In this light-hearted essay, James Fenton describes a hundred plants he would choose to grow from seed. A happy, stylish, thought-provoking exercise in good principles.Read more
… a small book, yes, but how it grows in your mind after you put it down. It is a book about propagating plants from seeds, but it is also a book about love, for when you love you start from scratch.
He has cleared the ground of several decades’ worth of garden-world cant, and planted in its place something close to the simple essence of growing flowers – a delight.
Michael Pollan, author of The Botany of Desire
A wonderfully subversive book. Good-bye to the tired idea of “garden as outdoor living room” – that static place with its trees for lamps and its shrubs for sofas and its perennials that are “installed” instead of being planted. Fenton’s spritzy un-purple prose restores to the garden the excitement of chaos, chance, and tides of colour, all sprung from seed.
Mac Griswold, co-author of The Golden Age of American Gardens
There’s not a single photo in the whole book. There aren’t any step-by-steps either. Instead, Fenton invokes the names of flowers and describes them in luscious detail . . . You have to read this slim book slowly. It’s like dark chocolate – you just break off one square a night.
Spade & Spatula
Fenton’s list – a hundred seeds – is brisk and robust, but each of the varieties he selects takes on a delicate life of its own in the fertile topsoil of his poet’s imagination. His definition of a garden is a democratic one: it takes in “morning glories grown on a fire-escape high above Manhattan; mustard and cress sown in a face-flannel, Virginia stock in an old crab shell . . .”.
Tim Adams, Observer