Book review: Gardening in Slippers: New Poems for Garden Lovers by Liz Cowley

Gardening in slippers
Gardening in slippers
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Whatever the season, you’ll find Liz Cowley out in the garden, digging, pruning, weeding… and sowing the seeds of her next poetic paean to the joys and frustrations of gardening.

Cowley is fast making a name for herself as ‘Britain’s only garden poet,’ and after the success of her last anthology, Outside in My Dressing Gown, she’s back to lead us down the garden path with a new collection of warm, witty and incisive poems.

As one who frequently potters outdoors in her slippers first thing in the morning, Cowley knows all too well how addictive gardening can be, but her garden is also her sanctuary, the perfect place ‘to be alone without the stress or mobile phone.’

And it is this love of the natural world, as much as her wickedly funny observational skills and natural penchant for rhyme, that makes her poetry such a delight for the nation’s army of avid gardeners.

In fact, nothing escapes her notice as she ploughs through the gardening year, aiming her versatile verse at ants and weeds, snails and slugs, getting ‘cross while scraping the moss’ and firing off a war of words at nosy neighbours, expensive tree surgeons, overcrowded flower shows and lost trowels.

From spring, the ‘consummate artist who captures the light and never stops painting from morning ’til night’ through summer, the ‘time for a rest now the garden’s dressed,’ to autumn with its ‘fading plants at every turn’ and winter when ‘there’s nothing to do but rake and hoe, or slip on the ice and shovel the snow,’ there is plenty of fruitful wisdom.

Enjoy an ode to the robin, every gardener’s friend, share the joy of seeing the first crocus, revel in the flight of a deafening ‘Messerschmitt’ bee and listen out for the woodpecker, ‘boring and drilling’ at a ‘speed that’s quite thrilling.’

Cowley also has her finger firmly on the pulse of those all-too-familiar gardening dilemmas… Wimbledon fortnight, do you tend the patch or watch the match, and holidays abroad, ‘two weeks away, and now you’re flying while wondering what plants are dying.’

There are over 100 poetic gems here, in a wide variety of styles from classic to modern, all beautifully home grown, written straight from the heart and packed with the dogged spirit of gardeners everywhere.

(Gibson Square Books, hardback, £9.99)