Through The Seasons With Dulcy, compiled and edited by Ted Mahar
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Carpe Diem Books in exchange for an honest review.]
Like the previous book in this series, this volume of about 240 plus pages of articles and photos is a labor of love. We read of many of the same concerns over and over again. We see Dulcy complain of slugs, joke about raccoons, comment on tragicomic blunders, champion neglected plants of the Pacific Northwest, and show a consistent love of whimsy. We read about the familiar garden gnomes and pink flamingos and the trials of trying to grow roses, deal with vermin, and handle the fussiness involved in gardening, as well as the embarrassment of spending so much money with such slight planning. Even where we see the columns included circle around the same subject matter, there is often a great deal of humor in the retelling of familiar and funny stories, and occasionally there is genuine pathos in the author’s structure against clumsiness, old age, and the ravages of cancer that eventually took her life.
In terms of its contents, the book begins with acknowledgements and then contains a foreword, two prefaces, an introduction, and a touching poem about resurrection written by the editor about a deceased cellist. After this, the articles are divided by season, starting with winter and then moving in order through spring, summer and autumn. The same advice appears over and over again throughout the years, there are quite a few lists, and the author spends too much time talking about Christmas and other heathen festivals. Even so, there is much to appreciate in the passionate sincerity of the author, and her obvious and even obsessive love of plants, and of the Pacific Northwest as well. Each of the seasons has a particular theme to Dulcy, from winter’s contemplation and the calamity of snow and bitterly cold winds, to spring’s focus on fixes and foliage, to summer’s parterres and ploys to keep flowers blooming, to fall’s thinning out and focus on Thanksgiving. Some of the advice, it should be noted, is applicable far outside of the realm of plants alone, like this word of warning that applies to both plants and peoples that there should be labels if something is: “rampant grower, aggressive, spreading, tendency to…creeping, robust, generous self-sower, noxious (this should scare you off), pernicious (ditto), prolific (when not referring to bloom), vigorous, naturalizes, colonizes, suckering, runners, weedy, creeping habit, seeder (99).” If more people as well as plants came with such informative warning labels, we would all likely be better off.
Reading a book like this should not be done too quickly, as I have perhaps done. It deserves to be treated like the conversation of a delightful friend, who may be passionate about a recondite subject that we may not know as well or love as much, but the articles are sufficiently humorous that it hardly matters. Some of the posts are melancholy in light of the death of the author, others show a great deal of humor, and those who read this book will feel like the author was an eccentric but lovable friend. This book fulfills its objective of conveying a passion for gardening and a love of learning and growing through experience that are deeply admirable. The book is well-designed and full of lovely photos as well. It is the sort of volume that will bring comfort to those who helped create it and joy to those who read it and learn from it. The contents make it obvious that the author is well-read, and keen on passing on the lessons of experience to those who wish to learn, even those of us who are not particularly knowledgeable in matters of gardening .
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