I’ve read a few reviews of Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City that were fairly negative, bemoaning the fact that this book is not an exciting memoir to be picked up by the ambivalent masses who grow a potted tomato on their patio and perhaps a little basil in their window-box. I can’t say that my gardening experience has been particularly more involved than that, although I did harvest some particularly tasty lettuce a few years ago, and I’ve found that it’s nigh unto impossible to kill a zuchinni, but despite not being the book’s “target audience,” I did enjoy it.
Here’s the thing – don’t go into it expecting it to be something that it’s not. The subtitle should tell you everything that you need to know: “Two Plants Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City.” Did you catch that third word? Geek. So guess what? They’re going to geek out on you. They’re going to talk about the different plants that they planned to put in, and how this plant didn’t get along with that plant, and how this other plant with a family name that I can’t pronounce was too aggressive, and then there was this pest that killed off three-quarters of the plant they were hoping to harvest, and this one was just too fascinating to not try and grow, and did we mention the tropical theme in the front yard and how we tried to have chickens but then the cops got wind of it–
Yeah. They’re passionate about their plants. They’re passionate about their permaculture. So unless you’re a permaculture enthusiast yourself – or a voracious researcher like myself, who reads plenty but does little – you’re probably not going to like the book. I’ll admit that there were a few portions where I felt my eyes start to glaze over, but you know what I did? I paused, appreciated their passion, and skimmed ahead. You see, I can appreciate that passion. I can appreciate that sometimes, you’re going to make someone’s eyes glaze a bit when you’re really on a roll, because.. well.. I’ve done it myself.
So was reading this book a waste of my time? Goodness, no. I got to read about some rather fascinating plants that deserve to re-enter the limelight after being sent to the corner by industrial agriculture. I got to enjoy seeing someone else be passionate about what they do. And while my climate is even less hospitable to tropical plants than Massachusetts – a point that is driven home quite squarely by the -1 degree Fahrenheit temperature as I write this – I was able to glean a few ideas that I would like to put into practice as I discover what our new home has to offer. After all, a home is not just the house. A home is also the land around it. A home is what you make of it. And I intend to make much of it.