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Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden (1982)

by Eleanor Perényi

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386853,815 (4.18)9
A classic in the literature of the garden, "Green Thoughts" is a beautifully written and highly original collection of seventy-two essays, alphabetically arranged, on topics ranging from "Annuals" and "Artichokes" to "Weeds" and "Wildflowers." An amateur gardener for over thirty years, Eleanor Perenyi draws upon her wide-ranging knowledge of gardening lore to create a delightful, witty blend of how-to advice, informed opinion, historical insight, and philosophical musing. There are entries in praise of earthworms and in protest of rock gardens, a treatise on the sexual politics of tending plants, and a paean to the salubrious effect of gardening (see "Longevity"). Twenty years after its initial publication, "Green Thoughts" remains as much a joy to read as ever. This Modern Library edition is published with a new Introduction by Allen Lacy, former gardening columnist for "The Wall Street Journal" and "The New York Times" and the author of numerous gardening books.… (more)
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  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
Just the sort of garden writing I love. A collection of short essays (organized alphabetically by subject) on everything it seems: plant choices, catalogue perusing, balancing acts against pests, shunning harsh chemicals (she was an organic gardener), designing outdoor space, composting, pruning techniques, controlling weeds and disease. Also on individual plants: strawberries, tomatoes, peonies, daylilies, beans, onions, sweet peas, tulips, potatoes etc etc. The parts that waxed historical were not as interesting to me- although I did pay attention to the section about the tulip craze, and another about the development of rose varieties. The part on historical aspects of garden design, not so much. Her voice is down-to-earth, amusing, frank and informative. I even laughed out loud a few times! This book goes on the shelf right next to Thalassa Cruso and Katherine White (whom she quotes- we are among good company). I took notes (on plant species to look for, mostly) and bookmarked pages. I don't agree with all her opinions, but everyone's methods are slightly different. She avoids the work of carting seedlings in an out of the house, for example (like me, not having a greenhouse) but commiserates on how this style of "labor-intensive" gardening is becoming an anomaly- surrounded by neighbors who use gas-powered, noisy machines that do a crude job instead of the care and finesse could have done by hand. And this book is from the early eighties! I would be glad to tell her (she passed in 2009) that not all old-school gardeners are gone by the wayside, in fact there's a rising cadre of us now.

from the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | Jun 2, 2019 |
I need to prepare you. There is a lot of foreplay leading up to the main event that is Green Thoughts. There are 24 pages of other "stuff" to get through before you even see the first chapter, "Annuals": first you need to read the title page, the "Introduction to the modern library gardening series by Michael Pollan", the "Introductions to the text by Allen Lacy", table of contents, the forward, and last but not least, a note on references. But! (dramatic pause...) But, once you get into Green Thoughts it is a delight to finally be there. Each chapter (in alphabetical order) is it's own separate essays so feel free to jump around to the topics that best interest you. To be fair, some of the gardening instruction is a little labor intensive for the plant it and forget it, barely green-thumbed among us. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Apr 18, 2016 |
Perényi wrote enough short essays on various garden topics that they were collected into a book and organized alphabetically, seeming to form an encyclopedia. But these are not fact filled articles; they are primarily opinion pieces, though not counter to the truth. For instance, she defies the given wisdom of autumn clipping of rose canes. And I have to agree with her, both of us coming from experiential stands.

So, if I had limitless time, I would hang out with her and nod my head from time to time. But I'm much too busy in the gardens... ( )
  2wonderY | Feb 3, 2016 |
This is simply a delightful book written for the readers enjoyment rather than enlightenment. It consists of fifty, sixty or more essays on various subjects all having to do with some aspect of gardening. The chapters are all titled according to subject matter and in addition there is an excellent index. The book is written for sheer pleasure and enjoyment. No chapter is longer than a few pages and the book lends itself to short bursts of reading that can be extended as time permits. The author is sure to bring smiles to the readers face with shared reminiscenses of experiences that have failed her. Many will be in common with the average gardener. The book includes many personal experiences, a touch of history here and there and the inclusion of scientific nomenclature where useful. Since there are so many short essays in this book and since it lends itself to skipping around so well, it is difficult to know when you have really finished the book. I personally didn't mind reading many chapters a second time. ( )
  gdemange | Apr 4, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
It is a delight to find someone who gracefully combines the qualities of gardener and writer and can say about herself, ''I am no horticultural expert and wouldn't want to pass myself off as one. All I can claim is some thirty years of amateur experience, which is to say I know something about a lot of things and not enough to call myself a specialist in any. I grow herbs, but I am not an herbalist, roses but am not a rosarian.'' All this may, perhaps, be true, but Eleanor Perenyi is much more than a gardener. Her last book,''Liszt: The Artist as Romantic Hero,'' was nominated for a National Book Award. Her career as a journalist was varied, and before retiring to her garden in Stonington, Conn., the garden she writes about in her new book, ''Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden,'' she was managing editor of Mademoiselle magazine.
 

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I have had only two gardens in my life.
Annuals:
Plants that flower, set seed and die within a single season, they can preform prodigies in their brief lives.
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I … invariably let optimism get the better of judgment, which come to think of it may be the first principle of gardening.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A classic in the literature of the garden, "Green Thoughts" is a beautifully written and highly original collection of seventy-two essays, alphabetically arranged, on topics ranging from "Annuals" and "Artichokes" to "Weeds" and "Wildflowers." An amateur gardener for over thirty years, Eleanor Perenyi draws upon her wide-ranging knowledge of gardening lore to create a delightful, witty blend of how-to advice, informed opinion, historical insight, and philosophical musing. There are entries in praise of earthworms and in protest of rock gardens, a treatise on the sexual politics of tending plants, and a paean to the salubrious effect of gardening (see "Longevity"). Twenty years after its initial publication, "Green Thoughts" remains as much a joy to read as ever. This Modern Library edition is published with a new Introduction by Allen Lacy, former gardening columnist for "The Wall Street Journal" and "The New York Times" and the author of numerous gardening books.

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