My Summer in a Garden, by Charles Dudley Warner, is a treasure trove ripe with wit and wisdom. In the introduction, Henry Ward Beecher calls these writings "...curious and ingenious papers, that go winding about like a half-trodden path between the garden and the field...." Charles Dudley Warner dedicated this book in 1870, to his dear wife, Polly. Each chapter is a weekly garden "letter" or an "honest sketch of experience," that he wrote for a daily newspaper in New England. His purpose in writing these articles was to write something that he, as well as his readers, would enjoy.
It took me a while to get into this book and begin to "enjoy" it. At first glance, this thin publication leads you to mistakenly believe that you can finish it in one reading before the ice melts in your tea. Not so, for me, anyway. There is such a depth to this book (I thought) that I found I needed to absorb it in small doses in order to appreciate all of the intricacies and truths that are familiar to just about every gardener. It is filled with meaningful analogies and antidotes that left me laughing on almost every page. Take the one on lettuce. "Lettuce is like conversation: it must be fresh and crisp, so sparkling that you scarcely notice the bitter in it." Or, "Lettuce, like conversation, requires a good deal of oil to avoid friction..."
My favorite way to appreciate this book was to take a break from my gardening chores, sit in the shade, and read or ponder one article at a time. I found his writing to be so rich that I needed to go slowly to enjoy every sentence, many of which I had to read more than once to fully understand.
I loved this book. I'm keeping it in my gardening goodies basket to enjoy whenever I need a good perspective on life or gardening. As Warner recites in the Eleventh Week, by reading this book I feel that, "In half an hour I can hoe myself right away from this world...." I plan on opening it to a random page and see what treat awaits me this time.
And, have you ever read such a heartfelt tribute to a dear cat as the one he wrote for Calvin at the end of the book? From his neighbor's chickens, children, and cows, to his battle with weeds and birds, this book is relevant at one time or another to every gardener.