Who is your favorite garden writer, and why?

robin - 5February 26, 2000

Hi Garden Writers and Friends,

I am wondering who your favorite writers are. Or your favorite garden books. Mine change - there are so many great writers and dreamy books out there. Right now Des Kennedy is at the top of my list. Have you read The Ecology of Enchantment?

In the newly created 8" space between the west wall of my house and the receeding snowbank, there are bulbs nosing up! Spring is here!


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Douglass Oster - 6

Anne Raver from the New York Times. Her writing style is wonderful. I use her as a template for what a newspaper columnist should be.
Use the link below and see for yourself.

Here is a link that might be useful: NYT Gardening

    Bookmark   February 28, 2000 at 12:15AM
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Kim Madsen - 5 (USDA)

I really like seeing what everyone says about "favorite garden writers" and style. I'm just discovering Henry Mitchell. His understated humor is a delight. Oh, the lucky ones who got to read him as a regular columnist in Washington. At least we can read his stuff in collections. I'm loving HENRY MITCHELL ON GARDENING. Being as easily swayed as a aspen tree myself, I love whoever I happen to be reading at the moment. As in my garden, I'm not the most discriminating, just passionate about it.

I'm glad you asked this question.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2000 at 12:33AM
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Helen A Granger - 5

Personally, I'm my favorite garden writer. My column is "The Eclectic Gardeners" which appears May through October. (smile).

My SECOND and THIRD favorite writers are Janet Macunovich who has a weekly gardening column in the Detroit News and Allan Armitage who is the "perennial guru" in my book.

Both have written books and I find Macunovich's "Caring For Perennials (Storey Publications) is a joy to read.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2000 at 6:29PM
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Jil - 5/6

I love Anne Raver too. She pokes fun at herself, yet knows her stuff. Eleanor Perenyi and Anne Scott-James are also wonderful. Sometimes I like Jamaica Kincaid, but I find that she takes herself too seriously. She is a better novelist.

Excellent topic.


    Bookmark   April 6, 2000 at 5:44PM
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Alyse(z8 OR)

Fave garden writer: Ketzel Levine--knowledgable, very witty. She is columnist for the Oregonian, garden commentator for Nat'l Public Radio, host of GREAT web site www.talkingplants.com. Definitely check out the web site! Oregonian articles are at www.oregonlive.com/gardening.

Here is a link that might be useful: Talking Plants, by the Doyenne of Dirt

    Bookmark   April 13, 2000 at 1:42PM
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Nina A. Koziol

Well of course the Dead Ones are always best :)

Katherine White. Jens Jensen. Frank J. Scott. Olmsted. Farrand.

Let's face it. Most of the stuff in the past 15 years looks like the same reheated tripe from 1970 with enhanced photography and better paper.

Downing. Kennicott. Ruth B. Dean. Shirley Hibberd. Grace Tabor. Loudon. E. F. Hulme. Russell Page.


    Bookmark   April 28, 2000 at 11:12PM
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Jane Milliman

Great question! Katherine White, Henry Mitchell, Elsa Bakalar, Nancy McDonald. I guess I haven't been reading enough, because I don't recognize some of the names others have mentioned. Need to read more Anne RaverÂwhat I have read of hers, I've liked.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2000 at 8:42PM
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Norma - 7


Eric Hansen is not someone we would consider a 'garden writer' but I confess I'm truly enjoying his latest work. For a different approach to the world of plants, check his "Orchid Fever" --"A horticultural tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy." Lots of fun!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2000 at 8:15AM
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Anita - NC

I love all these
Felder Rushing
Steve Bender
William C Welch
Greg Grant
Who can pick just one? Anita

    Bookmark   May 13, 2000 at 7:31PM
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lynn - 7bNC

Elizabeth Lawrence-- gone but not forgotton in the South, and in England, as I understand it.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2000 at 6:07PM
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Tam - 8

Ann Lovejoy, especially The American Mixed Border and Further Along the Garden Path, plus the others.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2000 at 5:54PM
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karin - so.calif

Jamaica Kincaid. Her writing is more robust than most.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2000 at 3:47PM
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Suzanne Freeman - 7

Henry Mitchell, all-time best! Read any of his books.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2000 at 10:52AM
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Frank(z8 LA)

Rachel Snyder, who for many years was editor of "Flower and Garden" magazine in Kansas City and also wrote the nonpareil book for gardeners in the midwest, "Gardening in the Heartland." My reasons? She gives good straight solid info and never wastes a second of a reader's time. She also understands and makes very clear the vagaries of midwestern climate and how to work with it.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2000 at 9:03AM
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Two names spring to mind when I think about great garden writers: Lauren Springer and Celia Thaxter. Both of these writers invoke delicious images of gardens and plants in my imagination. Reading Springer and Thaxter gets me thinking about the beauty thats just waiting to come to life and actually get me to start planning new gardens. The Undaunted Garden is book I always return to and find something new in. I once did a search on moonlit gardens and came up with an article Celia Thaxter wrote for the Atlantic Monthly. Her descriptions of this special place by the sea are still inscribed in my imagination. I also enjoy Derek Fell who has truly captured the spirit of the Impressionists in their gardens and given gardens methods for doing the same. MJ

    Bookmark   January 26, 2001 at 3:46PM
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Irene OGarden - 6

I'm very fond of Mitchell and White, but also wanted to speak up for two writers I re-read for the poetry of their words as well as the info. First is Gertrude Jekyll, for her sound knowledge of plants and the beautiful pictures they can create, and second is Vita Sackville-West for the sheeer luxury of her descriptions. I started growing old roses without ever having seen them just because of her juicy prose.

Oh also should mention Louise Beebe Wilder-- The Fragrant Path has superb portraits of "A garden full of sweet odors." I admire a writer who can so delightfully and accurately portray scent.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2001 at 9:42AM
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Maryl 7-Oklahoma

Pam Harper. She's my gardening idol. If a plant is floopy, has poor foliage, is invasive, can't take heat/humidity, has a short season of bloom, she'll tell the truth as she sees it. My pet peeve with garden writers is when they promote a plant without telling you it's drawbacks as well. No plant is perfect, admit it and let us decide if we can put up with it's deficiencies.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2001 at 12:34AM
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deb lux 7

Allen Lacy Gardening with Groundcover and Vines.
"where they are well chosen and well grown, together they enlarge the garden, giving it an additional dimension"

"And so a new idea entered the conscious of gardeners, the idea of groundcovers. I cannot pinpoint the exact time historically, but I know that by the 1950's when I was in my teens, my mother, my aunts, one of my grandmothers, and other gardeners in my family were talking about groundcovers with some enthusiams. Allan Lacy, Linwood NJ

They style with words and pictures are so elagent. I hope when my images and words clash, it could be so gracious. I'd put him up ther with Druse and the "Collector Garden".

I can honestly say this is the first book I ever have ever read front to back.
deb Lux

    Bookmark   April 8, 2001 at 12:57PM
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arbutus(z4 VT)

Just had to agree with the pick of Vita Sackville-West. I have two copies of her "Garden Book" since it is out of print and I don't want to be without a copy. The book about her garden called "Sissinghurst" by Jane Brown is a good history of the gardens and how she and her husband Harold worked together. I never tire of Celia Thaxter's "An Island Garden". It's deliciously dated. Also love the writing of Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd. "A Year at North Hill" is about their garden in Vermont, but the writing is terrific even if you garden elsewhere. Wayne also wrote a book called Garden Design, which is excellent

    Bookmark   April 9, 2001 at 10:45AM
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Charles_connecticut 6a Conn USA

i'm finding Ken's Making More Plants fascinating visually and texually

there's a good one i'm reading called landscaping with native trees or something like that which is excellent but let me check the authors and title for you

    Bookmark   April 15, 2001 at 7:30PM
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Jamie 6-Pa

My favorite is Sara Bonnett Stein. She wrote "My Weeds" and "Noah's Garden:Restoring the Ecology of our own backyards". I find her books both great stories and interesting information. She delves into the biology of the world around her intead of just focusing one a few things. I just can't put them down once I start. I just hope she puts out more books, never too much of a good thing!


    Bookmark   May 4, 2001 at 8:19AM
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Liz 5(OH)

Agree with Jamie: Sara Stein's books are terrific - finding beauty/wonder in the natural order of things. And learning the wisdom in working with nature instead of against it. (I still am having a hard time swallowing the idea that moles are actually beneficial, though - aerating the soil, yes, but uprooting all manner of plants and causing dessication injuries in my beds also!)

Also agree with Deb: Allen Lacy makes you feel like you're walking down the garden path with an old, and knowledgable, friend. Perhaps because I am so fond of the season, Lacy's "The Garden in Autumn" was one of the most enjoyable reads I've had.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2001 at 1:14PM
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Bill 7

Thalassa Cruso wrote the first garden book I ever read (Making Things Grow), and I re-read them to this day, both for the information, and her wonderful style and approach to gardening.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2001 at 2:27PM
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A voice from down under says Christopher Lloyd. He has an acerbic wit. I also (like others) enjoy Vita SW. The Tony Lord book on Gardening at Sissinghurst compares gardening in Vita's time and gardening now (it notes the changes that have occurred due to poor plant choice originally - yes by Vita and Harold - and changes that needed to be made because the garden is now a "show" garden rather than a family garden).
Thx for the all the American writers I am now going to do some hunting in the bookshops for them.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2001 at 5:40AM
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Lyndyn(z5 Ohio)

Am reading Chris. Lloyd's The Cottage Garden and am enjoying it...really love A. Lacy, too. Just finished reading a really charming book called A Small House and Large Garden by Richardson Wright - first published in the '20's but still very fresh.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2001 at 5:07PM
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Susan_Ford(7a-Norman, OK)

Oh my there are so many! Alan Lacy is up there near the top. Then there is Christopher Lloyd, who was mom's favorite garden writer. She especially liked the discription of him falling into the garden pond with a martini in his hand. Her old copies of his books have underlines and comments in the margins. I re-read them as much for those as for his writing.

I love to read garden essay books. I have more of those than I have cultural how-to books, though I have my fair share of those as well. I re-read them often. It's like visiting old friends and their gardens.

I'm currently reading _Passionate Gardening: Good Advice for Challenging Climates_, by Lauren Springer and Bob Proctor. Wonderful garden stories with advice I can USE. It's geared to gardening in the West. Though I am South Central, a lot of their suggestions and almost ALL of their plant suggestions work here in Oklahoma. I am one happy reader!


    Bookmark   June 14, 2001 at 11:30AM
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suze md

Absolutely the late Henry Mitchell who wrote for the Washington Post, for his sound advice and elegant prose. His columns are reprinted in "One Man's Garden" .

    Bookmark   June 27, 2001 at 4:31PM
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Miriam Green 5

What about Hugh Johnson's "Principles of Gardening"? That's my all time favorite garden book and has truly shaped my thinking about gardening.

I think he also wrote books on trees and wine...

    Bookmark   June 29, 2001 at 5:31PM
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FayRose(6b/7a NW Ark)

I love Lauren Springer and Rob Proctor's columns in Country Living Gardener. They both write like people speak and you know they have a good, humorous handle on life, love and living with and loving a garden. I also heartily enjoy Ray Reddell's wit and good advice in "Growing Good Roses," because Ray does not take himself or roses TOO seriously; and Liz Druitt's "Organic Rose Garden."

    Bookmark   July 1, 2001 at 12:47AM
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Lmckdaffodils(MS 7b/8a)

Thalassa Cruso, first and always and read and read over
again! Especially 'Making Things Grow Outdoors'
Elizabeth Lawrence
Henry Mitchell
Eleanor Perenyi
Two none of you have mentioned:
Beverly Nichols (British: Merry Hall, Sunlight on the
Lawn, Laughter on the Stairs, Garden Open Today,
Garden Open Tomorrow)
Janet Gillespie---New England (Peacock Manure and Marigolds,
the Joy of a Small Garden, With a Merry Heart,

    Bookmark   August 20, 2001 at 8:54PM
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Lorie 5

I agree with the last message ... Beverley Nichols is wonderful! Very funny and very British. And he adores cats to boot, Siamese in particular. I would add Green Grows the City to the list above. And the Merry Hall Trilogy is also wonderful.

I would also recommend, especially for those who love books on tape, "The Writer in the Garden", which is an anthology of garden writings, including Alan Lacy, Louise BeeBee Wilder, etc. Read aloud by some talented readers as well.


    Bookmark   September 17, 2001 at 5:38PM
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Bettina CA

My vote for all time favorite garden writer is Christopher Llyod. I also enjoyed Hugh Johnson's Principles of Gardening and agree it is well worth having.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2001 at 2:07PM
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Kmac 5/ N. Nv

Beverley Nichols rules! I can never look at another Madonna Lily, or a Constance Spry rose with out smiling, (or cracking up!)...
Whenever I see a yard over planted with trees, my mind hops back to Allen Lacy proclaiming that if we were still tree climbing apes, we would have a use for all of those trunks and limbs in our "jungle".
Katherine White has a special place in my collection, as being the most personally eloquent of this little goup (IMO.)
I collect vintage gardening books, and Henry Mitchell's are some of my faves, as they are close to home, and I love Beverly Nichols for his elegant pen and ink mock-rococo illustrations.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2001 at 3:01PM
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burrhead 7

Nobody has mentioned Emily Bowers,Ryan Gainey or Scott Ogden... I agree with Lauren Springer, Sara Stein, Michael Pollan for sure...

    Bookmark   November 9, 2001 at 5:50PM
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Henry Mitchell and Alan Lacy.
Everyone else may be a good columnist, a good gardener, or
a good writer.
However, these two alone are truly garden writers.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2001 at 11:29PM
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oh pooh-pooh, Joshua tree!

    Bookmark   November 28, 2001 at 4:33PM
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Henry Mitchell
simply the best

    Bookmark   June 11, 2002 at 1:55PM
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I am particularly fond of Gertrude Jekyll, Graham Stuart Thomas, Elliot Coleman, Bill Mollison, Vita Sackeville West, Rosemary Verey, Matsunobu Fukuoka, the StarksÂOh, there are so many. . .

    Bookmark   June 11, 2002 at 5:06PM
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When I started gardening as a young bride in the late 60s, gardening was not so popular and there were few new books. I relied--and do today--on Jim Crockett and Helen Van Pelt Wilson. Then, in desperation, I started buying old garden books from the 19c and early 20c. I now have a collection of about 1500 garden books, mostly 1890-1940. I encourage everybody to discover the writers who really invented the American garden--Helena Rutherfurd Ely, Mrs. Francis King, Grace Tabor, Louise Beebe Wilder, Liberty Hyde Bailey and so many more. I had to hunt for many years for their books (it was fun!) but now you can easily get them from dealers on the internet. Or thru interlibrary loan.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2002 at 9:29AM
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Also love Ketzel Levine, Lauren Spinger, Anne Raver. But for fun website check out the Renegade Gardener.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2003 at 12:31PM
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Henry Mitchell, hands down.
Joe Eck also writes very well.

Interesting that some of the people mentioned I find particularly annoying!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2003 at 10:48PM
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oledantucker(z5/6 MA)

This is great. I'm saving this thread for future reference.

My favorite garden writer is Henry Mitchell, whose humanity cannot be matched. I was privileged enough to live for a few years in the Washington D. C. area where his weekly Earthman column appeared in the Washington Post. When the paper arrived on Sunday I would skip right to Earthman and devour it. When we moved, my mother-in-law clipped his columns and sent them to me. I still have them, stuffed in folders. He also wrote an off-the-wall column on general topics called Any Day. There is a collection of those columns available under the same name.

Other witty favorites of mine, mentioned in earlier posts, include Christopher Lloyd and Eleanor Perenyi. One I don't think I saw mentioned earlier is Karel Capek, who wrote 'The Gardener's Year' in Czech (1929). I have an English translation, but I'm not sure it's in print. Elizabeth Lawrence is also wonderful.

For reference, I like and use Thalassa Cruso (an old favorite from childhood), Montague Free, Thomas H. Everett (BBG Encyclopedia of Horticulture), L.H. Bailey, and James Crockett.

I agree with the earlier post that complained about the majority of recently published books being reheated tripe. I would guess this is just more cashing in on the current gardening fad. Lots of nice photography, but content is typically of limited value. However, I will check out some of the recommendations above.

Ole Dan

    Bookmark   April 24, 2003 at 5:48PM
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James Underhill Crockett. His gentle dignity, breadth of knowledge, and ability to communicate are unequaled in the field. All of his books are classics (see what folks have to say about him at Amazon).

Forget about witty, clever, sophisticated, etc. For the ability to communicate pure, simple, unadulterated love of gardening, no one else even comes close.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2003 at 6:36PM
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Right now my favorite living garden writer is a guy writing out of Macon, Georgia named Hal Massie. He writes wonderful articles that are knowledgeable and insightful for the Macon newspaper. He is probably a year away from publishing a book. He could possibly be the next Henry Mitchell. (big shoes, I know)

Here is a link that might be useful: bittersweet Gardens. forum

    Bookmark   May 23, 2003 at 11:16AM
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julia3(z7a MD)

No one mentioned Mirabel Osler? Loved her A GENTLE PLEA FOR CHAOS.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2003 at 10:08PM
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Alan Lacy, especially his first two books, and a more recenty one "The Gardener's Eye".

Henry Mitchell's "One Man's Garden" (Still re-read that book if bored on a winter's nite.)

Christopher Lloyd........who threatens to stop on sight and heave certain plants right over the fence and outta your garden because they're soooo obnoxious.

two writers out of New York who write on indoor gardening, who's names escape me for now...Hmmmmmmm...

Jamaica Kincaid.......only person I've come across who can make me long for something called yellow Russian hollyhocks.

A local writer here in S Calif....Tineke Wilders. I just plain like her style. :-)

    Bookmark   June 26, 2003 at 6:01AM
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pkock(z6 OH)

The renegade gardener is a cool fellow...I interviewed him for an article once. :)

    Bookmark   July 11, 2003 at 2:31AM
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rufus412(usda9 CA)

There is an amazing book called The Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow/ The Mystical Nature Diary of Opal Whiteley that is just a wild thing to read...it's a fantastical diary plus a biography of the young girl who wrote it, whose life story is part mystery, part tragedy. I've always thought it was kind of an obscure story.......does anyone else here know of it?


    Bookmark   September 1, 2003 at 9:38PM
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Gilbert White's garden journal kept over a period of forty years or so in the late eighteenth century. A classic of elegant prose and historical insight to boot.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2003 at 1:36AM
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dleon(z7b E VA)

The late Henry Mitchel because he was profound and funny-
also Felder Rushing and Alan Lacey. Another writer I enjoy is
Janet Guthrie. She writes a column occasionaly for the in-house news letter at Colonial Williamsburg.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2003 at 10:33AM
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I learned everything, as a beginner, from Crockett's Victory Garden and Crockett's Flower Garden. I still recommend these to new gardeners and they can still be found on the web. I miss his gentle television presence to this day. For delight I read and reread Henry Mitchel, Christopher Lloyd and Mirabel Osler. For good information I chjoose Beth Chatto, Grahan Stuart Thomas Ken Druse and John Brooks.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2003 at 1:38PM
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She's only written 1 book and co-authored a second, but I absolutely love Cheryl Bostrom (The View From Goose Ridge). Her book isn't necessarily "garden writing," but I love how she relates nature in her environment to her Christian walk. I really love her style, and wish she would write more.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 2:13PM
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Not that there is anyone here to notice, but dmdillon, can't help but notice that you signed up on GW the day before you promoted this author. Buy an ad!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 7:37PM
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