Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Back to the Roots by Richard Mabey and Francesca Greenoak

 As thoughts turn eagerly to the possibility of spring and the promise of something green in the garden, here's another bit of recycling from Cat Musings while I I try to meet deadlines elsewhere!

Back to the Roots is a little book which has been rather overtaken in this age of the worldwide web. Written to accompany a Channel Four series in 1983, it is divided into chapters on herbs, flowers, vegetables, fruit and trees. Each chapter is followed by a directory with bibliography, list of suppliers and other information such as places to see plants, courses etc. Much of the directory information is, of course, hopelessly out of date (even telephone numbers have changed in the interim) but, with the advent of search engines, anyone with a little application will be able to discover what listings are still valid and will quickly find contact details for nurseries, gardens and suppliers.

The rest of the book is selective but interesting. My personal favourite is a section entitled The sloth's vegetable garden, which offers suggestions for creating a perennial vegetable patch. I shall be turning to this over the coming weeks while I plan this year's crops. The emphasis throughout is on traditional and forgotten varieties, and it would provide an excellent starting place for establishing a historically-themed garden. Brief cultivation details are given for each type of plant, and even pruning instructions for fruit are included. The back-and-white illustrations are clear and come from an entertaining variety of sources.

Long out of print, it is nonetheless readily, and cheaply, available from the various second-hand book sites (including for 1p on Amazon). Primarily intended to encourage a growing interest in cultivated plants which are threatened by new regulations, this is a book which still meets its purpose and would make a good introduction for any new gardener who would rather spend their money on seeds than on glossy coffee-table books.

6 comments:

  1. This looks a very useful and readable book. I am all for preserving or re-introducing old "forgotten" types of plants, and races of animals such as cows and pigs.

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    1. It's very short but has some nice ideas - one of the reasons I've decided that I'm going to go back to rare-breed chickens next time I have to get some more.

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  2. The notion of a sloth's vegetable garden is most enticing! I must look out for this book.

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    1. The sloth's garden would definitely suit me :-)

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  3. I like the idea of the traditional garden, as well as heirloom varieties of flowers. My focus on my own is on a bee and butterfly friendly garden. I definitely have to see if I can find this book! Thanks so much for the review, Geranium Cat.

    As I write this, a snow flurry is circling around the house. Winter is still here too!

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  4. Your photos of your garden look lovely, Susan. I do wish winter would go, it's freezing here today.

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