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From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  742 ratings  ·  107 reviews

Amy Stewart had a simple dream. She wanted a garden.

When she and her husband finished graduate school, they headed west to Santa Cruz, California. With little money in their pockets, they found a modest seaside cottage with a small backyard. It wasn’t much—a twelve-hundred-square-foot patch of land with a couple of fruit trees and a lot of dirt—but it was a good place to
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 5th 2002 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published January 19th 2000)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  742 ratings  ·  107 reviews

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Annette Reynolds
Apr 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this little garden memoir. Brought back a lot of memories of all my first gardening attempts in different parts of the country (and world), only to learn that all those little tries were simply a warm-up for my own garden: the one I made (and continue to build on) in - what I consider - the first house I truly owned (and that truly owned me).

Ms. Stewart has a wonderful sense of humor, and a terrific eye for describing the absurdities that working in the sun and rain and soil
Apr 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: plants-gardens
Why has it taken me so long to pick up a book about someone's experiences in a garden? This is the second one that I've read this year, and they've both been delightful. Early in the book, when Ms Stewart describes the location of her garden, she writes that her house (and therefore some of her garden) appears on many postcards. I intend to watch for cards that show her house when I attend the upcoming postcard show.

One part of her account that bothers me is her take on cats. If she truly likes
Julie  Durnell
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this amusing tale of a first garden, while Punxsutawney Phil today is predicting 6 more weeks of winter it was nice to read of growing vegetables and flowers and herbs even if it was in California!
Nadine Jones
It’s been a long time since I read a book of gardening essays, and I’m so happy that this year’s reading challenge required me to read “a book about a hobby.” What hobby could be better than gardening? My own garden is a disaster area because I have not had time to care for it in years, but I still like to read about other’s gardens!

Amy Stewart always charms me.

I mean, come on, don’t you want to read this: (Amy is panicked because an out of town friend will be visiting, and she wants her garden
Panayoti Kelaidis
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have gradually been watching my gardening bookshelves make way for more and more compact, attractively bound, beautifully designed and charming books by Amy Stewart: how convenient that she writes about poisonous and "Wicked" plants when our culture is obsessed with Gothic gruesomeness and horror... Suddenly everyone is aware of the plight of honeybees and Monarchs, and PRESTO! Out comes "Wicked Bugs" with its wonderfully whimsical red cover and Victorian ornamentation to tell the other side ...more
May 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
A few charming/helpful stories, but I found this book to be mostly irritating.
Barb Flory
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Marvelous book about her first garden.
Christie Purifoy
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: gardening, memoir
A sweet and simple garden memoir. I enjoyed this but do think it's best suited for beginning gardeners.
Sep 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who gardens
I didn't know until just now that this book is from the author of Flower Confidential. I read it some time ago and loved it. It's the story of a first time gardener building her first garden, and the conversational tone with which she describes the excitement and dismay that a first garden engenders makes me feel we have been friends forever. I really like this Amy Stewart! This is a great book for anyone who wants to garden. She is realistic about the challenges and joyous about the triumphs, ...more
Feb 04, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a really inspiring and honest account of a budding love affair with gardening.

Only qualm I had was with the cat stories. Personally I can't stand when gardeners start long narratives about their pets. It's boring and mostly irrelevant. I love animals and a little about their involvement in the garden is ok but I don't get any enjoyment or useful information out of gardeners anthropomorphising their cats.

Otherwise, this is a great book!
Karen Floyd
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gardening
Ah, the naivete of the inexperienced gardener! When Stewart created her first garden she thought all there was to it was to clear weeds and put some seeds and plants in thte ground and magic would happen. Well, she did live in sunny California. How she learned otherwise, by painful experience, is what this book is about. Entertaining, informative, and funny, Stewart is a good story-teller who is always willing to share a joke on herself and expose her own foibles.
Feb 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
On of those books you read and think, I could write this! I could write better than this. How on earth did this get published?

I read garden books to learn from other gardeners. This book didn't teach me a thing.
Maria Kemplin
Sep 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: gardening
I'm a garden memoir fanatic and this fell very flat for me.
This was a really enjoyable and quick read. Many gardening books I've read are written by people who have been gardening for a long time and are fairly sure about what they're doing and have fixed opinions about the "right" way to do things. Though I'm not exactly new to gardening in a strict sense, since I am familiar with many techniques and knew I could grow things, this year for the first time I'm growing a few vegetables and gardening for wildlife instead of doing just a few pretty annuals ...more
May 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This was like. Fine I guess. It falls in the same category as the self-indulgent woman moving to France and cooking a lot memoirs I love to read. I always start them feeling like I'm in the mood for something easy and wish-fulfillment-y, but then just end up getting kind of annoyed at them haha. Anyway as lovely as the garden sounds, this totally confirms my belief that I never want to live in California. She's describing such this idyllic perfect cottage right by the beach, amazing weather all ...more
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!
What I loved:

- The author's weekly impulse-shopping for flowers without any sense of what would work in her garden (we might be twins)

- Her jumping-in-and-doing-it-before-researching-and-learning approach to gardening, resulting in lots of going back and fixing

- The passion for gardens that are a little wild, where the flowers don't stand rigidly in a row but ramble all around and invite the visitor to do the same

- Descriptions of the tourists, and being a local in everyone else's vacation

Moira Burke
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is therapeutic in a world of politics and climate change. Stewart’s self-deprecating memoir is charming and I found myself imitating her novice-gardener actions, like going to the garden store to get compost and praying they only had one kind so I wouldn’t be forced to display my ignorance of all things flora. This is a well-written illustration of a new gardener’s life lessons and a reminder to appreciate beautiful outdoor spaces. Highly recommended to anyone with garden aspirations.
Rene Sears
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a delightful account of the author's first garden. As a neophyte gardener myself, I really appreciated Stewart's writing about both the joys she found and mistakes she made. (I have experienced some of both!) Her authorial voice is evocative and funny. If you have any interest in gardening, I'd recommend this book.
Lisa Cerqueira
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
A well-written documentation of the development of a gardener, from the initial bewilderment to the eventual plant snobbery, and surprise when things work out better than expected! And while I haven't had to leave a mature garden, the author's letter at the end of the book to her garden's new owner is articulate and moving. Be prepared to be inspired to grab a trowel and get your hands dirty!
Enjoyable story of a young woman's first year growing a garden in Santa Cruz, CA. It does focus on her garden but also gives you a glimpse into what it's like to live in a tourist town.

Not the best garden memoir out there but a solid 2.5 stars.
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading of the journey of this first garden. It was also informative for those interested in gardening.
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an enjoyable read but, as usual with some nonfiction, it was more than I needed at times and I found myself scanning quickly to get to a part I wanted to read.
George Evans
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed getting a sneak peak at a writer's life ... especially because of Amy's style of writing.
Mary Mittiga
Mar 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Amy's writing is soft and poetic - very fitting for a book on her first garden. I hope her garden chain is growing beautifully!
Sharon Devine
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book!
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Just a few inappropriate words
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed it. Short read. Makes me want to plant a garden and talk to my plants. Probably a good thing I’m moving and will only have a deck so I can’t go too crazy
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Stewart's first book and quite a charmer. It is interesting to see her development from this book through her earthworm, botanist, plants and Kopp sister books. Wonderful writer.
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Must love gardening! Enjoyable read.
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Amy Stewart is the New York Times bestselling author of ten books, including Girl Waits with Gun, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, The Drunken Botanist, and Wicked Plants.

She lives in Portland with her husband Scott Brown, a rare book dealer. They own an independent bookstore called Eureka Books, which is so independent that it lives in California while they live in Oregon.

You can also find her all over
“But gardening is none of that, really. Strip away the gadgets and the techniques, the books and the magazines and the soil test kits, and what you're left with, at the end of the day, is this: a stretch of freshly turned dirt, a handful of seeds scratched into the surface, and a marker to remember where they went. It is at the same time an incredibly brave and an incredibly simple thing to do, entrusting your seeds to the earth and waiting for them to rise up out of the ground to meet you.” 14 likes
“The man who worries morning and night about the dandelions in the lawn will find great relief in loving the dandelions. —L. H. BAILEY, Manual of Gardening, 1910” 0 likes
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