Bedding Down

tending the earth: a gardener's manifesto by Lorraine Johnson (Penguin Canada), 240 pages, $33 cloth. Rating: NNNN Rating:.

tending the earth: a gardener’s manifesto by Lorraine Johnson (Penguin Canada), 240 pages, $33 cloth. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN

Why do we garden? Asks local gardening and environmental writer Lorraine Johnson.In her wild and wonderful book, Tending The Earth: A Gardener’s Manifesto, Johnson leads us down various garden paths to explore this fundamental question — whether it’s to create a leafy retreat, grow food, beautify public spaces or for the pure joy of mucking around in the dirt.

Divided into neat clumps — wildness, plants, soil, water, biodiversity, food, air, community and time — this book is brimful of philosophical musings about things like why grass has such a hold on us, plus practical info and gardening stories.

Writing about gardening is second nature to Johnson, and Tending The Earth is no dry treatise on soil acidity (though it does have a great section on soil types). Like her own backyard meadow, her language is a riot of colour, and she has lots of fun cultivating gardening puns.

I most enjoyed the little snippets of data. For example, in Switzerland all buildings taller than four storeys must provide a rooftop garden! And a comprehensive source list of gardening groups and Web sites — titled “An Action Alphabet” — stunned allergy-suffering me with a note on the over-planting of male pollen-producing street trees by municipal planners because the female trees produce “litter” in the form of seed pods and fruit.

Johnson believes digging in the dirt is a gesture of hope, whether you’re out there with a flat of annuals or scattering morning glory seeds in an empty lot under cover of darkness. Her conclusion is simple, and as obvious as a buddleia in full bloom: plants are good for us.Write Books at

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