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The Curious Gardener by Jurgen Dahl. Timber Press, 2004. Hardcover: $24.95
You must be a curious gardener to appreciate the musings of the late Jurgen Dahl, a German garden philosopher that may have been their version of Henry Mitchell. Translated and compiled from his original work, these essays stand alone and each can be read as a whole.
It helps though, to read through sections in order to get into the writer’s curious mood.
Dahl notices and wonders about more than just the succession of bloom in his garden that he perceives to be a secret world. He contemplates the pain of a goose calling for its lost mate, and wonders if we give plants too much credit for having evolved elaborate defenses and strategies to survive.
This adventurous soul does more than contemplate – he eats, or at least tastes, almost everything in his garden. He cultivates what some call weeds as salad greens and spices, uses various buds for capers, and even takes ajuga to the kitchen. He kindly notes those plants that are poisonous. “This book is about such discoveries and experiences,” Dahl writes, “and it is also about the everyday life of the gardener and his wife…”
Although Dahl was a bookseller, not a gardener, by trade, he accumulated a great deal of arcane knowledge simply through observation. Reading his sometimes strange notes encourages us to take a second look at our own secret gardens and maybe even nibble a thing or two.
Reviewed by Karin E. Guzy