Book Review: Good In A Bed

Good in a Bed is a collection of Ursula Buchan’s fresh-witted anecdotes and theories on gardening that have appeared in various publications, particularly The Spectator, over the last twenty years.

From her embarrassment over forgetting to do the church flowers, to the attack of killer weeds in urban corners, no worm is left buried.

I was pleased that Buchan promised her writing would not discriminate against those with little experience of garden literature or even those who hardly garden at all. The book is catchy because her writing – as well as being humorous – weaves around a deep knowledge and passion for the subject that cannot fail to entice readers.

While she doesn’t seem to take herself too seriously as a gardener, Buchan is zealously serious about gardening. Buchan does not claim her green fingers work to perfection: she readily admits to the trials and tribulations that uncontrollably overshoot her garden. Her work refreshingly faces the unglamorous realities of gardening life.

In the first chapter, Me and My Garden, episodes involving Jet – her garden-sniper Labrador and a pitch fork landing in the writer’s foot, capture her plight as a gardener-with-dog and her constant struggle with the fenced off portion of a would-be utopia.

Buchan addresses the ‘gardener’ in all its forms, from the anorak brigade of bearded ‘alpines’ who hang off crevices in the Pyrenees photographing rock plants, to the new sex-symbol status of the female gardener established in popular culture TV shows – not to mention the increasing interest of the social-it-list garden accessories who adorn the Chelsea Flower Show.

For whatever reason (perhaps a return to pastoral romanticism), shrubs and flowers are now the fad. Buchan points out that we are in a golden age of gardening and it seems that everyone wants to be in on it.

When my father said every Sunday ‘I have to do the garden’ in that tone that says, ‘nobody else is going to do it’ (in the rain), it was of course his way of escaping to Nature , like the Romantic poets of the 19th century.

Those who think of gardening as obligatory mowing and weeding might feel a little under-developed in the new gardening culture presented in Good in a Bed. Ursula Buchan’s book makes for fresh and pleasing read. I was happy to learn in the chapter Peaks and Troughs, that my authentic stone trough is a particularly enviable asset. At times I laughed out loud. One thing is for sure:Good in a Bed will grab the attention on the coffee table from those, who on first sight, miss the ‘a’. I felt quite bashful reading it on my way to work.