Friday, February 27, 2009

Tasha Tudor's Garden by Tovah Martin

Tasha Tudor's poignant art has fascinated adults and children for decades. Her nineteenth-century New England lifestyle is legendary. Gardeners are especially intrigued by the profusion of antique flowers - spectacular poppies, six-foot foxgloves, and intoxicating peonies - in the cottage gardens surrounding her hand-hewn house.

Until now we've only caught glimpses of Tasha Tudor's landscape. In this gorgeous book, two of her friends, the garden writer Tovah Martin and the photographer Richard Brown, take us into the magical garden and then behind the scenes. As we revel in the bedlam of Johnny-jump-ups and cinnamon pinks, the intricacy of the formal peony garden, and the voluptuousness of her heirloom roses, we also learn Tasha's gardening secrets.

How does she coax forth her finicky Camellia blossoms in the dead of a Vermont winter? How does she train that fantastic topiary to model for her artwork? How can she keep her crown imperials from tumbling in the wind? Tasha's garden reflects a wealth of family lore, perfected through years and years of working the soil. We may be dazzled by the beauty of the garden, but we come away from this book with practical ideas about improving our own plots of land.

"Paradise on earth" is how Tasha describes her garden, and along with the flowers and the vegetables that provide her with food, her paradise is filled with an enchanting menagerie - corgies, Nubian goats, cats, chickens, fantail doves, and forty or more exotic finches, cockatiels, canaries, nightingales, and parrots, which inhabit her collection of antique cages.

Tasha's beautiful watercolors and her enchanting anecdotes color this sublimely beautiful book.

First of all, I didn't like the author, Tovah Martin, at all. Her text about the subject was almost as delusional as the subject herself. The only thing that saved this from complete horror was the stunning photography, although the subjects of said photography were annoying at best.

The book text was rather boring at points, to such an extent that I found my mind wandering and contemplating just how much Tasha's 250 acres in Vermont cost, and how her art must have done awfully well to afford the land, a custom built house, and the property taxes!

Tasha seemed a bit over fond of her flowers. She struck me as rather in need of the "You can love your dog, just don't love your dog." advice a la The Truth About Cats & Dogs. And her gardens were all so messy with long grass and flowers falling all over. How do you eve know where to step when everything's growing over the "paths".

Some of her actions might strike others as amusing, such as putting up a "Wanted" poster for the local stonemason, but I found them more the actions of a manipulative bitch, entirely too used to getting her own way. As a native New Englander myself, I was thoroughly offended that people are charmed by her "nineteenth-century New England lifestyle". Hello! If she pulled that sort of behavior in real nineteenth-century New England she'd be shunned! She was just so annoying. And what was the point in making other people suffer in the heat in those vintage dresses? Just because she felt the need to wear restrictive dresses in the heat of summer, others should too? How rude!

This one gets seven stars for the quality of the photographs alone. The author and the subject were both virtually intolerable and I am very, very glad that I don't know either of them!

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆


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