Added December 2 - here's a link to the roundup of all the posts on Green Thoughts with some interesting questions for discussion from Carol of May Dreams-
This post was written for my blogspot blog, The Transplantable Rose, by Annie in Austin.
Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden by Eleanor Perényi is the current selection for the Garden Bloggers Book Club started by Carol of May Dreams Gardens.
For a dozen years, I took Green Thoughts out of the town library on an annual basis, then didn't see it for a decade until I recently bought my own copy. How could I have gone so long without an occasional bracing dose of this sophisticated, precise writing? Although Eleanor Perényi wrote this book in 1981, not only does it seem timeless, most of it seems current! She uses the alphabet to organize her essays, speaking of design, color theory, the weather and the delights and disappointments of growing new plants. But it's not a how-to book - her interests range from garden history [with an accent on the female side], to botanical language, cooking and sociology. These essays are delightfully informative and rivetingly opinionated- no wonder they turn up so frequently in anthologies and collections.
If you've already read Green Thoughts you probably have your own favorite topics - if you haven't read this book yet you're missing out on a wonderful set of essays - dip into "Blues", "Herbs", "Tools" or "Woman's Place" for entertainment, enlightenment and enjoyment.
When Mrs Perényi wrote this book, more than 25 years ago, she'd already encountered most of the ecological problems we still face, with Global Warming the exception. Her discourses on fresh vegetables fit the way we cook and eat now, her approach to things like watering, mulching, pesticides and compost make her words timeless. If you find yourself balancing on the border between respecting nature and loving to garden, read her essay on "Naturalizing" and know you've found a companion for the journey.
Reading Green Thoughts again after such a long interval made me wonder how much I'd been influenced by those earlier reads - in addition to what she taught about growing plants, when it came to garden philosophy there were so many points on which we agreed! But which came first? Did Eleanor's words form my ideas or did I enjoy those words right from the beginning because they reinforced what I was already feeling?
It's not necessary to know a lot about Eleanor Perényi's life to enjoy this book but I was always curious about her. That worldly air… that confidence… that exotic name… those hints at life in other countries…a mention of a poet and how her garden ended up in his poem. The biography at the back of my copy of the book tells us of her marriage to a Hungarian baron, a son, and a garden in Connecticut. She was born Eleanor S. Stone in Washington, DC. Eleanor's father was an attache with the Department of the Navy; her mother was an author and a descendent of the founder of the New Harmony Colony in Indiana. This Navy family was posted abroad so young Eleanor lived in several countries with exposure to other cultures.
I found references to Eleanor’s mother Grace Z. Stone, the very popular novelist who sometimes wrote as Ethel Vance. Several of her books were made into movies with major stars playing the characters... how I'd love to see The Bitter Tea of General Yen, which starred Barbara Stanwyck and was directed by Frank Capra!
On another site I read that Eleanor Perényi was only 19 when she met and married her Baron and lived on his family’s estate in the late 1930's. This land was once Hungarian but borders changed so it was part of Czechoslovakia as the second World War began. Eleanor told their story in the book More Was Lost – another title for my wishlist! She was nominated for a National Book Award for writing Liszt: The Artist as Romantic Hero, a biography about composer Franz Liszt. She edited and was a contributing writer for magazines like Madamoiselle, Harper's Bazaar, Atlantic Monthly and Esquire.
The garden in Green Thoughts existed in coastal Connecticut - a historic town first settled in the 1600's, somewhat rural, but with both Boston and New York City not too far away. Amherst professors and famous writers spent their summers there and it would seem a perfect setting for the author's personality as it is revealed in this garden book. One of the chapters of Green Thoughts mentions Gertrude Jekyll, the garden designer who at age 89 sat in a chair while firmly directing workers in the garden. I think Eleanor Perényi is near to that age herself now. I hope she still has a garden in Connecticut - and I hope she knows how much her readers appreciate her.
Before you go online to get the book, please check out the current post on my other blog, Annie's Addendum, and help me identify a few plants. Over there you can also see a larger photo of the intriguing treehouse drawing seen at the top of this post. The covers were changed for later editions, but since Eleanor refers to the drawing in one chapter, you might like to see it.
2016 – APRIL ANNIE’S GARDEN DAY
2 weeks ago