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A New Leaf by Merilyn Simonds


A New Leaf: Growing with My Garden by Merilyn SimondsA New Leaf: Growing with My Garden by Merilyn Simonds

Random House, 2011

A Note from Merilyn Simonds

For most of my life, I’ve grown the food my family eats and the flowers that bring beauty to our table. I’ve often thought, as the world where I live became affluent and the drift toward urbanization became a tsunami, that the skills I have accumulated would wither with me. No one needed to know how to cure garlic or when to harvest beans or the best time of year to prune an apple tree, how to make jam without adding pectin or cook a compost pile. Certainly no one was interested in how to make a chicken come when it’s called or which flowers can be eaten, which will cure and which can kill. Once, this was essential knowledge. Not any more, I thought.

But the wheel has turned and here we are again, wanting slow food, uncontaminated organically grown local food, food that we can trace to its home soil. Flowers without that bitter florist scent. Blooms we can eat and drink and float in the tub and savour every minute of their brief lives, and ours.

And something else, too. We hardly know how to express it, it’s such a deep and diffuse yearning, like an ache with no clear cause, though we know when it is soothed. The same urge made our childish selves splash in puddles and fashion caves in the woods—an urge that is satisfied by peeling back the grass and laying a hand on the warm and living earth.

A New Leaf is the story of my gardens at The Leaf. At the turn of the millennium, we bought a two–hundred–year–old stone house situated in what was left of an old orchard after the Great Ice Storm of ’98. We opened the soil for vegetable beds, fruit beds, tea beds, herb beds, perennial beds, a woodland garden, a garden of ephemerals, another for native plants, and a Hortus Familia where I grow species that honour our mothers and fathers and where we bury our pets. In all, twenty–six beds. An alphabet of plants. That’s it, I told my Beloved. When I feel the urge for another, I’ll write about it instead.


I want a grand allée of palms. I want a water–lily garden. I want fountains and vistas and a garden planted with every species mentioned in Catherine Parr Traill’s work, or maybe Margaret Atwood’s. I want a Pleasure–Garden. Why not? It’s spring: everything is possible.

Perennials don’t eliminate the labour of a garden so much as shift it from nurturing the young to caring for the old. It is a lesson the Rosarian left me to learn on my own.

Praise for A New Leaf: Growing with My Garden

I certify Merilyn Simonds the Saint of Frugal Gardening, for her amazing and helpful skills with plants, other edibles, and people too. ~ Margaret Atwood

Delightful, funny, wise. In the tradition of the best gardening books, A New Leaf inspires both experienced gardeners and those just beginning. A book for our times. ~ Beth Powning. author of The Hatbox Letters and Edge Seasons

Merilyn Simonds writes of her soul–feeding experiences across an entire gardening year…it doesn’t take long for the book’s hard, black lines of type to disappear, and for the reader to be spellbound, completely submerged in her special world. ~ The Globe and Mail

Simonds wears her gardening erudition lightly, and never intimidates . . . even gardeners with limited space will find much to delight them in this book. So will complete non-gardeners: like an armchair bullfighter or ballet dancer, you don’t have to do it to enjoy reading about it. ~ The Montreal Gazette

Visit Merilyn Simonds WEBSITE

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Posted by Pearl on Jul 5 2011. Filed under Nonfiction. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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