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Charlotte Mendelson is My New Favorite Garden Writer

I have a relatively short list of garden writers that I actually really like to read. There is Michael Pollan, Amy Stewart, Tim Richardson and Alys Fowler. James Alexander Sinclair can always make me laugh and the odd book by Elizabeth Gilbert inspires me too. I am sure there are others that I am forgetting or who I have only read once and so, haven’t established a habit – but I just discovered a new name to add to the short list.

I stumbled upon Charlotte Mendelson’s Fifty Ways to Avoid Readying Your Garden for Spring, yesterday and found immediate kinship.  Yesterday I was shamefully avoiding eye contact with the heaps of grass (last year’s miscanthus’) that were holding the emerging peonies and tulips hostage beneath its fallen weight – threatening to strangle them.  But today, everything changed and I hit the garden hard.  Perhaps it was because we managed 48 hours straight without a snowflake – it has been an exceedingly long winter in New England.

And when I say I hit it hard – I mean I got at least 6000 fitbit steps and I created a few healthy piles of debris stacked on the driveway (which seemed like so much in the moment – but on reflection feels pathetic). I didn’t have the energy to actually move the piles to the compost heap. I need a bit of spring training too.

charlotte mendelson

I will be traveling next week and my garden rush was spurred by panic that everything will suddenly grow and bloom while I am away and I will miss the whole spring thing.  Or it will all die of floppy miscanthus strangulation if I don’t hurry up and hack that stuff back before I go.  I’ve rationalized away my FOMO (spring in New England is longer than a just week, right?) but I did go on an emergency dead grass hacking spree. My arms will be sore tomorrow, but I am taking comfort in knowing that up until my dirt laced tizzy, I was not the only one who had at least fifty ways to avoid spring gardening.

I let myself get sucked into the New Yorker’s Charlotte Mendelson library.  She has another piece titled A Gardening Book for Those Who Hate Gardening Books which is apropos, given I was just thinking about how I too, don’t like reading garden writing (mostly).  All of her reading recommendations were new to me.

Having now used up half my monthly New Yorker magazine freebie allowance, I am debating whether I should go get the selection of books that Charlotte says are good – or if I should subscribe to the New Yorker so that I can read all of Charlotte’s articles. Or both?

Or actually, in reality, probably I’ll do neither. I mean, love the magazine – but I subscribed once and they literally send you a new issue every week! It stressed me out.

And lately I’ve been in the mood to unfollow just about everyone and everything so that I can get back to thinking my own thoughts for a while. I’m lumping these recommended authors in with everyone else and will wait until I’m ready to refresh the selection of voices I am listening to.  Spring clearing is creeping into all corners of my existence.

I’ll be happy to take just one new writer for now – and if you don’t already know Charlotte, I hope you are pleased to be introduced to her too.



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  1. Love the Mendelson recommendation. I looked at my garden two days ago and thought about the hard work that would be involved in touching any of it, then had to take a well-earned breather to recover my inspiration and energy. All of yesterday was a blur of ice, freezing rain, and sleet, followed by a few inches of snow and more ice last night; and now I can let the garden, so called, and me slumber a while longer. But I AM putting in peas on Wednesday!

  2. Jane Baugh says:

    We are a third of the way into spring now – it’s time to stop procrastinating, put away the gardening magazines and do some weeding! I’m tired just thinking about it.

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