Reviews of my favorite books written by expatriates, journalists, and diplomats on what it's really like to live abroad

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Book Review: Notes From an Italian Garden by Joan Marble

I love the story of how Boston-born journalist Joan Marble first became obsessed with gardening ... adding one little potted plant after another to her small Roman balcony. Finally, she and her husband bought a piece of land north of Rome and built a summer home there, so she could expand her plant collection.

The land was dense, red clay -- terrible for gardening. We're talking pick-axes. In fact, they had to dynamite holes to plant the long rows of cypress trees lining the driveway. But Joan and an assortment of helpers persisted. This memoir, written 30 years after the founding of the garden, gives a behind-the-scenes look at how it evolved, and the lessons learned and friends made along the way.

My favorite part describes her research into green houses for warmer climates. You can't use a traditional glass greenhouse in the Mediterranean because your plants will fry. Instead, you have to create a shady-greenhouse. Joan's sounds delicious, but I do wish she'd included some actual blueprints or photographs to illustrate. The book is packed with artistic line drawings which are pretty, but not much help for me at least.

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