe it’s time we began to acknowledge, perhaps even evoke, that tenuousness in the design of our gardens. By leaving some parts wild, and by making a virtue of their juxtapositions with more formal areas, we can introduce into our gardens a measure of doubt about our control of nature, and that might be a good thing to do.” pg. 255