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Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden (Modern Library Gardening) Paperback – February 19, 2002
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From Library Journal
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
“Unlike any other gardening book I know, with its Old World charm, its down-to-earth practicality, its whimsy and sophistication.” —Brooke Astor, The New York Times Book Review
“One of those dangerous reference works that you reach for at a moment of horticultural crisis or indecision only to find yourself an hour later browsing far beyond the page where you began.” —The New Yorker
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Top Customer Reviews
Perenyi's book contains many original insights and much information not widely available at the time she wrote her book - such as gardening tips from `Organic Gardening Magazine'. Perenyi wrote only one book on gardening but she is often quoted-the main reason I wanted to read GREEN THOUGHTS. She organized her comments Alpha to Zeta (actually ends with `W' for Woman's Place), which are literally a set of small essays ranging from a paragraph in length to several pages on various topics from hedges and lawns to onions and potatoes.
My favorite essay is "Woman's Place" which appropriately enough covers the history of women in the garden from Eve to Eleanor Perenyi. She reveals the sad truth that women invented horticulture while men were off hunting in packs, only to be thrown out of the garden at a later date when men "took charge" of the fields. Over the eons, women were relegated lower and lower positions garden-wise until they became decorative ornaments - well at least in upscale gardens East and West, whether the Seraglio with it's harem or the Virgin's Bower.
In the gardens (er..vegetable patches) of traditional societies she says women became beasts of burden. Perenyi notes that Oriental women do the weeding in the rice paddies and carry the firewood in Africa. At any rate, while European upscale men were busy adapting their posh Renaissance gardens to the latest `Arabasque" notion or plowing up the 18th Century landscape under the guidance of Sir Humphrey Repton (and still hunting in packs one notes), enterprising nuns and country women with their "messy" cottage gardens preserved the diversity of the native species of plants. In the 20th Century, Gertrude Jeckyll and William Robinson discovered what the old wives had been up to and introduced "native" plants to upscale country gardens. The moral of the book is that men's overly tidy and rational gardening habits are bad and women's messy garden habits are good. Rational agriculture destroys, messy gardening preserves.
Eleanor Perenyi is one of those people who can make anything interesting. Knowledgeable, opinionated, at times cranky, her writing is at once delightful and profound. With wit and whimsy, the books skips from the trials and tribulations of trying to find good help to the horticultural explorations of the Spanish conquistadors. The book is a real treat for anyone who loves gardens and words. In fact, I think I'll read it again.
It is with deep sadness that I report the recent death of Eleanor Perenyi. In Green Thoughts, she has left us a gift we should treasure for all time.