I have started this review twice now. The first one, I was trying to do a serious "New York Times" type of book review. I have neither the talent nor the desire I guess, because it just wasn't working. So here goes, me telling you about a book I've read and what I thought of it.
My general feelings about Second Nature, was that it was interesting. It was not what I imagined-a book full of gardening hints and what types of flowers and plants to put in a garden. It was rather one man's evolution from a novice gardener who expected great things from his newly acquired land, to a self satisfied gardener who found a new respect for his gardens.
I think the main theme, his dilemma so to speak, was finding his own way. And in doing this he shares with us his thought processes. One of the first problems he has to solve is that of learning to deal with nature if you want to garden the naturalist's way. Should he simply let nature take her course after the planting or does he step in and take measures to save his garden. This was actually fun to read about. He does mightily battle against a woodchuck!
Along the way, we gain insights into his quandary by learning of his experiences in gardening during his childhood. He refers to his younger self throughout the book and for me these glimpses were enlightening. His grandfather fostered his love of growing things, while his father had little use or time for anything green. From a very structured garden replete with row upon row of vegetables and flowers with no weeds allowed to Pollan's desire to be a total naturalist, we follow.
While I found a lot of his musings redundant and verbose, I did learn a lot about the history of gardens. I now understand why Americans so love their lawns and how Thoreau, Emerson and Wordsworth writings still influence generations of gardeners. I read about the rose... from the old roses with royal pedigrees to the new hybridized roses of questionable heritage. Then there was the question of weeds. What constitutes a weed depends on who's garden it is in. I learned, also, that most of the plants we now consider weed are alien species brought to America by the earliest settlers.
Of course Pollan eventually comes to terms within himself and finds he can and must coexist with nature. He realises we each have to follow our own path when gardening. Whether it is the romantic, the Jeffersonian, the naturalist or the picturesque garden or a combination of some or all of these we desire, it is in the end our decision. To do with as we please with our plot of land is our right and we have no one to please but ourselves.
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