If you come to A Tapestry Garden: The Art of Weaving Plants and Place looking for a quick how-to on landscape design, you won't find it. What you will find, however, is much more delightful — a down-to-earth garden memoir suffused with the wisdom of time.
Authors Marietta and Ernie O'Byrne, owners of Northwest Garden Nursery outside Eugene, Oregon, oversee a stunning collection of gardens: shade, woodland, vegetable, orchard, perennial, alpine and even chaparral (a feat in Eugene's climate). A Tapestry Garden walks the reader through each of these spaces, describing both the long process of trial and error to get there, and detours to chase a passion for trilliums or hellebores (currently the nursery's sole product).
The prose is wonderfully pragmatic. Marietta writes of a first husband who fled the agrarian life four and a half years in, "never to return," with an enviable matter-of-factness. But she also describes the satisfaction found in hard work and muses affectionately on decades of observing, caring for, and situating plants.
A Tapestry Garden is wildly inspiring and potentially even a bit terrifying. Any new gardener who's fought to rescue a neglected patch or an aphid-besieged dahlia knows what it's like to have big dreams but little expertise. But the O'Byrnes offer hope: "Be of good courage, we all start that way."
Sheri Boggs is a librarian with the Spokane County Library District.