Gardening and the Bibliophile

CoverAt this time of year – particularly with the weather we’ve been having – it’s rare to get a sunny weekend day to spend in the garden. So what’s a librarian-gardener to do but curl up with a few good garden books and plan ahead for the spring and summer months?

I always know I’ve met a really, really good book when I find myself gripped by the (occasionally socially inappropriate) desire to seize upon anyone nearby and say “You must read this!” One author who consistently provokes this reaction in me is Michael Pollan. He is better known for his thought-provoking books on food politics The Botany of Desire, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defence of Food and, most recently, Food Rules: an eater’s manual (which is far more amusing and engaging than it sounds), but his earlier memoir Second Nature: a gardener’s education is not to be missed.

His gently humorous, wise descriptions of his own gardening experiences – and the way we as a society see our gardens – had me alternately laughing out loud and pausing in that middle-distance-y kind of thoughtfulness that a really good read occasionally provokes. It’s a lovely book for a gardener to curl up with on a winter’s night and ponder how the garden, as concept and reality, enriches, educates and (occasionally) humbles us.

The occasional sunny winter’s day, however, inevitably makes the gardener itch to get out there and do something. One thing you can do in the garden now, despite the weather (providing your garden isn’t completely waterlogged) is plant garlic. Garlic is incredibly easy to grow from cloves and traditionally gets planted right about now. Just make sure you buy seed garlic or organic garlic, as most of the other stuff has been treated with a sprouting retardant.

By the way, tradition tells us to plant garlic at midwinter and harvest at midsummer, but really there’s a bit more leeway than this. You can plant your garlic at least a month either side of midwinter (the key thing to remember is that garlic likes frosts but hates being waterlogged) and if you want your garlic to store you’re actually better to leave your garlic in the ground until around late January – early February in Christchurch. I tend to think of the traditional guideline as being more about the actual coldest and hottest parts of the year rather than the calendar solstices.

I recently came across the beautifully illustrated Complete Book of Garlic in our collections and I’ve now read more than I ever thought I didn’t know about the history, cultivars, growth and use across the world of this pungent bulb. My three varieties of garlic cloves have been planted with enthusiasm and I’m now looking forward to the coming summer’s tasty crop!

For more inspiration about things to do in your garden in winter, check out our newly updated Winter Gardening Guide. You might also want to take a look at our digital audiobook lending service, Overdrive, for an electronic copy of The Botany of Desire.

To DVD or not to DVD?

For those cold nights when you’re snuggled up on the couch and in the mood for dvds, largely because you’re knitting and you haven’t worked out how to knit and read at the same time, what you need is a good movie.

Thankfully the library not only keeps me well stocked in reading material, it also keeps me well stocked with DVDs. I’ve had a couple of really good dvds out recently.  Bottle Shock with the lovely Alan Rickman playing a British wine connoisseur in France who decides to do a blind taste testing with French wines up against Californian wines – with surprising results and is based on a true story no less.

Another gem I  stumbled on A common thread , is about a 17 year old who discovers she’s pregnant and goes to work for an embroiderer for haute couture designers.   The diving bell and the butterfly  is about former Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, which shows the aftermath of a debilitating stroke through his eyes.  In both movies, action takes second place to narrative and could be described as bleak, but both are stunning movies in terms of cinematography and heart. 

Here are some tips if you’re trying to find something to watch on the catalogue and don’t want to look through all 5599 listings on the catalogue:

  • In ‘Search catalogue” – type in your favourite actor and click on author – limit material type to “dvds and videos”
  • If you have a favourite distributor ie Hopscotch and Madman films distribute largely independent films such as Pan’s Labyrinth and The Wrestler and docos such as Microcosmos – in “Search catalogue” type in Hopscotch and limit material type to “dvds and videos”

Otherwise if you’ve seen something that takes your fancy on the Bestseller dvds – if you have the patience you can always see if there is a lending copy that you can place a hold on.  The only thing with this is that you may have to wait months for it to come in and it will cost you $3- 4 for the week ($2 for reserve charge plus the AV rental) so $5 for the week for a Bestseller movie doesn’t seem so bad.

Rough Riders – Image of the Week

Review of the New Zealand Rough Riders (3rd New Zealand contingent). 15 Feb. 1900.

Review of the New Zealand Rough Riders (3rd New Zealand contingent)

In 1900 the Government accepted an offer by the Mayor of Christchurch, William Reece (1856-1930), and prominent businessman George Stead (1841-1908) to organise a third contingent of New Zealand Mounted Rifles to be sent to the Boer War. The organising committee raised the funds, selected the troops and set up a training camp in Addington. Most of those enlisting were competent horsemen and marksmen. Shown here is a review of the troops in Hagley Park in front of His Excellency the Governor, Lord Ranfurly (1856-1933)

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