Two Books for The Less Than Perfect Gardener


I often read two or more books at once, but it is rare for me to read two books at the same time that are also in the same genre.

But I found myself reading both of these books together, and I think they make an illuminating pair.

They aren’t exactly memoirs but rather deeply personal essays and stories and investigations–all set in or around the garden. One has a very English perspective. The other is entirely American.

I recommend them both.

It is well titled, as Osler relates her own mistakes and happy accidents. She lives in the country, and the neat, well-maintained suburban garden is not for her.

Osler’s book is more literary. The Latin plant names come fast, and there are interesting historical and botanical rabbit trails. I wouldn’t recommend this one if you aren’t already a fan of personal garden writing as it might seem a little dense.

However, read Anne Raver’s book, and you will fall in love with this genre.

  • Deep in the Green by Anne Raver makes for lighter, easier reading, but it is also thoughtful and intelligent.

The essays aren’t chronological or strongly linked, but over the course of the book a portrait of this east coast gardener emerges: she is no expert dispensing advice, rather she is someone who delights in the green world, and she is gifted at sharing her delight.

Despite their superficial differences, Osler and Raver set an encouraging example for beginners and experts alike. Both acknowledge that gardening is hard work, that we don’t always feel like pulling weeds or harvesting the green beans we planted with such enthusiasm. They are easily distracted by other things, but both feel a strong, magnetic pull toward gardening.

These books inspired me to keep on gardening, but they also reminded me that I don’t need to be so hard on myself.

Both gardens and garden books are for delight.

Explore all our Black Barn Garden Library posts here.


Posted on

June 26, 2020


  1. Katie

    “. . .essays and stories and investigations. . .for delight.” Count me in!

  2. Julie Witmer

    Having fun in the garden counts for a lot. As an American trying to garden in a more
    British style, the pressure to be perfectly tidy is one of the things I’ve had to let go of. 💚


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