THE DECKCHAIR GARDENER.
Anne Wareham (Michael O’Mara Books Ltd, £8.99)
In my little potting shed there is a kettle, toaster, radio- and a small bookcase. Between potting and sowing, I dip into the latest books, all with a gardening theme.
So, picture the scene, I’m sitting here, listening to a storm outside. The overhanging beech tree branches are beating a tune on the roof, and a there’s a howling wind which sounds like the sea. It would be easy to imagine the potting shed perched on a cliff edge. Cold, driving sleet is thrashing the daffodils. There’s nothing more dispiriting than seeing spring flowers blown horizontal.
I’m feeling unusually glum, when our cheery postman (wearing shorts, of course) appears at the potting shed door. He’s in search of a hot cup of tea, and while he dips into the potting shed biscuit tin, I open the day’s post. And what I find is instant sunshine! Anne Wareham’s book gets us laughing from the very first page. The postman declares the Deckchair Gardener is the first gardening book ever written especially for him! I can still hear him laughing as he goes on his way. I, meanwhile, am happily ensconced with my new book for the rest of the day.
Subtitled, An Improper Gardening Manual, Anne’s book sets out to suggest 101 “cunning stratagems” for gardening avoidance, and sensible advice on your realistic chances of getting away with it. I love gardening, but I’m always after short cuts and tips, and Anne has many good ideas for basically giving yourself the day off to enjoy the garden you’ve created.
I loathe books that set out “five jobs to do today.” My heart sinks, as I’m set to fail and get behind. And there’s nothing worse than feeling the garden is getting away from you. But Anne delightfully lists “What Not to Do in Your Garden,” for spring, summer, autumn and winter. I could quite honestly kiss her.
One thing I won’t have to do now is dig the garden. Anne quotes advice from organic vegetable expert Charles Dowding on making compost, no-dig gardens and mulching. In fact mulching seems to feature quite regularly through the book as the answer to most problems. Also, I won’t sow lettuce seed every few weeks to keep the harvest coming. I’ll just pick off the outside leaves. The lettuce will apparently just keep growing through the summer. The secret is to pick, not cut the leaves, it seems.
It’s hard not to laugh at some of Anne’s mad ideas, but her book makes you think. Have I just been doing things the same way for years and years, when there’s a better tactic? I know I am guilty of doing daft things like growing vegetables I don’t particular like just because they are supposed to be in a veg garden in the summer.
I am still chuckling over her tips and witty observations. And I love the gnome pictures drawn by Kate Charlesworth. So I shall be taking Anne’s advice to “accept the challenge and be brave.”
Anne describes herself as a garden maker – at Veddw, an editor of thinkingardens.co.uk and on twitter, @AnneWareham, as “trouble.” The Deckchair Gardener is available from Michael O’Mara Books @OMaraBooks, and also as an e-book. It would make a perfect Easter present for anyone looking to put the word “fun” back into gardening.