April 2017: The Motives of Gardeners

Suzette Morton Zurcher seated in the May T. Watts Reading Garden
Suzette Morton Zurcher seated in the May T. Watts Reading Garden



“What I’m making here is a middle ground between nature and culture, a place that is at once of nature and unapologetically set against it; what I’m making is a garden.--Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, page 53



Gardening is about putting food on the table. It’s about leaving something behind for the generation that follows your own. It’s an artistic pursuit that is visible to anyone wandering past your yard. It’s an education, a vocation, or a hobby.

Gardeners are pouring over seed catalogs, shading their faces with floppy hats, and pulling out Creeping Charlie by the root. They are doing these things not for one reason, but for many reasons. Each garden is personal, and every gardener has a story.

The books below feature the plans and thoughts of gardeners across time and geography. These gardeners describe their successes and detail their (occasional) failures for the benefit of their readers. Take advantage of their experience, and learn from the gardeners that preceded you.


At the Arboretum

Engage your own gardening mind when you enroll in gardening and horticultural classes at the Arboretum this spring! Explore the functional beauty of the French kitchen garden or bring the bright colors of spring to your patio when you learn to design a spring container!



“Grandma Ott’s grocery list… consisted of flour, sugar, coffee, salt, and spices, and she took a gallon jug to the store to be filled with brown vinegar from a wooden barrel. The rest of their food came from what their hands and land produced, and a bountiful crop was a measure of their success… My parents had a wonderful garden, too, but that one seemed slightly less magical to me, perhaps because I had to hoe long rows of potatoes and corn, or sit with my brother on the front porch, shelling washtubs of peas for Mom to freeze. Just as we thought we could almost see the bottom of the tub, Mom brought another pail. I feared we would never be finished, and I didn’t even like peas. My grandparents’ gardens seemed like Eden. Our garden seemed like work.”--Diane Ott Whealy, Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver, pages 7-8

“Planting is a form of hocus-pocus which turns out to be real. It satisfies a deep primeval urge to put into the earth something that one day will be manifestly different to what I am holding in my hand: a seed, a slip or an acorn.”--Mirabel Osler, In the Eye of the Garden, page 19


Library Resources

Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver by Diane Ott Whealy

Four Tenths of an Acre by Laurie Lisle

In the Eye of the Garden by Mirabel Osler

One Man’s Garden by Henry Mitchell

Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan

Gardening Letters to My Daughter by Anne Scott-James

One Writer’s Garden: Eudora Welty’s Home Place by Susan Haltom and Jane Roy Brown*


*Access the Library’s e-book collection by entering the number on the back of your Sterling Morton Library card.