The Untamed Garden is a book that was inspired by a summer squash.
The sexy, rounded bottom of a butternut squash, seen squeezing provocatively through the boards of a wooden fence in an alleyway in downtown Toronto, became the subject of a newspaper column, and then the germ of an idea for the book. (see the naughty butternut squash here.)
The moment you pick up The Untamed Garden, you know you are in for a treat. The book is small; intimate in your hands.
The title is handwritten in pen and ink in broad, looping strokes. Peeking out from under the plain brown wrapper is a hint of the scene of a sumptuous feast, with Greek or possibly Roman figures seen cavorting among a sea of rose petals.
The book binding is hot pink!
The book unfolds in a series of thematic chapters that journey from "Innocence" and "Anticipation" to "Seduction" and "Rapture". Marking each chapter is a lovely illustration opposite a full page of some juicy color.
The author writes, "The truth is, the plant world is drenched in sex. Passionate, urgent, unabashed sex. Buds swell suggestively. Phallic stalks thrust skyward."
Peppered throughout are entertaining antidotes, love potions, and samplings of Victorian ideas on the "language of flowers".
One of my favourite parts of the books is the introduction, possibly because it is here that author is the most personal.
Sonya is 19 in these early pages of the book. The occasion is the unfolding of her father's night-blooming cereus, an exotic and beautiful plant that flowers once a year and for only a few short hours at night.
The scene is set beautifully, "It's a humid night in the tropics. The air is heavy and sweet like honey. The only sound, apart from the cicadas' high-pitched whine, is the clink-clink of the ice cubes as we sit in the patio, sipping rum and coke....And waiting."
Sonia writes, "Subliminally or not, I think that my father's passion for his cereus made me want to become a gardener myself."
Another thing that I particularly liked about the book is the authors wit, humour and clever turn of phrase.
Of peonies she writes, "...with their blowsy D-cup blooms strutting atop those precarious chicken-leg stems they are (to modern eyes at least) the Dolly Partons of the garden. Like the country singer, they can come across as a tad vulgar and over the top, yet that's the secret of their indefatigable charm too..."
She continues, "Those thin stems never seem to be able to prop up those too-weighty blooms for very long...and the mess they leave behind can severely test your patience. Yet despite this defect, you will rarely meet anyone who dislikes peonies. On the contrary. To most gardeners, they are heaven sent objects of adoration."
What can I say? Read the book. I promise that you will never look at plants the same way again!
I have contacted McClelland & Stewart, the book's publisher and they have generously provided me with a copy of the book The Untamed Garden A Revealing Look at our Love Affair with Plants to give away to one lucky reader.
If you would like to be included in the draw for a copy of the book, please leave a comment below. If are too shy or perhaps unfamilar with leaving a comment, but would still like to be included, please feel free to drop me a line by email and I will be glad to include your name in the draw.
The winner will be drawn this coming Monday at 10 pm (my time). Look for an announcement of the winner early in the week. Many thanks to McClelland and Stewart for providing a book for this giveaway.
Good luck everyone and have a great weekend!
I am linking this post to Holley Garden's monthly book review club. To see a roundup and review of some other fabulous gardening books, be sure to click the link: Roses and Other Gardening Joys.
About the Author of The Untamed Garden:
Sonia Day is a well-known writer and garden columnist for the Toronto Star newspaper. The Untamed Garden is Sonia Day's 7th book.
Sonia lives on 48 acres in rural Ontario where she maintains a huge garden and considers growing big fat globe artichokes to be her greatest gardening achievement. Her homegrown garlic is also apparently in high demand and gets her invited to a lot of dinner parties. Favourite flowers: Poppies, Peonies and Pinstripe Petunias.
Watch a short video on Sonia's country garden here: Sonia Day's Garden
For a list of book signings and appearance dates click here.
Images in this Post: With the exception of the author's photo and the book cover the images are my own. Image 1: Rose from a private garden in Brampton, ON. Image 2: Tree Peony, Humber Nursery, Brampton Image 3. Close up of a amaryllis. Image 4: Amaryllis Image 5: Tree Peony, Humber Nursery, Brampton