Dan Pearson’s book, Natural Selection, draws on ten years of his columns for the Observer newspaper and are arranged in a calendar format, a diary of gardening notes.
As with all such compilations, the individual parts, while all excellent in themselves, do not add up to a unified book. The organisation of the selected articles into a diary layout is no more than a book format and does not ring true as a genuine recording of events or thoughts. We are then presented with a book which is uncomfortable to read, without a strong thread of thought or theme running through it, with a great deal of repetition and with little of great import to hold the reader. However, it might be said that this reflects the nature of gardening which is series of minor events, often repetitious and humdrum, and joys are generally small but, nonetheless, treasured and enjoyed.
Dan Pearson is enjoying a very successful career as a landscape and garden designer with commissions around the world while he has also been successful as an author and contributor to several national newspapers and magazines. His interest in gardening stems from childhood, the home garden, two parents who were keen gardeners and a neighbour who was an inspiration. While professionally successful he continues to find time and enjoyment in his own gardens, one a city garden and the other rural, and many of the entries report on plans, progress and plants in these.
What might be considered significant is that while Dan Pearson is a very successful professional gardener, he still gets great pleasure from what we might consider the more mundane aspects of gardening. He delights in developing his new garden in Somerset, in the discovery of the features of his new plot, in the clearing of ground, the selection of plants, their first appearance and flowering, the planning, dreaming, digging, successes and failures that are all part of the making of a garden. So, it is perhaps the insight the book gives us into Dan Pearson, the person, which is significant here rather than the book’s contents for gardening is a simple pastime, with small pleasures, and it can be enjoyed by amateur and professional alike.
As with our gardening this is a book to be read a little at a time – to attempt to read it cover to cover will ruin it for the reader. And, as with your gardening, be patient and take it bit by bit, section by section and in a relaxed manner.
[Natural Selection, A Year in the Garden, Dan Pearson, Guardian Book/Faber and Faber, 2017, Hardback, 421 pages, £20, ISBN: 978-1-78335-117-6]