A Backlog of Books



I’ve been in Portland for two months, living the good life as visiting faculty at Portland State University and occupying a swell apartment provided to me by Tin House.  I’m home now, but I’m nowhere near caught up.  Anyway, there are four books on my desk that I am very excited about and want to tell you about immediately, even though I’ve barely had time to glance at them. Still, I want you to know about them, so here they are:

Valerie Easton’s Petal and Twig:  Seasonal Bouquets with Blossoms, Branches, and Grasses from Your Yard, from Sasquatch Books.  Totally charming little book illustrated with week-by-week seasonal bouquets.  Lovely.  Check it out.

Allen J. Coombes’ The A to Z of Plant Names, from Timber,  exactly the sort of botanical geekery I love, the sort of book that will tell you that the name Echium comes from that crackpot Dioscorides, who “likened the seeds to a snake’s head and recommended it as an anti-venom.”  Yeah, that’ll probably work.

The Sunset Edible Garden Cookbook.  This book makes me hungry.  That is all.

Clyde Phillip Wachsberger’s posthumously published memoir (he died last fall, only 3 months after he married his longtime love Charles) Into the Garden With Charles, from FSG.  With that link I’m sending you to Debra Prinzing’s wonderful account of how this book came into being.  Go read it–it’s a sweet, sad story.  I’m looking forward to reading the book (which is illustrated with the author’s paintings, which makes me love it all the more), but until I do, all I can say is:  Yes!  More gay garden memoirs, please!  I mean, not that it’s a prerequisite or anything, but for crying out loud.  Garden literature should be much, much more gay.  That’s my opinion.  The love stories of gay gardeners must be told. Let’s have them, people! Get to it!





  1. Don’t know what to say, Amy. How about just “more garden memoirs” please? or “more creative and enjoyable garden memoirs” please? Not sure on this end why the “gay” qualification is necessary, and I would have thought, from my own readings, that gay memoirs are probably better represented in gardening literature than in most other fields of human endeavor!

  2. A to Z of Plant Names sounds marvelous, just the kind of geeky reading I could lose myself in this summer. And anything from Sunset is a winner. The garden memoir sounds more like winter reading for me – passive gardening during the months when I can get out there. But Val Easton’s Petal & Twig sounds like it demonstrates my late mother’s floral style. She was a Southern farm girl at heart & the vases in our home were always full of whatever was beautiful outdoors – grasses, buttercups, field weeds, Spring or Fall branches, even dry arrangements. I try to do the same, but my tiny suburban parcel doesn’t yield the same amount of beauty.

  3. Many years ago, I fiddled around with the idea of The Gay Garden. I do not know the actual percentage of males that garden who are gay (or the percentage of actors, hair dressers, fashion designers, etc. etc.), but I am willing to bet it is well over 50%. The problem way back then was who would come out? Times have changed, and so has book publishing. I am afraid I missed my chance.
    Thanks, Amy, for the supportive comments.

  4. I was delighted to see “Into the Garden with Charles” on your reading list. I borrowed it from the library a few weeks ago and didn’t want to give it back! I knew nothing about this gardener and was so saddened when his death was foreshadowed halfway through the book. Not only are the writing and description of the garden wonderful, but oh – the feel of the pages! Like silk. You won’t get that on your Nook. Put me down as another fan of “gay gardening” prose. And beautiful illustrations. Really, you don’t want to wait for winter to read this book.

  5. When I first read Frank Browning’s book on Apples, I had not encountered such lyrical, poetic writing since reading Herbert Mason’s Gilgamesh in college. Frank is gay, and I have known many male gardeners who were gay, to the point of it being the kind of background noise such as hair color.

    I want to read Into the Garden with Charles, and yes, their story is sweet.

  6. I agree that we need more garden memoirs, not just gay gardener memoirs.

    I think what Amy might be saying is that we have moved beyond the time when gardeners need to hide their partners. I love it when I am reading a gardening book and the author mentions their significant other and I catch a glimpse of who that gardener really is. I wish authors–gay and straight–felt comfortable sharing more about their personal lives.

    Ken, I think there is still something to your book idea. It depends on how you conceptualize it. It might be interesting to research past famous/noted gardeners who happened to be gay and how that part of them influenced their work. I would probably pick it up.

  7. I love all of the books that you have written, Amy, and most that you have recommended. Ken’s books are terrific and any memoir by him would be awesome. I, too, would love any great gardening memoir. If a book on gay gardeners would help to add in any way to more tolerance – and had great writing – Yes, I want it.

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