cover image CULTIVATING DELIGHT: A Natural History of My Garden

CULTIVATING DELIGHT: A Natural History of My Garden

Diane Ackerman, . . HarperCollins, $25 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-06-019986-9

In a generous and jauntily haphazard excursion through the four seasons of her Ithaca, N.Y., backyard landscape and the innumerable interests of her fertile mind, poet and naturalist Ackerman (A Natural History of the Senses; A Natural History of Love) reprises her role as an enchanting intellectual sensualist. Her extensive flower (and even weed) beds provide both subject matter and metaphor. More interested in what a great garden does for a person's spirit and soul than in how to make it grow, Ackerman buzzes productively from idea to revelation to insight, lighting on topics as diverse as how roses are reminiscent of dolls' faces; why we see faces in nature; how plants, animals and humans are alike; whether plants have motives and instincts; how flowers protect themselves from both heat, aridity and freezing cold; and why women are more prone to hypothermia than men—in just five paragraphs. She celebrates the diversity of weeds, finds beauty in chaos and order, embraces trial and error as a way of learning and respects the inevitable cycle of birth, death and rebirth. (Oct.)

Forecast:With the success of her earlier works preceding her, and an eight-city author tour and 15-city NPR campaign to come, Ackerman's breezy philosophical lyricism should flourish amoang both garden enthusiasts and fans of encyclopedic curiosity.