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Second Nature
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This isn't so much a how-to on gardening as a how-to on thinking about gardening. It follows the course of the natural year, from spring through winter, as Pollard, an editor at Harper's , chronicles his growth as a gardener in Connecticut's rocky Housatonic Valley. Starting out as a ``child of Thoreau,'' Pollard soon realized that society's concept of culture as the enemy of nature would get him a bumper crop of weeds and well-fed woodchucks but no vegetables to eat. Far more serviceable materially and philosophically, he now finds, is the metaphor of a garden, where nature and culture form a harmonious whole. Pollard finds ample time for musing on how his own tasks fit in with the overall scheme of existence; thus, there are chapters titled ``Compost and Its Moral Imperatives'' and ``The Idea of a Garden.'' Although serious in import, the writing is never ponderous; Pollard's wit flashes throughout, and particularly in anecdotes about his youth: one memorable incident has his father mowing his initials in the front yard after being reproached by a suburban neighbor about his overgrown lawn. (May)

Pollan, executive editor of Harper's and self-proclaimed amateur gardener, has written a book that is by turns charming and annoying, insightful and shallow, droll and banal. His collection of a dozen essays arranged by season is based on his experiences over a seven-year period in his Connecticut garden, along with vignettes from garden history. Unfortunately, Pollan's text is characterized by dubious and unsupported generalities, self-conscious humor, and extended, labored metaphors, and his lack of gardening authority dooms the book to superficiality. Experienced gardeners and devotees of garden literature will find little here that is original. Only for comprehensive gardening collections.-- Richard Shotwell, Hancock Shaker Village, Pittsfield, Mass.

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