Book Review: The Bad Tempered Gardener

I immediately liked and enjoyed Anne Wareham’s provocative book, [amazon_link id=”0711231508″ target=”_blank” ]Bad Tempered Gardener[/amazon_link] I had a running internal dialogue for days (which is good…plenty of thinking/discussing/cursing the material in this book). But I found it hard to write a thoughtful in-depth review. Something about the book didn’t feel right to. So, I re-read it again, slowly.

At the end of the second read I knew what was disturbing me: five-star pile of contradictions.

For someone who professes not to be endlessly fascinated with plants, it’s strange to find that a third of the book focuses on plants…botanical names and all

Anne concludes in one essay that only people who hate gardening create simple clean-lined, elegant gardens (p. 61). It’s a conclusion that leaves me feeling confused. Surely, garden style is a question of aesthetics not a love or hatred of gardening

Anne champions a new way of making and seeing gardens. Gardens designed with more thought…gardens which could be considered works of art. Commendable forward-thinking stuff. However, in another essay, Anne laments against EU plans to ban herbicides and insecticides which would make her “gardening more labour-intensive if not impossible.” What happened to her forward innovative thinking? There are other time effective ways to maintain gardens without pesticides.

Mulch plays a big role in Anne’s 2-acre garden, Veddw, located in Wales. In her “Meadow” essay, Anne rhapsodizes about mulch… “But I do mulch for England. It’s my religion.”

In her “The Wild Garden” essay, Anne confesses that mulch played a big part in building and maintaining her garden. And Anne becomes really annoyed at “experts” giving out faulty information on wood chip mulch.

But in her “I Hate Gardening” essay, Anne lists “mulching at some particular time of the year” as a task she doesn’t do. It’s obvious Anne mulches with wood chips…adding “at some particular time” to the task seems silly. Basically buying an argument.


And there are many more, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. Contradictions are part of most people’s nature. The fact it’s incorporated in the book verifies the authenticity of the writing.

And one more thing (honest). Many blog book reviewers are puzzled, confused or outraged by Anne’s confession that she hates gardening, but I am not surprised. If you have worked as a maintenance gardener, as I have, you would know why.

Gardening is relaxing because it is mindless and repetitive… cites a Dutch study  which demonstrates that after a stressful task, 30 minutes in the garden is far more relaxing than 30 minutes reading. How much time would Anne spend gardening on her 4-acre property (2-acre garden, 2-acre woodlands)? I imagine she would garden at least 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, 9 months of the year. How much time would it take before a relaxing (but mindless) activity stops being enjoyable? Hmmm…I thought so.

Bottom line? Get the book. Part biography, part gardening, this well written, page-turning book is crammed with information and observations that will make you pause and think. That’s what you want to do, right?


Links to Purchase The Bad Tempered Gardener

In Canada:   The Bad Tempered Gardener

In USA:        The Bad Tempered Gardener

In UK:           The Bad Tempered Gardener

Anne Wareham’s websites

Veddw House Garden. A modern romantic garden


Thinkin Gardens for people who want more than gardening from gardens


Written by Cristina da Silva
Thursday, September 1, 2011 in Book & Product Reviews

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