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A Gentle Plea for Chaos

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  107 ratings  ·  20 reviews
In controlled disorder lie planted the essence and beauty of the English garden, the ideal for gardens the world over. In her ability to inspire and evoke the passions and obsessions of gardeners, Mirabel Osler offers a stirring appeal for gardens that have lives of their own, that reflect not so much a compulsion for dominance and regimentation as an intimate understandin ...more
Paperback, 187 pages
Published March 23rd 2000 by Bloomsbury Paperbacks (first published October 19th 1989)
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Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: garden-studies
“At the heart of gardening there is a belief in the miraculous.”- Mirabel Osler

My garden is thirty years old now and has changed a great bit from when we first started it. It was an acre of tall weeds, ivy and dead trees and is now a flourishing and certified wildlife habitat. I know that author, Mirabel Osler, had something to do with opening my eyes to what a garden can truly be and provide for both people and animals. The author writes “ To be able to sit under the branches of a tree you just
Mind the Book
Första trädgårdsboken jag läst från pärm till pärm, ord för ord. I själva verket är den som en brittisk Walden. Väldigt fin.
Aug 08, 2018 added it
Lovely book
Jan 08, 2010 rated it it was ok
This is a book about gardening, but the author seems to have applied the idea of chaos to her writing also. The book is divided into five chapters, one each about trees, water, stones/wall, roses and bulbs, but it seemed to me that the chapters didn’t necessarily stick exclusively to their theme, making the whole book a bit of a jumble. The more enjoyable parts of this book talk about Osler’s own garden (acres of land somewhere in England) and how it came into being, interdispersed with musings ...more
Osler describes the process of creating her own garden and how it turned her and her husband into gardeners - not full of specific plant advice, illustrations, or pictures; rather reflections on aspects of gardening, and as the title says, a plea for less tidiness and more disorder in the garden. A pleasant book, though perhaps not as good as A Breath from Elsewhere, which I enjoyed more for some reason that I can't pin down. ...more
Nov 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Regarded in some gardening circles as a "must read."

A truly inspirational book.

The author and her husband create a garden on a scale that makes my own efforts seem miniature by comparison.

It is an adventure reminiscent of The Twelve Tasks of Hercules.

And it ends on a sad note when her husband passes on.

Funny, sad, wise, and more all rolled into one.

I want to read many more books like this.
Troy Storm
Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
For gardeners, or more appropriately attemptors at gardening, A Gentle Plea will be a godsend. Mirabel Osler, a discerning, clever and gentle English writer, basically tells us to cool it and not get so frantic about playing in the dirt. Enjoy it more. Sort of smell the roses and don't be too upset if the deer got most of them. It's a lovely, lovely book written by a lovely, lovely writer. Just the pick-me-up one needs after a hard day's grubbing about trying to foil the forces of nature.
Robert Paul Olsen
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just loved her flow, and her husband Michael added interest, with all their observations, and pairings of roses and clematis that worked well together, it just captured my imagination, and led me right to my nursery catalogs.
Janet Meenehan
Nov 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
“Reading books about gardens is a potent pastime; books nourish a gardener's mind in the same way as manure nourishes plants.”
― Mirabel Osler, A Gentle Plea for Chaos

What a delightful meandering through a garden and life! Fantastic vocabulary combined with a poetic description of plants is such a strong appeal for me. This little book reminds so much of the discussions with my Irish Aunts and the reminiscing on gardens. A few of her British imperial views thud on the pavement for the current re
Christine Kenney
Felt a bit like tagging along on a UK garden tour with a chaperone. Most of the plant varieties and colorful vocabulary went over my head, the writing itself is chaotic, but in the many digressions I recognized enough universal gardening struggles to want to revisit this some day.
Aug 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: e-book, ch7
Charmingly British, although when the author discusses American gardens she acts envious over "all that available labour in other centuries." Yep, she's talking about slavery. Smh. ...more
Sarah Mcmurray
Apr 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
Charming - though she does have quite the bossy tone! Felt like I was having a chat with my 81 year old mother who still wields a spade around the garden!
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The prose in this book is as decadent and rich as the first few flowers of spring. It transported me from the dull grays of winter into the gardens of summer. I loved every second of reading it.
Jan 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read Michael Pollan's comment that when this book was first published in 1989, it blew fresh air into the stuffy precincts of English garden writing. (The re-issuance was apparently timed to coincide with the 2011 publication of Osler's memoirs, The Rain Tree, which I hope to read). For an American gardener reading two decades later, much of that original context simply doesn't translate, but the book does offer points of interest. It's probably helpful to understand A Gentle Plea as a se ...more
Aug 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paper-books
(#38 in my Year of Reading Women)

Mirabel Osler is probably my favourite garden writer - but be sure that she is a "garden" writer, she's not in any way a "gardening" writer. Her pages are full of the sense of being in a garden and creating it and becoming part of it. In these pages you'll never learn how to prune your hydrangeas, but you'll gather some of the feeling of planting a forest and watching it grow.

I only have a couple of quibbles with her, firstly she is a bit of a snob and anything t
Nov 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a beautiful read, both as far as the written word and the photographs of the author's garden.

One of the comments Osler made that really hit home was her wistful dreaming about what American gardens were really like. She said that she loves to read about them, but doubts that she'll ever get to visit any. Here in the U.S., it seems like most of the gardeners I know dream about English country gardens and wish their garden was more like the gardens of England. It was a refreshing thought
Cathy Sorensen :
Feb 04, 2012 rated it liked it
You truly have to be a gardener to enjoy this book which I am. Though wordy there are some remarkable insights and passages. Part memoir part history lesson there are moments where I glazed over. The water chapter was certainly chaos covering water, lawn mowing, grasses and then plant hunters. Stick with it and you will be pleased with an overall decent read. " there is no end to be written....a garden in always on the move. ". ...more
Graham S
Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
A rambling book like her roses. Often nicely constructed prose, but I just didn't see the point of the book. She's very opinionated and just a little smug leading to my not really expecting to like her, which lowers the tolerance level.
Katherine Swift's books of a similar genre have a better structure and enticed me to get to see her garden. Although Mirabel's garden is in the same county as I live, I don't think I'd bother.
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
The plea really is gentle in every good sense of the word. Far from being didactic, really just a straightforward account of building and more importantly loving a garden. Ultimately a little psalm to beauty.
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
A magical book which gently educates and enchants. Truly a gardeners book, one to dip into.
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