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In Your Garden and In Your Garden Again
By Vita Sackville-West

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In Your Garden , and
In Your Garden Again
By Vita Sackville-West
ISIS Large Print
In Your Garden, (1999) ISBN: 0-7531-5463-3
In Your Garden Again, (2000) ISBN: 0-7531-5464-1
Genre: Gardening

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - August 19, 2001

Gardeners, the world over, can be identified by their habit of always thinking about gardening. It does not matter if they plant 100 hectares or just a small window box - what they have planted, or will plant, is always on their minds. The reason is simple, gardening gets into the blood and becomes just as much a part of persons being as the color of their eyes. It is a marvel to take a tiny seed, and nurture it until it grows into a towering tree or into a delectable vegetable or a beautiful flower. Once you are infected with the myriad joys of gardening, it will be an activity that will always be a part of your life. And, depending on the time of year, you will find that you are either trying out new seeds or gardening techniques, or you are engrossed in planning out next year's garden.

No matter what season of the year you find yourself in, you will be delighted by two books written by Vita Sackville-West, In Your Garden and In Your Garden Again. These are gardening classics that where originally published in 1951 and 1953, respectively. At long last they have been republished, and reissued in large print so that modern gardeners can rediscover Sackville-West's timeless gardening wisdom. These two books are comprised of gardening articles, written by Sackville-West, which were originally published in The Observer.

In Your Garden contains her articles that were published in 1950, and In Your Garden Again contains her articles from 1952. In both books, the articles are arranged chronologically by publication date. In the appendix to the first book, In Your Garden , you will find a series of brief discussions on 'some flowers'. Each discourse focuses on a particular plant and talks about its special characteristics, varieties, and growing requirements. All plants mentioned are referred to by both their common names, as well as by their botanical names.

These articles can be seen more as gardening narratives, than as a run-of-the-mill gardening advice column. Although Sackville-West does offer a wealth of gardening advice, for the most part these articles are primarily concerned with her observations about the seasons, the various plants she has tried growing, and those she wants to try growing in coming seasons. She talks about other gardens she has visited, some on purpose, others that she stumbled upon during her travels, and the wondrous generosity of the gardeners she has met. Generosity which extended to not only to sharing seeds, but also secrets - secrets which she in turn shared with her readers so that all could benefit for her informants gardening know-how.

Besides offering tried-and-true advice, Sackville-West also shared her ideas about things, both plants and techniques, which she wanted to try in her own garden. She was also thoughtful enough to the let the readers know when her ideas did not work, as well as when they did, so that they would know if it might be worthwhile for them to experiment with them. With the compilation of these books, she was able to make annotations which proclaimed when something did not work, in the same section in the idea appeared. This saves the reader the trouble of searching through the books to see how things 'turned out'.

Both books are written in a warm, friendly style reminiscent of the 'voice' that you might use when speaking with a friend over a cup of tea or coffee.
"In my own garden, I have a curious example of the perverse behavior of plants. Two cuttings of a poplar, brought home in a sponge-bag from Morocco, were both struck and planted out at the same time. Same age, same parent, same aspect, same soil; yet, fifteen years later, one is only half the size of the other. Why? I can suppose only that like two children of identical begetting and upbringing, they differ in constitution and character.

It thus becomes evident that gardening, unlike mathematics, is not an exact science. It would be dull if it were..." (In Your Garden Again, Pg. 34.)
Like any good friend, Sackville-West is frank and honest. She offers her opinions without apology, but is quick to acknowledge when her opinions are colored by her own likes and dislikes. Whether you are a seasoned gardener, or a novice, you will find a wealth of insights and advice within the covers of these two fine books. So sit back and enjoy these gardening classics. A word of advice, you may want to keep a piece of paper and a pen handy for keeping notes. If you are like me, you'll be constantly thinking to yourself, "Um, that sounds interesting, I'll have to try that next year," and will want to diligently list all the plants that you want to investigate further. As well, you may find yourself scribbling down notes on how you are going to reorganizing your garden so that you can fit all these new plants in!

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