BOOK REVIEW – Gardening Life by Lee May, Longstreet Press, Inc., 1998; reviewed by Holly Sparrow

            Printed in 1998, this is still a delightful book of gardening essays by Lee May, who was a journalist for both the Los Angeles Times and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. At the AJC, Lee May wrote a regular gardening column and contributed gardening essays to “Southern Accents” magazine.  The gardening essays in this book are each short, just a few pages each, and are divided into eleven parts such as:

            1) Seasons;  2) Passions, Quests and Obsession;  3)Blights on Paradise;              and        4)Sharing Precious Memories

The book was published by Longstreet Press which is no longer in business, but copies of the book are still available from Taylor Trade Publishing under the National Book Network at

To give you an idea of the content of the book, I am quoting a few sentences from each of three essays.

Sweet, Dangerous Anticipation

            This is the time that tries gardeners’ souls.  The shortest month is the longest wait for gardeners needing to dig in the dirt.

            Every year around about now anticipation rises big and mightily, as many of us see visions of lush greenery dancing in our gardens. .

Amid the excitement, always, there is a touch of danger.  Plants that stick their tender faces out of the ground before winter truly is over find that ---ZAP---they’ve lost their heads.

 …How much like life this is:  So much sweet anticipation is fraught with danger --- or at least the fear of it.  Still, we leap faithfully, into pleasures.


A Mind of Its Own

There are times a garden does what it does, no matter what the gardener does

.…I cleared two little raised rectangles of junipers that had been growing there for years and set out to turn the spaces into moss gardens

…I had woven a mighty fine quilt of moss, a patchwork whose pieces all had their stories

(Yet,) Two years later, I have even less moss in those spaces than I had when I started

…Maybe the soil is too rich.  Maybe I didn’t keep it wet enough…

After a while we all get tired of maybes.  Certainty is what we want, even as we realize life offers no guarantees.  You get to that point, whether with lovers or with mosses.


To Borrow a View

All your garden doesn’t have to be in your garden. Some of us like to use our neighbors’ trees, shrubs and such for background pleasure.  Call it borrowed scenery.  Or borrowed landscape.

…Borrowing scenery, which can make a small garden seem large, is best done by framing the borrowed scenery with something on your own property, such as a window (making the term “picture-window” truly apt), tree branches or a gap in a row of hedges.