Book Review: From the Ground Up

From the Ground UpFrom the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden
by Amy Stewart
272 pages
Algonquin Books, 2001
List price: $15.99

You know Amy from her other books, such as the more recently published Wicked Plants and her eye-opening Flower Confidential. She’s also a contributing writer for the well-known gardening blog, GardenRant. But aside from her more recent endeavors, I have a soft spot in my heart for her first book, about her first garden.

I read From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden back in 2005, when I was a novice gardener myself. It was the first gardening book I ever read and I’ve recommended it countless times since then.

The beauty of this book is that regardless of whether you only have a curious interest in gardening or you’ve been around the garden centers a few times, it will appeal to both. Amy lets her gardening naivete hang out here and shares her failures as well as her successes as she relates the adventures of creating her first garden in Santa Cruz, California.

“My lettuce. It was a silly thing to get excited over, I suppose. Growing lettuce is a small accomplishment; the results are fleeting, perishable. And I only had one short row to show for three months of gardening: a dozen or so plants, barely enough for two salads. In fact, I almost hated to go after them with my scissors. I’d worked so hard to grow them in the first place. They were like little works of art, these lettuce heads in miniature. It was a shame to snip off even a single leaf.”

At the end of each chapter, Amy shares the knowledge she gained along the way during that first year. Gardening tips, recipes, and plant recommendations are just a few of the tidbits you’ll find.

Amy has since gone on to wow the gardening world, but peeking into this little window of her early start will have you laughing and cheering her on. It’s almost as if she’s in your kitchen, telling her story as you share a cup of coffee. Charming.
Amy Stewart tends a garden of her own in northern California. She is the award-winning author of four books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world. Her essays and commentaries have appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Garden Design, Organic Gardening and elsewhere. She’s been featured on NPR, Good Morning America and CBS Sunday Morning. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a California Horticultural Society Writer’s Award.

Stewart lives in Eureka, California, with her husband Scott Brown. They own an antiquarian bookstore called Eureka Books and tend a flock of unruly hens in their backyard.

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