A Week in Books: Gardening by the moon, woodland tracks, a rose garden and a very keen bear

On a Sunday evening, I like to clear the shelf next to my desk, in preparation for the week ahead. There will always be a pile of books that have accumulated beside me. These will include stories my daughter has brought over for me to read to her and those that I have quickly grabbed to find a quotation, or check an ingredient for a recipe. There might be a seasonal book or two where I have looked up a flower name or gardening wisdom.

I enjoy the moment when I scoop them up and shelve them again, the titles on the spines evoke a diary of the days just passed:  A Week in Books.

Through the Woods by H.E. Bates

Written by the author of the Darling Buds of May, though a little less well known, I loved this book for it speaks of a small woodland, just like the one which we walk to near our home. It seemed only right to read the book amongst the silver birches, listening to birdsong. I started when the bluebells looked exactly like the cover and finished as the ferns were unfurling and the trees were in full leaf.

The narrative details a single woodland year and that wonderful gradual change of the seasons. Bates felt the industrial world encroaching upon these vital little ecosystems and I can feel the city ever-spreading, ever creeping, towards the village I live in. It is brilliant that Little Toller Press is bringing these important texts back into print for their Nature Classics collection, they are needed now more than ever.

The Natural Gardener: A Lifetime of Gardening by the Phases of the Moon by John Harris

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2021 by Lia Leendertz

I have been trying to garden by the moon this year for the very first time. This has been made easier by keeping my own almanac and noting when the phases of the moon will be. I bought The Natural Gardener because having found this method actually does bring great results (the hollyhocks are currently over 8 foot tall …) I wanted to learn more of the scientific detail of why it is working.

The first quarter of the book is a very engaging and fascinating biography of a Cornish boy who loses his war veteran father at age 11 and is looked after by a group of “old boys” at the allotments. John Harris goes on to become a much respected gardener, managing the gardens of famous Cornish estate. It is well worth a read for this alone if you love gardening or learning about the post war years.

Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Armin

I’m gradually collecting the Penguin English Library classics. They are in a slightly larger typeface than Popular Classics and this means I can take them out with me, without needing my reading glasses (I wrecked my eyes reading by torchlight as a child). I had never heard of this one, a thin little book and a quick read. First published in 1898, it dates very well for the modern gardener.

Elizabeth falls in love with tea roses…

“How I long for the day when the teas open their buds! Never did I look forward so intensely to anything and everyday I go the rounds, admiring what the dear little things have achieved in the twenty-four hours in the way of new leaf or increase of lovely red shoot.”

… and quickly spends all of her allowance on as many plants and bulbs as she can. When winter comes:

“The bills for my roses and bulbs and other last year’s horticultural indulgences were all on the table when I came down to breakfast this morning. They rather frightened me…”

I think any ardent gardener might empathise.

The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs by Tristan Gooley

I have just started to read this book cover-to-cover after happily flicking through and seeing what I could find. There are so many illustrations that it is really easy to pick a random page and immediately learn something incredibly fascinating – how to tell north from the size of an ivy leaf, or whether it will rain from the height that a swallow flies at. It now has a permanent place in my hiking backpack.

The Hermit and the Bear by John Yeoman

I bought this with my birthday money when I was seven from a bookshop in Ambleside, in the English Lake District. I have read it to all of my boys and am just starting to read it to my daughter.

It is the story of an exacting hermit who takes on a rather clumsy (though very keen) bear for private tuition. For a child, seeing the bear attempt all of the Hermit’s lessons is really amusing and, importantly, lets them see that trying new things can be daunting but also rewarding.

As a mum who has spent many years home educating five children, I think now that this was pretty solid grounding 🙂 I actually shelve this book with my Buddhist texts because sometimes, when I feel like I need to centre myself and remember my life philosophy, this is actually just the tonic I need.

Are you enjoying a book at the moment? I’d love to read your comment below. 

I wish you all a peaceful start to the week ahead.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. I really like this series. I have a copy of Through the Woods illustrated by Agnes Miller Parker. I thought I had posted on it, but it seems I haven’t – one for the future. In the meantime I did work my way through “Down the River”. You may like to seen one of these: https://derrickjknight.com/2020/06/12/further-down-the-river/


  2. beth says:

    looking forward to the hermit and the bear – it’s new to me


  3. TanGental says:

    ah, now that takes me back; Dad eulogised Bates and always had one by his bed to dip into. Mind you his favourite was Gilbert White’s Natural History and Antiquities of Selbourne (1789) which while old is lovely and fascinating and I think would appeal to you…


  4. Mick Canning says:

    I’ve read the Tristan Gooley – highly recommended.


  5. Sandra says:

    Such a lovely selection here. I agree about the Little Toller series but The Natural Gardener and The Walker’s Guide also sound great reads. Hope you enjoy Elizabeth and her German Garden! It’s been a while since I read that one.


  6. Katie says:

    I love this little series you’ve been doing! And I love all of the nature and gardening books.. I’ve added Elizabeth and her German Garden to my TBR. I know how she feels about the roses. I make my flower rounds every day and delight in their progress!


  7. The Hermit and the Bear is definitely the kind of book I would have read to my kids when they were small. We all loved the Corduroy series and Mister Muster and the zoo animals. Now I must wait for grandchildren.


  8. I imagine you would also enjoy the book I just discussed on my post, “Braiding Sweetgrass.” It is full of Indigenous thought and love for the natural world and shows a way we can develop a loving relationship with Mother Earth.
    Happy reading,


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