My mother kept a bucket of chickens next to the back porch. It was a big white bucket like an old stew pot. Hens and chicks was what she called the little spiky plants growing in there. No matter how hot the summers, no matter how many other flowers and vegetables died in the baking Virginia sun, those plants survived to flourish the following year. They were easy to transplant. I remember picking up the little ones … they just popped right up out of the soil … and tossing them into another little cup of dirt. My mom told me to stop doing that because she’d specifically positioned her pot of chickens. Their singular location, next to the porch, was part of her garden design.
Now my mom and I did not formally speak of things like garden design and water-saving plants like her cacti. My dad did not discuss these things either though I remember he kept a barrel to collect rainwater and that he rotated crops in our little vegetable garden. He didn’t really explain the why of his actions. It was just what you did if you understood the system of which you were a part.
That’s what stands out for me in books like The Water-Saving Garden by Pam Penick. Penick invites readers who are interested in gardening to deepen their understanding of how their world works. My parents grew up in a time and place and were of a generation that knew the sources of their water and understood that those sources were not guaranteed. For all sorts of reasons that knowledge was lost as human ingenuity and engineering made water readily available in many places and seemingly endless. Today, people are aware that engineering is not enough. We are a part of a complicated system. Water is not endlessly available for our needs. But what if you really want a garden?
It almost seems selfish but I have to admit I’m one of those people. If at all possible, for my peace of mind, I like to see something green growing around me and know I had something to do with it. And despite my fond memories of my mother’s chickens, I don’t necessarily want to grow them. What are my other choices in a water-saving garden?
Pennick’s book stretches one’s imagination about what form that garden can take. She reminds and encourages people to take the time to understand the landscape and climate particular to their region. Humor is sprinkled throughout the book (e.g. “Think of your plants as astronaut-explorers, boldly going where no plant has gone before.”) as well as lovely and informative pictures.
The Water-Saving Garden is content rich and makes a nice addition to the reference shelf. Every idea can’t be tried all at once. It’s a resource I can imagine filling the margins with notes of lessons learned as I try to garden more wisely while still having fun.
You can learn more about this book via the following links. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest review.
About Pam Penick: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/152546/pam-penick/