Timber Press’s The Roots of My Obsession: 30 Great Gardeners Reveal Why They Garden is a wonderful and fascinating collection. Thirty expert gardeners—from Plant Delights nursery owner Tony Avent (“I was born with a fully functional 7.0 horticultural operating system”) to Hortus publisher David Wheeler (“I garden because I just don’t know how to stop”)—share their personal garden stories in the book. What makes the book especially rewarding is how different the stories are from one another—and how differently they are told. Tovah Marton tells us she gardens because the plants make her. Stephen Orr blames his “youthful predilection for larceny” (“I was an unapologetic plant swiper”). Margaret Roach sees gardening as occupational therapy; Marty Ross as escape.
All in all, The Roots of My Obsession is as engrossing and varied as a garden itself—and a perfect book for anyone who loves gardening.
From Tovah Martin’s “Family Dynamics”:
To set the record straight, I don’t garden of my own free will. I am held hostage. Always have been.
Not long after birth, some green thing or other (the memory is blurred) grabbed me. No struggle ensued, just complete and total submission. I joined the ranks.
Before I could even walk, I was crawling into the garden, I guess. As a child I monopolized sweater drawers for storing marigold seeds. Other little girls yearned for ballet slippers, while I clomped around in work boots. Adults baited me to name a future career choice: “What do you want to be when you grow up, little girl?” I didn’t have to think twice. I wanted to be a butterﬂy.
From Stephen Orr’s “The Flower Thief”:
I had a youthful predilection for larceny. It doesn’t affect me much these days, but I must admit that under certain circumstances and in certain gardens, the temptation returns. My problem started early, as a preteen. It was not the daring, shoplifting sort of thievery that I heard about from the cool kids in school; it was something quieter and gentler. I was an unapologetic plant swiper. Specifically, I was compelled to steal any attractive flower that caught my eye in a neighbor’s front yard.
Why did I do it? I, like most any . . .
From Panayoti Kelaidis’s “A Rocky Start”:
When one day Allan and Mary moved away, to Berkeley, for graduate school. In the bustle of family parting, Allan pulled me aside. The responsibility of the rock garden rested upon my shoulders now, he told me. I had to take care of it for him. He would come back some day and see how I fulfilled my duties, or words to that effect. I remember wincing inwardly: Could I do it? Fortunately, he had left a whole shelf of gardening books behind, including brand-new rock garden books by Kolaga and Foster that would be my bedtime reading for months and years to come. I almost memorized them.