JANUARY 21, 2012
IT IS GOOD, MIDWINTER, to read about gardens – it keeps the imagination green and ready for spring. Serious gardeners cozy up this time of year with their catalogs and baby their cuttings. This lovely memoir, complete with the author’s watercolors of his beloved home in Orient, Long Island, is reminiscent in tone and imagination of those wonderful children’s books so prevalent in the 1930s and forties – set in gardens against a backdrop of one war or another, a world of hidden beings and impossible events. Wachsberger refers to these books, to magic that happens under huge leaves, and to his own childhood fascination with plants, growing up in Riverdale, New York. Middle-aged and gay, he had despaired of ever having a monogamous relationship, of finding the love of his life. He bought the 300-year-old house and devoted himself to gardening on the third of an acre in the middle of the little village. Then, answering an ad, he met Charles – tall, Southern, also a gardener. Together they plant larkspur, peonies, hollyhocks, columbine, poppies, and delphiniums (a true cottage garden). They plant Magnolia and apple, fig hazels, mimosa, and monkey puzzle trees. They edit an anthology on gardening (Of Leaf and Flower). There is something about the way they blend their lives, the way they are kind to each other, that is so very comforting. It makes a reader long for the book, for the world of the book – the long winter evenings, the summer days with visitors and friends. Wachsberger has a wide-eyed, boyish gratitude – how could this life have possibly come to him? He does not seem to realize that he created it.