As in one of the loveliest lines attributed to Margaret Atwood, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
For those who love to spend time outside in their garden, four entertaining books on clouds, bees, flower scents and Emily Dickinson’s gardens will provide ample diversion during the cold, wet days of winter.
A Cloud a Day by Gavin Pretor-Pinney
How often do you really notice the beauty and diversity of clouds? Readers of Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s A Cloud a Day will be hard-pressed to ignore the skies again. He has gathered a year’s worth of cloud pictures from all over the world, many of which were taken by members of his Cloud Appreciation Society. Thought-provoking quotations and explanations of lesser-known cloud formations accompany the photos. He even includes clouds from unexpected places like distant planets and famous paintings. Fun charts aid readers in navigating the book by helping them locate certain cloud formations, artworks, optical effects and imaginative descriptions. In his introduction, Pretor-Pinney explains that we live upon an ocean of gasses, and that it would improve the quality of our lives to spend a bit of time noticing that ever-changing ocean around us. After perusing this enlightening book, many readers will agree.
The Little Book of Bees by Hilary Kearney
Most of us are aware that our honeybees are endangered, but few may realize how fascinating these helpful creatures really are or the ways we can support them. Hilary Kearney’s The Little Book of Bees proves an excellent remedy for these shortcomings. A beekeeper, writer and artist who hosts workshops for other beekeepers, Kearney starts by providing brief, digestible descriptions of flowers, pollination and bee evolution. She goes on to describe bee anatomy, the many types of bees and their various social organizations. Next, she turns to honey: what it is, the different types and its uses. Finally, she offers an introduction to beekeeping, an explanation of why bees are endangered and a list of easy steps the average person can take to help them. For readers who wish to know more, Kearney provides a brief list of additional resources. For all its usefulness, The Little Book of Bees is also filled with wonderful illustrations by Amy Holliday and fascinating tidbits of bee trivia, making this book not only a treasure trove of information for those interested in bees but also delightfully entertaining.
The Scentual Garden by Ken Druse
Bees naturally bring flowers to mind, and Ken Druse delivers a unique approach to flower gardening in The Scentual Garden. Druse focuses on plants solely through their significance to our sense of smell. He begins by providing a brief but provocative explanation of why plants produce a scent, how our olfactory sense works and methods for capturing scent. By far the bulk of the book, however, is an encyclopedia of fragrant plants with incredibly sensual descriptions that will help even the most dejected gardener endure the darkest days of winter. The most striking aspect of the book is the absolutely exquisite garden photographs by Druse and botanical photographs by Ellen Hoverkamp. While the information contained in the encyclopedia may prove eye-opening to new and experienced gardeners alike, the photographs make The Scentual Garden a gorgeous addition to any home.
Emily Dickenson’s Gardening Life by Marta McDowell
Finally, for gardeners with an affection for poetry, Marta McDowell’s Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life may prove a perfect choice. In this newly revised and expanded edition, McDowell, a past Gardener-in-Residence at the Emily Dickinson Museum, first surveys Dickinson’s life, describing the garden at the poet’s lifelong home throughout the seasons. McDowell frequently quotes Dickinson’s poetry to highlight pertinent connections between her garden and her writing. Although no photographs of Dickinson’s garden taken during her lifetime have been discovered, McDowell includes lovely hand-drawn botanical illustrations by Dickinson’s contemporaries and colorful, present-day photos of some of the plants in question, as well as vintage and modern photographs of significant buildings and landscapes. McDowell also includes chapters on how to plant a garden similar to Dickinson’s, the painstaking efforts to restore Dickinson’s garden and a detailed list of the plants cultivated by the Dickinson family. Taken as a whole, Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life gives readers the real sense that they can almost slip back in time and survey Dickinson’s garden with her.