Book review: Love Letters to My Garden

Foodscape Revolution

Love Letters to My GardenLove Letters to My Garden by Barbara Blossom Ashmun
(2017, Easy Chair Press, 217 pp., $15.00)

I typically read garden books to learn more about the types of plants I want to grow or a skill I want to learn. But just as important as those topics, a book about a gardener’s love affair with her garden teaches us more about ourselves and why our passion for gardening is so captivating.

Enter Barbara Blossom Ashmun’s delightful new book, Love Letters to My Garden.

In it, she opens her garden to us, discusses design tips she’s learned over the years, shares information on the many plants that bring her such joy, and talks fondly of the people who have taught her about horticulture over the years.

The author lives in Portland and her colorful, skillfully-designed garden has been much photographed, visited and featured in garden publications. She has a wonderful writing style that embodies the essence of the joy of gardening.

This book is comprised of columns and essays she has written, along with many new stories.

As I read her book, there were so many times where I nodded in agreement or startled myself by declaring “Yes!” out loud before I could stop myself.

In her chapter on “Why I Garden,” she declares, “I garden to travel to the wonderland of sensory delights. Out there I’m a little kid digging in the dirt, abandoning all cares. I’m back in my wild childhood, before self-consciousness set in. Gardening sets me free.”

So much of what Blossom Ashmun has to say resonates with me:

“… if you really want to be my friend, share your plants with me. Gardeners don’t let their friends go home without cuttings of their favorite roses, without divisions of their choice daylilies or hostas. When you share your bounty, you live forever in your friend’s garden and heart.”

In her chapter entitled “Torn Between Two Loves: Plant Lust and Beautiful Design,” she shares several tips on successful garden design. Yes, she’s a plantaholic who frequently attempts to resist purchasing a plant that calls out to her, and yet they somehow end up coming home with her! Even so, she gives a lot of thought to the type of effect she is trying to achieve.

A reader will recognize themselves in many of her comments, such as this one about invasive plants:

“When I like a plant I have to grow it, and I refuse to learn from other people’s experiences. This seems to be human nature — we have to go right ahead and make our own mistakes, learning from them, eventually.” Raise your hand if this applies to you!

In one area of Blossom Ashmun’s book, she discusses how the different seasons affect her. It appears spring is her favorite season:

“Warmed by the sun and blessed by the light, plants are coming back to life, and I’m coming back to life with them… Spring is the season of euphoria, especially on the heels of gray, wet winter.”

And yet, there are aspects of the other seasons that the author finds meaning in. But as you’ll quickly learn in this book, no matter what time of year it is, she absolutely has to be out in the garden and laments when Mother Nature prevents this.

Love Letters to My Garden is a pure delight to read. I found it to be especially so, while reading it in the dead of winter at a time when I felt the need to reflect on my garden, make plans and find a kindred spirit — which I easily did in Barbara Blossom Ashmun.

This book is available through and