The Bottom Line
- I enjoyed "spending" a year in the garden with Des Kennedy: His wit kept me on the edge of my seat.
- There are no photos or drawings in "An Ecology of Enchantment."
- An Ecology of Enchantment, by Des Kennedy, was originally published in 1998 and republished in 2008.
- 311 pages long, this trip through a year in the garden is divided into 52 sections, corresponding to the weeks in a year.
- Meant to be more of an entertaining book than an informative one, An Ecology of Enchantment is a gardener's garden book.
- Publisher: Greystone Books, 2323 Quebec St., Suite 201, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Guide Review - A Year in the Garden
One of the better starting points I can think of for reviewing Des Kennedy's book, An Ecology of Enchantment is to contrast it with another gardening book, to which it bears a superficial resemblance: Landscape Lessons.
In what way do these two books resemble each other superficially? Well, they are both about "a year in the garden." And both, in order to reflect that theme, mirror the 52 weeks of the year in their formats, being divided into 52 chapters. As I'm sure you will have deduced by now, each chapter -- whether in An Ecology of Enchantment or Landscape Lessons -- is targeted to a specific time of the year.
But that's where the resemblance between these two garden books ends.
Landscape Lessons is meant to inform; its tone is rural and inspirational. By contrast, An Ecology of Enchantment is meant to entertain; it's tone is cosmopolitan and witty. The setting for Landscape Lessons is the southeastern U.S., and the setting, in this case, very much matters: The book provides instruction on growing plants, and the focus is on plants commonly grown in the southeastern U.S. and on the conditions with which plants must deal in that region. The setting for An Ecology of Enchantment is an island off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. But the setting for the latter doesn't really matter, because, as Kennedy notes, his is a "book of garden meditations."
Gardeners everywhere will relate to Kennedy's meditations. Kennedy, with great wit, tells the tale of the gardener's sojourn through the 52 weeks of the year, a journey of ups and downs, a quest for self-knowledge. Most all gardeners (and especially those who read gardening books) are musers, by nature. We don't simply grow plants, we experience the passage of time through the changes that take place in our plants. As a result of this experience (or the contemplation that accompanies it), we, ourselves grow too. We become more in-tune with nature and more in-tune with what it is we should expect from gardening.
"I dare to hope that the book may appeal even to readers who don't themselves garden," says Kennedy. "Because the moods and lofty meditations entertained at various points in the gardening year are at heart the pure stuff of being human." I hate to dash the author's hopes, but I think a prerequisite for enjoying this book is (already) being a gardener. Only a gardener will fully take to heart "the passions and raptures, the heartache and melancholy" Kennedy relates while traversing a year in the garden. That's why I term this work "a gardener's garden book."