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From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden Hardcover – January 19, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

How-to gardening books abound; how-not-to gardening memoirs are rarer. When Stewart and her husband bought their first home in California, she was eager to grow the bountiful, colorful garden she had so long envisioned. With much enthusiasm and little knowledge, she began her weekly trek to the local nursery to stock up on all varieties of seedlings. Why, she wondered, did they not flourish after being planted in the bare backyard? Only after many mistakes, much expense, and worrisome encounters with weeds and bugs was she able to transform her little plot into "a garden with soul," jumbled and luxuriant. Along with a witty description of her mistakes, the author shares her solutions. She gives other beginning gardeners tips on making earthworm manure, improving the soil by sheet composting, encouraging beneficial insects, and sharing excess produce with neighbors. Written in a humorous, conversational style, this book is recommended for public libraries.DIlse Heidmann, San Marcos, TX
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Stewart, a young Texan, creates her first garden from scratch in the beach town of Santa Cruz, California. Although the rental bungalow she shares with her husband, Scott, is close enough to the town's boardwalk for its amusement-park aromas and roller-coaster cries to infiltrate the not-so-private space of their house and yard, she rolls up her sleeves anyway and sets about beautifying the neighborhood. Accompanied by her feline pals, Stewart pursues a commendable path, one taken by a flourishing society of green thumbs bent on eradicating weeds and cultivating the soil so that flowers will grow and vegetables will prosper. In an episodic style, she writes of her progress from a novice with little know-how to a developing and altogether enthusiastic gardener intent on enriching a small plot of land. At the close of each chapter, Stewart offers recipes and tips to help ease the way for readers unfamiliar with garden basics. In a first book filled with promise, Stewart tellingly recounts the making of a garden and the essential life lessons the act of gardening so often teaches. Alice Joyce
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1st edition (January 19, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565122402
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565122406
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #277,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Amy Stewart is the author of seven books. Her latest, Girl Waits With Gun, is a novel based on a true story. She has also written six nonfiction books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world, including four New York Times bestsellers: The Drunken Botanist, Wicked Bugs, Wicked Plants, and Flower Confidential. She lives in Eureka, California, with her husband Scott Brown, who is a rare book dealer. They own a bookstore called Eureka Books. The store is housed in a classic nineteenth-century Victorian building that Amy very much hopes is haunted.

Stewart has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and many other newspapers and magazines, and has appeared frequently on National Public Radio, CBS Sunday Morning, and--just once--on TLC's Cake Boss. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the American Horticulture Society's Book Award, and an International Association of Culinary Professionals Food Writing Award.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Brown on June 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Amy Stewart tells the story of how she got to Santa Cruz & took over a patch of seaside earth in which a couple of fruit trees, a handful of shrubs & a host of weeds fought for life.
Each chapter includes helpful tips on neighborly propagation, composting, worm juice, rose pruning techniques, how to make a bug love you & concocting a gardener's bath. They are not what you think - some of this novice's results are hilarious while others are downright commonsensical. One of the first tips she gives us is on Making a Sun Map - do give it a go - I haven't looked at my garden the same since I discovered this clue.
Alongside the story of this young woman's determination to create a garden in which the plants will live up to her vision, she remembers family moments from her childhood while facing down obstinate natives more wily than her. Talk about turf wars!
A fine companion for anyone contemplating becoming addicted to gardening! Amy Stewart has since moved to northern California where she is hard at work on her second garden &, I hope, her second book.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Joann Sonenstein on January 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
For those who enjoy digging in the dirt or simply admiring gardens, Amy Stewart's From the Ground Up is a charming read. The book offers many practical tips but its appeal is more than a "how to" manual. The reader shares Ms. Stewart's excitement in planting her first flowers and veggies in the ocean climate of Santa Cruz, CA, discovering the hard way what really works. The author shops for soil amendments and ladybugs the way some women revel in a Saks Fifth Avenue sale. Recipes using garden bounty pepper the narrative. The mood is like a cozy chat between friends. All this unfolds against a backdrop of a roller coaster next door, tourists stealing plants and cats gamboling in the greenery. Curl up in a comfy chair in a pleasant spot and enjoy the gardening expoeriences of Ms. Stewart from dreamer to doer.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Marine Brown on April 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Amy Stewart captures the essence of gardening and living in Santa Cruz, CA. This is a gentle and graceful book that will make you want to run to your local garden center and buy everything, then go home and spend the whole weekend getting dirty. You will greatly enjoy this book regardless of the size or state of your garden or yard. A wonderful read, very well written, almost poetic at will love it.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Ted on April 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
When I'm diving into a new field I know nothing about - Buddhism, photography, wine, wrestling, or gardening, to take a few recent examples - I'm always looking for a certain kind of writer: an opinionated, first-person guide to this confusing new world. My model for this kind of writing is Bill James, the great baseball analyst. I'm always on the lookout for "the Bill James of wine" or "the Bill James of wrestling."

The point isn't that I want an expert to tell me what to think. Rather, I want to hear about this new universe from a distinct, coherent point of view. From there, I can develop my own perspective. I don't want an authority so much as a critical sensibility. These new subjects always teem with boggling amounts of details - the eightfold path of Buddhism, the varieties of wrestling holds, the latin names for all those flowers. I'll never learn all this stuff by trying to memorize it, and that wouldn't be much fun, anyway. Rather, what I want is to absorb the perspective of a savvy participant, so that the field as a whole makes sense to me. Once I do that, the details can fall in place over time, if I decide to stick with it.

I appear to be in the minority in this preference - most people seem to prefer the bland-to-cutesy textbook style of the Dummies guides. Guide series do have their places - I'm a big fan of the " . . . for Beginners" series of cartoon guides. When they're done right, as in the classic Marx for Beginners by Rius, those are a great way to get your bearings on a subject. The newer "Introducing . . ." cartoon series is also great. And Oxford University Press has a nifty ongoing series of "Very Short Introduction to . . . " books. The Jung books from both of the latter series have been great entry points into a massive body of work.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Leo Ogren on January 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
I read Amy Stewart's fine book, From the Ground Up, last week on a very long plane ride home to California from Indianapolis, Indiana. I'd been to Indianapolis to speak to the Indiana Arborists' Association convention, as I am a garden writer myself (Allergy-free Gardening, Safe Sex in the Garden, etc.). My flight was delayed due to a snowstorm in Detroit but the extra long trip was made more than okay because I had this delightful book to read.
I'd received From the Ground Up as a present from my Mom. It is the story of one lady's first attempt at gardening, and as one who taught horticulture for 20 years, and who has gardened for almost 50 years, it was remarkable fun for me to see all the little mistakes she made, the discoveries she uncovered, the personal disasters and achievements that accompanied her quest to create a wonderful garden.
Really great gardens don't just happen, not at all. They are created with huge effort, smarts, learning, help and advice from other gardeners, with tips from garden books, and most of all by the vision of the gardener in charge.
There exists within the wide range of garden writing a host of some rather fabulously good writing. These are the books that combine solid garden advice with a large dose of very personal observance and experience. Although From the Ground Up is a first book, it reads as though written by someone who had been writing for many years, someone who had honed and polished her writing so that every line sparkled. I would expect that this book would appeal most to those who love to garden, but because the level of writing is so unusually excellent, I'd guess almost anyone who appreciates literate writing would enjoy it.
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