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SPECIAL ISSUE: SPRING GARDENS | BOOKS

Prose from a garden dreamer

The Landscaping Ideas of Jays A Natural History of the Backyard Restoration Garden Judith Larner Lowry University of California Press, $60 hardcover, $24.95 paper

March 01, 2007|Lili Singer

These are the words of a garden dreamer -- joyful, hopeful, yet down to earth and brimming with horticultural smarts. The author, a Marin County seed proprietor and landscape consultant, is restoring a 1 1/4 -acre garden and 80 acres of third-growth forest. Her book, also due out next month, shares what she sees and how she listens. "Let our gardens school us," she says.

Because the short chapters were written as separate essays, there's some redundancy. Still, the text flows blithely, and most sections close with a paragraph of rhythmic rapture, an experience woven in vivid prose. We discover the importance of willows, the lessons of woody debris, the brilliance of three legendary women of California horticulture.

This is nature and garden writing at its best: based on science, revelatory, inspired and inspiring. The author's insights are interspersed with excerpts and anecdotes from other writers and personal mentors. It leaves the reader wanting more -- and for that, one can see her previous collection of essays, "Gardening With a Wild Heart."

-- Lili Singer

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