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A New Leaf

Best Seller
A New Leaf by Merilyn Simonds
Paperback $17.95
Jan 03, 2012 | ISBN 9780385670470

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  • Jan 03, 2012 | ISBN 9780385670470

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  • Mar 22, 2011 | ISBN 9780385670463

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Product Details


“Simonds writes of her soul-feeding experiences across an entire gardening year, from clean-up through harvest. 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 Simonds’ special world….. There are no rigidly straight lines in her garden, but rather glorious clouds of shape and colour. We see this because Simonds has mastered the art of seeing what she is looking at, and because she has the skill with words to share that vision with us…..”
The Globe and Mail

“Vibrant, exuberant.”
—More Magazine

“A delightful tour of the garden….. The freshness of Simonds’ writing, the good humour and quiet authority it conveys, make something new of it all.”
— The Gazette (Montreal)

“Two green thumbs up for Merilyn Simonds. This shining book, sparked by her garden blogs on everything from bugs to peas to survivor elms, evolves as a gardener does, from hope to realism and back to hope. Simonds reminds us that our contact with each garden bed (she has twenty-six, one for each letter of the alphabet!) lets us touch yet another aspect of our selves. A New Leaf is a by-your-bedside companion, composed to seed our dreams.” 
— Molly Peacock, author of The Paper Garden
“Like stories passed friend to friend, these wise, funny, colourful pieces enrich our understanding of plants, landscapes and life. A book to grow by, and share.” 
— Sarah Harmer
“I certify Merilyn Simonds the Saint of Frugal Gardening, for her amazing and helpful skills with plants, other edibles, and people too.” 
— from The Year of the Flood, God’s Gardener Scroll, awarded by Margaret Atwood
“A wonderful read…. Merilyn shows us how she, and all who put their hands in the soil, grow with our gardens.” 
— Ed Lawrence, horticultural specialist and gardening expert on CBC Radio’s Ontario Today

“Delightful, funny, wise…. In the tradition of the best gardening books, Merilyn Simonds’ A New Leaf inspires both experienced gardeners and those just beginning.” 
— Beth Powning, author of The Sea Captain’s Wife

Author Essay

When our house at The Leaf was built in 1824, only Old Country dukes and earls had lawns. Settlers had dooryards planted with peas and cabbages, maybe a swath of greenery beyond the stoop that was scythed now and then or nibbled by the family sheep to keep the wilderness from creeping too close. The scythed area was never very big. What with felling trees and planting crops and managing the livestock, who had the time?
When we arrived at The Leaf, the lawn stretched grandly in all directions, covering two acres at least.
“The people who lived here must have been in love with their lawn mower,” I said.
“Or with Capability Brown,” added my Beloved.
Capability Brown was a landscape architect in Britain in the 1700s, a man some call England’s greatest gardener. He was only seventeen when the word lawn was coined for a mowed grassy plot, so I can’t attribute it to him, but he, more than anyone, is responsible for our North American obsession with green-plush yards. It was Brown who gave us a taste for what he called “the pleasing  prospect,” that sweep of undulating grass that leads the eye to a specimen tree, an arrangement of shrubs, a fountain, the front door of a house.
A famous portrait of Brown shows him cocking his head at the viewer, a glint in his eye and a barely suppressed grin on his lips, as if he knows the havoc he is about to wreak, as if he can already hear the arguments between countless husbands and wives. More gardens! No – more grass!
Still, I find it hard not to like a guy who describes a landscape in terms of grammar.
“Now there,” he’d say, pointing a finger, “I make a comma, and there, where a more decided turn is proper, I make a colon; at another part, where an interruption is desirable to break the view, a parenthesis; now a full stop, and then I begin another subject.”
I share Brown’s affection for punctuation, but not for the gardenless form of landscape design that is reflected in every contemporary suburban plot. Grass stretches around these houses like a mat around a painting, drawing attention to the prized human construction at the centre. In Brown’s horticultural vision, borders of flowers, trees, and shrubbery served the same function as plaster roses on a fancy picture frame. At The Leaf, the mat inside the frame was enormous: mowing the grass was a ten-hour trial.
“It’s too much!” we both exclaimed, exhausted.
We stopped mowing the meadow and cut paths through it instead. Every year I dug up sod to plant shrubs and flowers and, yes, ornamental grasses. In the third year, the Garden Guru introduced me to lasagna garden-making – twelve sheets of newspaper, topped with a layer of mulch. The following year – presto– soil, which meant I could eat up the lawn even faster.
Within five years, we’d cut the mowing time in half. Then we bought a riding lawn tractor with a wide cutting blade, and “cutting the grass” shrank to an ordeal of little more than three hours. We mow the lawn ten times a year. (I’ve kept track. Wet year, dry year; early spring, late fall: it’s always ten mows.) That means thirty hours on a noisy, spewing machine whose only saving grace is that it blows the clippings into bags so I can use them as mulch.

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