Regular readers of this blog know I often post reviews of gardening books. But this one is different. Partly because this gardening book isn’t your typical how-to, plant-encyclopedia, full-of-pretty-pictures gardening book. And partly because the author, Colleen Plimpton personally asked me to review her book.
A few weeks ago, several Connecticut-based garden bloggers, including Colleen, got together for lunch to finally meet in person and talk gardening. I’d meet Colleen once before and knew she had just authored her first book, so when she offered to give a book to those of us who wanted to review it on our blogs, I jumped at the chance. (Note: How’s this for recycling…I’ll be passing my copy on to Scott Hokunson of Blue Heron Landscapes who in turn will be passing it along to Joene Hendry of joenes garden, so watch their blogs for reviews too!)
After I’d agreed to review Mentors in the Garden of Life, I felt a little panicked. Perhaps I should have just smiled and not committed to reading Colleen’s book when she’d generously offered the copy. What if I didn’t like the book? Or worse yet, hated it? I’d never really worried about that before since I typically don’t have any relationship to the author of the books I preview. But this time I did.
Well, I’m pleased to say I didn’t hate Mentors in the Garden of Life. Actually, I liked it – a lot. But it’s not really about gardening. Yes, there are some plants in the book, but they are not the stars. Each plant is linked to a person in Colleen’s life that influenced her love of gardening. Through her engaging storytelling, we come to know these people and begin to understand how spiritual gardening must be for Colleen.
Early in the book, she writes, “I am a heritage gardener. My knowledge comes to me not solely through hard-won knowledge… No, a great deal of what I know comes to me via those I’ve loved who have gone before.” I think most of us started gardening because someone in our past spent time with us in the garden, teaching us about so many things, least of which was how to care for plants. But not all of us take the time the reflect on how all those people influenced the person we are today.
In her book, we read how Colleen learned about responsibility with her first store-bought perennials, lily-of-the-valley. And how at the age of 5, she connected the first blooms of lilacs with her time spent getting to know her dying uncle. Each chapter tells another piece of the story about how Colleen grew, not only as a gardener , but also as a daughter, wife, mother, co-worker, friend and businesswoman.
So, is Mentors in the Garden of Life a book of on gardening? Perhaps. But it’s also a whole lot more.