Grief and the Gardener by Pat Welsh

Grief and the Gardener: a Love Story by well-known gardening expert Pat Welsh is an account of her marriage to her husband Lou, a judge, whose death from cancer inspired this book. The book opens with Lou being given just 6 weeks to live. This is later revised upwards to 7 years, and it leads the author to reflect on their lives together. The chapters are laid out nicely with a quote, followed by a gardening related anecdote in italics which in turn leads onto the main autobiographical chapter. The book is divided into sections reflecting the life in a garden, using headings such as ‘Falling Leaves’ and ‘Pruning and Harvesting’. Plenty of useful gardening advice thrown in along the way, e.g. how and when to split clivias, and why pollarding is practised. And gardening helps Pat deal with her loss: ‘I needed nature’s wisdom’.

Biographies and autobiographies need something very special to give them universal appeal. The lives of ourselves or our loved ones often seem fascinating to us, but to outsiders they are much less so. In this book some chapters become rather bogged down in names and trivial family incidents, but others, such as ‘Up the Garden Path’ are less personal and as a result have wider application and advice. Dreams and beliefs in reincarnation are given rather too much prominence which becomes uncomfortable. However, this is well written book, very readable and, if you are someone who admires Pat Welsh as a gardener, you will be interested to read about her life with her husband.

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