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Book Review: Gardens of Use and Delight

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by Jigs and Jo Ann Gardner
Fulcrum Publishing
304 pages, softcover, $43.95

Gardening books generally fall into two genres: those that inform and those that inspire. It's the latter category-the personal stories of well-loved gardens-that inspire house-bound gardeners in colder months, when we finally sit down to dream about and plan for next year's garden, seeking the silent companionship of other like-minded plant people.

Such inspiration can be found in Jigs and Jo Ann Gardner's Gardens of Use & Delight: Uniting the Practical and Beautiful in an Integrated Landscape, a chronicle of their 30 years of gardening on a remote farm on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Although few can relate to their Spartan living conditions and isolation-outdoor privy, a 1.5-kilometre hike to the mailbox and horse-drawn ploughs -- all gardeners can learn from their experiences with poor soil, debilitating winds and temperature extremes.

 

Theirs is a warm, straightforward tale about the gardens they created to feed their family and support Jo Ann's herb and craft business. With so many garden design books touting the benefits of hardscaping, careful planning and establishing ìgarden rooms,î it's refreshing (and confidence-boosting) to read the Gardners' take on this
plan-first, plant-later mentality: ìWhat makes [our] garden workÖis that it naturally flows from the life of the farm. It was created to fill a need, not to put our stamp artificially upon the ground.î

Their advice to let a garden evolve over time, not install hard structures in the beginning (ìYou may regret these later when they will be difficult and expensive to alterî) and eschew ìpretentious, complex designs [that] overwhelmÖthe plants themselvesî will make professional garden designers blanch and novice home gardeners sigh with relief.

-Beckie Fox is the former editor of Canadian Gardening and is the author of The Potted Garden: Creating Great Container Gardens

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