One of our finest writers on one of her greatest loves. Jamaica Kincaid's first garden in Vermont was a plot in the middle of her front lawn. There, to the consternation of more experienced friends, she planted only seeds of the flowers she liked best. In My Garden (Book) she gathers all she loves about gardening and plants, and examines it generously, passionately, and with sharp, idiosyncratic discrimination. Kincaid's affections are matched in intensity only by her dislikes. She loves spring and summer but cannot bring herself to love winter, for it hides the garden. She adores the rhododendron Jane Grant, and appreciates ordinary Blue Lake string beans, but abhors the Asiatic lily. The sources of her inspiration -- seed catalogues, the gardener Gertrude Jekyll, gardens like Monet's at Giverny -- are subjected to intense scrutiny. She also examines the idea of the garden on Antigua, where she grew up. My Garden (Book) is an intimate, playful, and penetrating book on gardens, the plants that fill them, and the persons who tend them.
"I wanted a garden that looked like something I had in my mind's eye, but exactly what that might be I did not know and even now do not know." Celebrated novelist Kincaid (The Autobiography of My Mother) should delight fans of her fiction and connoisseurs of the literature of horticulture with this personable and brightly descriptive, if somewhat rambling, book-length essay, most of it about her own garden in Vermont. Kincaid (who last year edited the anthology My Favorite Plant) shuttles constantly and with ease between the practical, technical difficulties of gardening and the larger meanings it makes available. She asks herself why her new weeping wisterias won't look right on her stone terrace; why her Carpinus betulus Pendula looks so lonely amid poppies and "late-blooming monkshood"; what's wrong with roses, and what's good about Blue Lake green beans; and how to stack up stones. But she also coaxes from her plot of earth more philosophical and psychological questions--inquiries about geography, heritage, marriage, motherhood, power; "how to make a house a home"; whether and for whom "to name is to possess." Kincaid's Antiguan upbringing recurs as a point of comparison, a source of political insights and a focus of nostalgia: "it dawned on me that the garden I was making... resembled a map of the Caribbean and the sea that surrounds it." A botany-centered trip to Kunming, China, gives the last chapter a welcome change of scene. Kincaid, her publisher and their designers have made of her meditations a remarkably attractive physical object, suffused outside and in by shades of green and decorated throughout with illustrations by Jill Fox.