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A Year at North Hill : Four Seasons in a Vermont Garden Paperback – May 15, 1996
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"In which poetry is perfectly at home with the eminently practical matters of gardening . . . a gold mine of practical advice. "-Anne Raver, The New York Times
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The book gives even more than it promises. Instead of four chapters, Eck and Winterrowd give us 12 generous chapters, one for each of the months beginning, as a gardener should, not with sleep-like-unto-death January but with awakening: the month of April. What a difference it makes to start a book with what keeps us carrying bags of fertilizer up hills, on our knees weeding, and plotting the resurrection (E.B. White's lovely words about his wife's bulb-planting as her own death approached).
Eck and Winterrowd writes as landscape architects about the climate, terrain, and changes they have made to their almost 10 acre garden and the whole 23 acre land of which they are custodians. When they talk about the hundreds of species, types, and variants they have nudged into flourishing in as unlikely a climate as Vermont's, they have us enthralled with their horticultural chops. AThis is close to a how-to book for gardeners in their approach & principles. It helps, obviously, to be besotted with gardening, to organize one's life around your acres and spend to the edge of financial doom to bring vision to realization.
When we do reach the long sleep of Vermont gardens it is with a deep appreciation of how to every season there is indeed a purpose under heaven. The preparation of shelter for boxwoods, the ceremonies of moving potted plants even bananas into their winter garden, the anxious waiting for deep snows that insulate plants from the dessicating winds, the tranquility of seeing the sculptural beauty of their garden as they trudge uphill to feed the gentle beasts----all these prepare us to experience winter ---the winter-road perhaps---affirmatively.
The book is coffee-table size. It has been produced with artistry in the balance of text and margins, in the lavendar framing of each page like a medieval manuscript, in the heavy quality of the paper and the excellence of the binding. and in the superb photographs taken by Joe Eck. The care they have given to the design & evolution of their garden (maps are given and thank'ee), they also have lavished in the design of "A Year at North Hill." The photographs are worthy of Elliot Porter, and part of the gift that this book is to gardeners all.
Praise be also that Eck and Wayne are masters not only of mulch, seed, and meadows, but equally of English. Their felicities in phrasing, their wit and delight in words, shine here. One can read without flinching at miserable grammar, execrable style. "It isn't often (E. B. White again) one finds a good writer(s) who is also a good friend(s).
Which brings me to what I love most about this book. Eck and Winterrowd do not turn aside from the sorrows, slings, and arrows of gardener misfortunes or the human condition. What shine through this book is caritas and amitas---the dear love of their garden and home, of the marvels of plants (the rarer, obscurer, more challenging the better such as in their delight in growing Himalayan blue poppies), of their families and friends, and of each other.