The Curious Gardener by Anna Pavord

I found The Curious Gardener by Anna Pavord to be an enjoyable read, in fact I think anyone interested in gardening and the countryside would like it.

Subtitled A Year in the Garden, the book is divided up into the 12 months of the year, with each month having a few pages titled Tasks for the Month at the end of it, but there are also lots of useful tips along the way, such as how to prune the various different types of clematis and how to deal with a vast glut of tomatoes. Apparently you should just freeze them whole, then when you want to use them the skins come off with no bother at all if you run cold water over them. Pavord says: I froze 60 lbs of tomatoes last year – she grew them outside, not under glass, I couldn’t help feeling jealous!

Sadly I’ve never had a problem with a glut of tomatoes, despite having grown them in a greenhouse in the past. I’m left wondering exactly how big her garden is, it must be enormous.

It’s not all gardening though as she throws in memories of her younger days when she was first married and her guests learned to bring their own cutlery with them as she didn’t have much in the way of utensils and daughters’ wedding flowers. In fact this book is a right good melange of topics, a bit like a nice chat with a good friend which usually ends up going off at all sorts of tangents.

She tells of gardens in different countries such as the US and Italy and tells you how to grow lemon grass from the stalks which you can buy from the supermarket. I’ve grown a ginger plant from supermarket ginger roots before, I’m definitely going to give lemon grass a go.

As well as introducing the reader to a lot of interesting gardeners and gardens and the best kind of beans, potatoes, tomatoes …. to grow, she also tells of her experiences of morphine whilst she was recovering from having various bits of cancer cut out from her. She had to give up on the morphine as it made her retch which caused horrible pain, and instead she concentrated on the scent from the sweet peas which her husband brought in for her each day from her garden, and that helped her feel better.

I haven’t mentioned the woodcuts which decorate the beginning of each monthly section. They’re by Howard Phipps and are really very good. I love woodcuts anyway, I’m always so impressed by the detail in them as I know how time consuming and finicky the process is. You can see images of his work here. All in all this is a very good book and I think I might end up buying myself a copy (I borrowed this one from the library) either that or I’ll have to skim through it again, taking notes as I go, just in case I ever do decide to grow tatties or whatever.

Anna Pavord writes for The Independent and some of the articles which are in this book have appeared in print there previously.

14 thoughts on “The Curious Gardener by Anna Pavord

  1. Thank you for that review – Anna Pavord sounds a most interesting person, with a delightful writing style, and I’m pleased to discover that my local library has a number of her books including The Curious Gardener – looking forward to reading 🙂
    Yes, tomatoes can be frozen whole very conveniently. Choose sufficiently-strong bags to hold them: the sound of frozen “billiard-balls” rattling to the bottom of a chest-freezer from a split bag is unforgettable!

    • Valerie,
      If only I ever had enough tomatoes to need to freeze them! I’m envious of people with good growing weather although I know I wouldn’t be able to stand the heat. I hope you enjoy reading her books, I’m definitely going to look out for more of them.

  2. Looks an interesting book. My library has a copy so if it’s still on the shelf when I go later this week I’ll have a look at it – we’ve got a free problem trees this year and I don’t know enough about them!

    • Margaret,
      I’m glad we don’t have big trees to worry about now that we have moved, I can enjoy looking at the trees in the nearby woods but Scottish Woodland Trust look after them. I hope you enjoy the book if you find it.

  3. Love those woodcuts, too! In my part of the US (New England and Mid-Atlantic), six tomato plants could easily give you ten pounds per plant over the summer. I used to can tomatoes when we had a large garden in New Hampshire, but we learned to scale back the tomato and zucchini plants to fit our limited needs. There’s nothing like a garden-ripened tomato, though! Now, for us, they’re from the farmers market or my niece’s garden.

    • Joan,
      There’s definitely an upside to living in your heat! I would have loved to can tomatoes, I would be so happy to have a pantry with shelves filled with home grown produce. I only have jam at the moment.

  4. Oooh thanks for that review Katrina, as an armchair gardener and avid woodcut, engraving and linocut fan I will look out for this book, its been a while since I actually bought a book and this looks like one to own. I grew so many tomatoes while living in the US – along with bushes of basil, gave up after moving back! Love the idea of freezing tomatoes whole, love the idea of a book that goes off onto different topics like a conversation.

  5. Yes, it sounds a delightful book, but I guess that for Scotland you’d have to work each month on a couple of months ahead in her book!! Our gardening group is going to put together a list of things to do each month, here in Peebles, which could extend into a booklet, but is starting off as a calendar!. I’ve been asked to provide some photos- – a job for tonight I think!

    • Evee,
      Or behind, when gardening books say – it’s time to plant something – you can be sure it’s far too soon for it in Scotland.
      It’ll be a great calendar with your photos and you’ll have loads to choose from.

  6. I’ve had my eye on this one for a while so I am glad to hear it is so good. I think I will wait until the snow is thick on the ground and the temperature is arctic to read it, then I can imagine myself elsewhere for a little while.

    • Stefanie,
      It’s a treat to read if you’re into gardening and there don’t seem to be many such books around, with Pavord darting off onto different subjects, it’s just like a conversation with a friend really. I hope you enjoy it. I think you said you had 50 days of below zero last year – you’ll need something good to get you through that!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *