The Curious Gardener brings together, for the first time in English, three of German gardener Jurgen Dahl's works.
"Gardening Virtues and Botanical Surprises" is a tour of the four seasons in Dahl's eclectic garden. Dahl grows each plant because of a joy in all plants – he wants to meet each species individually, get to know them and share his fascination. Some thrive in his garden (in the author photograph he is all but hidden by an enormous gunnera). Others don't, and Dahl keeps a pot of old plant labels in remembrance of plants past.
His writing, even in translation, is so inspiring that it makes you want to rush out and check on whether a plant in the garden has started flowering, set seed or simply responded to a change in the weather. Your gardening To Do list will become ever longer as Dahl suggests plants to try and ideas will pop into your head whenever you dip into the book.
Everything here is an experiment that can be repeated by the reader. Which is not to say that Dahl writes as a dispassionate, scientific researcher. His opinions are clear, whether he is talking about ground cover plants, weeds, or his hay collection. He obviously loved trying new and unusual plants, and spent a lot of time reading through old horticultural records.
In "The Stinking Garden" we meet all kinds of scented plants, from the common and pleasant scents of the mint family to plants that mimic body odour, or use their scents to attract prey.
"How to eat a lily" is more concerned with edible plants, including blue potatoes, edible weeds and blackberries. There is a discussion about the longevity of seeds and notes about the beauty of faded seed heads.
This is not a conventional gardening book, because Dahl was not a conventional gardener. He was a man who had a life-long love affair with plants, and who tried to share some of his wonder and fascination through his writing. The photographs may only be in black and white, but Dahl's plants will shine in your imagination and send you outside to find the magic in your own garden.
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