Ruth Page’s Gardening Journal
Started in Vermont in 1986 under the auspices of the National Gardening Association, the “Gardening Journal” radio show is now carried by more than 140 public radio stations. These short pieces are geared to the home gardener, providing brief discussions on such popular topics as “Window boxes,” “Putting foods by,” and “Feeding the good earth,” and specific plants such as dogwoods, crab apples, and foxgloves. Especially helpful is the chapter on “Scented Gardens,” which describes how to select herbs, geraniums, old roses, and lilacs to provide delicious fragrances in the garden. An intriguing piece on “moon gardens” shows how white flowers can be used to create a stunning effect in the garden after dark, illuminated by the moon.
Helpful advice is everywhere, such as to need to save seeds from “standard” (not hybrid) varieties of plants for those who want to grow new plants from the seeds of existing ones. The relative merits of earthworms, ladybugs, honeybees, and praying mantises are also covered. There is a nice folksy tone about the book, with phrases such as “By guess and by golly” and “Gosh, Susan,” and Page’s unpretentious approach will be appreciated by novice gardeners needing the basics.
This is all much like chatting with an experienced gardener over afternoon tea, mixing traditional garden wisdom with quirky personal opinions, such as the author’s preference for using rosemary with lamb instead of the conventional mint.
While a wide variety of topics are covered, from insect pests to amaryllis bulbs, these informal talks work best as short entertainments to brighten up the winter doldrums, or to spark inspiration for a new garden project. The book’s lack of instructive illustrations, charts, and diagrams, together with the constraints imposed by the original radio format, results in this being less than a comprehensive gardening handbook.
Still, this pleasant collection covers a lot of ground, and it is great fun to be able to dip in anywhere and enjoy as many of these delightful vignettes as time and inclination allow.