cloth, 290 p., ISBN 0-618-00378-9, $25.
If you aren't already inclined to read ANYTHING Allen Lacy writes, the list of great garden authors providing book jacket blurbs should convince you. Beyond his lifelong expertise with plants, what makes Lacy special is his background in philosophy and literature. Studying these disciplines has provided him with the tools that encourage patience, in-depth exploration and humility. He is in a class that few inhabit, Eleanor Perényi for example, and the words of its exclusive membership echo for generations.
Mr. Lacy's most recent volume collects writings from his newsletter, Homeground, begun in 1993. This book is divided in a half dozen sections: four for the seasons and two entitled "Reflections on Gardening and Its Work" and "Peeves, Complaints, and Observations." We gardeners are an odd lot, both curmudgeon and optimist — our identities oxymorons by definition. Thus, you find under "Please Mr./Ms. Weatherperson":
"At present, these people editorialize, discussing the weather in moral terms, assessing each day as good or bad. Their criterion of judgment is simple. A good day is balmy and sunny. On a bad day it never stops raining. If it rains only part of the day, that day is morally ambiguous."
In his introduction, Mr. Lacy spins his wise perspective:
"The garden is our retreat from the world, but paradoxically we find in it reflection of the world in the largest possible sense. In this plot of earth just 100 by 155 feet we find private refreshment for body, soul, and mind, but it also leads out of itself into a much wider world."
These are always our prophets: those who compel us to see what surrounds us at a much more sensitive level than our daily journey usually allows. And then they encourage us to follow the bridge that leads out of our private Edens into today's global community.
— Julie Siegel, Contributing Writer, Landscape Designer and Master Gardener at the Chicago Botanic Garden