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September 2015

Shades Of Blue - an uplifting new book

Shades Of Blue: Writers on Depression, Suicide, and Feeling Blue edited by Amy Ferris (Seal Press)I like to bring the various ventures of family and friends to your attention here on the Transatlantic Gardener, whether they’re horticultural or not, and there’s a flurry of them coming this autumn. All are special in their different ways.

First off, published yesterday, is a collection of essays edited by our friend the indomitable Amy Ferris and including a contribution by my wife judywhite. Amy is the author of one of the most extraordinary memoirs of recent times, Marrying George Clooney, and of the screenplays for the movies Funny Valentines and Mr. Wonderful. judy began as a humor writer for Seventeen and other magazines, transitioned into writing about and photographing plants and gardens. In recent years she's shifted focus again, writing the script for the movie Lies I Told My Little Sister… More on that when it’s released next week.

This book is called Shades of Blue: Writers on Depression, Suicide, and Feeling Blue – and the first thing to say is this is NOT a book that will make you feel worse. As Laura Davis, bestselling author of I Thought We’d Never Speak Again says in her review: “These compelling tales of depression aren’t depressing—they are emblazoned with hope—because every person in this book is a survivor. A survivor who doesn’t flinch from explaining exactly how they climbed out of their own personal pit of despair. How they chose life.” judy's piece is both agonizing, and funny.

With tenderness and tragedy, thirty five writers lay themselves bare, revealing a series of stories to inspire and hearten us, however close we’ve come to the desolation they describe. And, be assured, there are laughs, too.

Shades of Blue: Writers on Depression, Suicide, and Feeling Blue edited by Amy Ferris is published by Seal Press.

Find out more at the Seal Press website

                


Books with a local focus

The arrival of four new and recently published books, and the success of another, highlights an interesting trend. Locally focused books seem to be coming to the fore.

9780711235274Victoria Summerley, my friend from my days as Gardening Correspondent at the London Evening Standard, reports on Facebook that her book Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds, published last winter, is the third best-selling garden book out of all those published in Britain this year – which is impressive for a book on a small, though picturesque and very well gardened, part of the country. Of course, it helps that it’s good.

And in my latest parcels of review copies come more books with a local focus. Month-by-Month Gardening: Pennsylvania, Garden Plants for Scotland the sumptuous The Irish Garden, as well as the stately Oxford College Gardens.

Month-by-Month Gardening: Pennsylvania by Liz Ball and George Weigel belongs on every Pennsylvania gardener’s shelf, especially in this revised and re-organized new edition. It will be all that many weekend gardeners need. There are companion volumes for most of the other states across the nation and, in a country where the climate varies so much from one state to the next, these locally focused books are invaluable. 9781591866305

Kenneth Cox has spent many years campaigning for the recognition of Scotland as different, horticulturally, from the rest of Britain. He instigated the creation of the Scottish Gardenplant Award to recognize plants specially suited to Scottish conditions. This revised edition of Garden Plants For Scotland describes the 500 winners of the Scottish Gardenplant Award and thousands of others suited to Scottish conditions.

These two books clearly have little use beyond their field of focus. Not so The Irish Garden. From the husband-and-wife team of Jane Powers, Gardening Correspondent for the Sunday Times in Ireland and previously at The Irish Times, and Jonathan Hession, who turned from photographing movies during shooting to landscapes.

Jane’s blend of historical and contemporary insight is ideal applied to gardens in country that has been through so much varied change over the centuries and her eye for the quirky is invaluable. More about The Irish Garden another time.

9780711232181Oxford College Gardens from Tim Richardson, with photography by Andrew Lawson, features a great deal of architecture along with the gardens which vary from the impressive (including Magdalen and Worcester) to the unremarkable (Keble, St Hilda’s); of course, they all must be included but space is allocated accordingly.

Tim’s impeccable historical research and judgment predominate. He’s always interesting and not afraid to be critical. But once you’re inspired to visit some of these gardens there’s provides no guidance as to when, or if, these college gardens can be visited or how to find out - apart from remarking on “the strictures and opening time eccentricities of the colleges”.

The Irish Garden is a great example of how a book with limited focus can have universal appeal, Month-by-Month Gardening: Pennsylvania is a fine example of local book for local readers. More about The Irish Garden soon.

North American gardeners
Order Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds by Victoria Summerley (published by Frances Lincoln)
Order The Irish Garden by Jane Powers (published by Frances Lincoln)
Order Oxford College Gardens by Tim Richardson (published by Frances Lincoln)
Order Month-by-Month Gardening: Pennsylvania by Liz Ball and George Weigel (published by Cool Springs Press)


British and Irish gardeners
Order Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds by Victoria Summerley (published by Frances Lincoln)
Order The Irish Garden by Jane Powers (published by Frances Lincoln)
Order Oxford College Gardens by Tim Richardson (published by Frances Lincoln)
Order Garden Plants For Scotland by Kenneth N. E. Cox and Raoul Curtis Machin
(published by Frances Lincoln)