I posted this rant in the comments at Garden Rant. The subject is Henry Mitchell's book, The Essential Earthman.

After the last discussion of garden books, I immediately bought Amy Stewart's From the Ground Up and H.M.'s The Essential Earthman, and in total honesty, with no kissing up intended, I enjoyed the former far more than the latter, although they are very different books and perhaps shouldn’t be directly compared.

Mitchell's haughty air revulsed me and his regular obsession with what I consider perfectly detestable ornamentals really turned me off. I thought if he said "peony" one more time I was going to hurl. (I know, who’s haughty now?)

Most importantly, Mitchell's ethic is very east coast centric. This makes it hard for me to internalize his message. I garden around a six-month summer drought, not a seasonal killing freeze. Dec-Feb are busy months in the garden for me. There is no shutting down. His plants are just not my plants. He has no business making pronouncements from Washington about the most preeminent tree or the most beautiful flower in all of America—which he does regularly. That kind of attitude really irks me.

Mitchell provides all kinds of contradictory advice, and the neverending run of superlatives makes it hard to pin down a central message. Don’t even get me started on his design ideas. And I have more important things to do than be concerned about the use of “garden rooms” or “plant material”. I can’t even relate to that complaint.

I appreciate Mitchell’s love for the garden, his emphasis on planting what makes sense, planting lots of plants, and I particularly relish his encouragement to ignore self-styled experts. I will start with him.

From the Ground Up revels exuberantly in the delight of experimentation and the emotional roller coaster of garden trial and error. I like that. That works for me. It also helps that she wrote it in Santa Cruz, where I went to school…perhaps passing by her house on the way to the bus station. I walked across that railroad trestle by the Boardwalk twice every day for a year.

ADDED: Annie in Austin adds some valuable context for reading Mitchell.

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