The Curious Garden

Have you ever seen a flower or weed struggling through a crack in the concrete?  On the Big Island of Hawaii, new plant life emerges from the ash and cinders of the 1959 eruption of the volcano on Devastation Trail, a place named for its bare landscape.  The power of plants to stun us with their resilience and beauty is the theme of Peter Brown’s picture book – The Curious Garden.

Brown uses Manhattan’s old Highline elevated train tracks, long unused and now overgrown with wildflowers and trees as his inspiration for a little boy’s dream to beautify the city. Finding some struggling wildflowers among the deserted train tracks in the “dreary city without gardens,” Liam decides to help by being their gardener.  Eventually, the garden takes over, changing the gray city into a magnificent green world.

Brown’s text is simple and easy, with his art dominating most of the pages.  The city transforms gradually, with Liam taming the plants that pop up “where they didn’t belong” – on fire hydrants and stop signs, and enlisting “new gardeners” for rooftop displays all over Manhattan’s skyscrapers.  The last two facing pages open to gardens everywhere among the skyline.

The Curious Garden is a wonderful way to introduce children to the possibility of gardens anywhere and everywhere, and to remind adults that being green may just be helping nature take its course.

The Beginner’s Guide to Edible Herbs

A quick scan of Charles Smith’s Beginner’s Guide to Edible Herbs seemed like a good topic for tax day – short and simple, with a big return.

Many of the twenty- six herbs in Smith’s book were familiar – parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.  One was a pleasant surprises: the anise hyssop, with beautiful purple flowers, brought back memories of a vacation in Crieff, Scotland.  I remember smelling the strong licorice odor when I walked into town each morning to buy scones at Campbell’s Bakery.  

Smith suggests using this herb “with healing properties” for a tea that appeals to my sweet tooth…

“it actually changes the chemical makeup of your saliva, making everything taste sweeter than normal.”

Smith includes recipes ranging from borage in a Bloody Mary to lemon cheesecake with calendula blossoms, and offers tips for storing and cultivating the herbs with simple directions and instructional pictures.

Great little reference to have on the shelf, and motivation to stir the pot.