A Review of The Lifelong Gardener: Garden With Ease & Joy At Any Age
by Toni Gattone (Timber Press)
In my head, I feel about 25, but each spring, my garden brings me back to reality. I’m not a kid anymore. My aching back, knees and feet remind me that I’m growing older along with all of my plants – only they look better and complain less.
This year, I kept track of how much time it took me to do all the spring chores in my garden. That was a real eye opener! It got me to thinking (and worrying) about how I was going to keep it all going when Toni Gattone’s new book, ‘The Lifelong Gardener,’ (A new release from Timber Press) arrived in my mailbox.
I’ve perused books on how to scale down your garden as you age but most of them just address the plant and design stuff. Toni has covered the subject much more thoroughly than anything else I’ve read. Her book is divided into three sections - body, garden and tools. It’s packed with practical, hands-on information that is easy to follow and fun to read.
Her take on aging? Adjust your attitude and change your work habits. Hmmm....I usually err on the side of being in denial about my body - after all, I’m still 25 right? I never considered the idea of doing a little at a time and switching up chores, but her suggestions make a lot of sense. Toni begins by introducing the concept of adaptive gardening – a way for gardeners of all ages to figure out what works for them according to their physical realities. She discusses asking for help, making the garden safe, comfortable and easy to work in. You'll find solutions for every kind of ache and pain gardening inflicts, and there’s a lot of excellent information about strengthening muscles, stretching and skin care.
Each chapter in this book contains helpful tips and ways to go about making changes. It’s comforting to know you don’t have to try and do them all at once! The gardener’s profiles are great too. Toni introduces people she has worked with to show how they have put adaptive gardening into action.
If you’re just thinking about changing the plants, she puts forth plenty of creative and practical ideas to ponder. Simplify - less is more. Rethink your lawn, plant flowering shrubs instead of annuals and perennials, plant raised beds or bite the bullet and make the whole thing smaller.
This section made me rethink the high hedges I have around my garden. I like the privacy, but this one requires setting up ladders and scaffolding to prune it. Maybe I'll maintain it at a lower level and plant taller perennials for privacy, or just let passerbys look in.
This one is a real bear too - definitely time for a change.
The section about tools completely captivated me. This woman thinks of everything – lightweight hoses, comfortable gloves, long reach tools, easy to use watering cans and way more. If you lose tools, can’t find gloves that fit, struggle with heavy hoses that kink and can’t find knee pads that don’t fall down, you’ll love this part. I want every tool she reviews. I’m going straight to the on-line store on her website (https://tonigattone.com/the-top-10-adaptive-gardening-guidelines-to-live-by/) to snag a few.
Both stubborn aging gardeners and young cocky ones will find this book useful. My copy is already dogeared and dirty, the mark of a good gardening book!