Monday, April 14, 2008

Zabar, Abbie. The potted herb. Stewart, Tabori and Chang: 1988.

I am cheating a little by reviewing this book. I have had it for years. I think, to be honest, that it was the first gardening book I ever purchased for myself. I bought it as a hardcover. I don't usually buy hardcovers but this one is absolutely lovely as a hardcover specimen. Unfortunately, much to my dismay, a raindrop hit it once and the matting on the cover was discoloured in one place, which is frankly ridiculous. Shouldn't be that easy, especially for a garden book.

What attracted me in the first place were Zabar's pen drawings, which are whimsical and delightful and perfect for this whimsical, delightful little book. Frankly, the drawings are really much of the charm of the book itself. Zabar's style of writing is charming, but sometimes a little... well, I suppose patronizing might be the term, although it's not quite right. I can ignore those moments. Some of the data is also dated, including contact information for various suppliers. But that's also easily ignored.

What drives me a little crazy is how easy she makes everything sound. Growing rosemary is not that easy! I have tried it numerous times. I always, always kill it. The one time I didn't kill it, fishy did (although if we are honest with ourselves, I didn't kill it because I really hadn't had time yet). But I suppose one of the things about gardening books is that it gives me a standard to aspire to. So I will probably buy another pot of rosemary this spring and try again.

This book makes me want to do wonderful things with herbs in pots. But what I really love about it is the little bits of historical information and folklore that thread their way through the text. Herbs have a long, sometimes crazy history (the Greeks, for example, used to put curses on basil, and the Roman man who accepted a sprig of basil from his lover was destined to love her for life). I read this stuff and get all inspired, not just to garden in pots, but to plant a bay laurel tree to keep the lightning and flames from entering my house; and maybe even to write a short story or two about the beekeeper who rubs thyme on the hives to entice the bees.


Abbie said...

Hello Kiirsten ~

Thank you for the very nice things you said about my book, The Potted Herb. I always love it when someone says it was their first gardening book.

~ Abbie

kiirstin said...


You are very welcome! It was my first gardening book and it really is still my favourite, along with Patrick Lima's "The Kitchen Garden".

I was doing some poking around the internet, and I see you've written a number of other books. I'll have to check them out. Not sure how I've missed them all these years.

Thanks for taking the time to comment on this entry. It's an honour!