MARIKO, Bryan




Author Tags: Gardening, Photography

Occasionally, in a librarian’s life (retired or otherwise), a book will arrive that causes immediate bibliomania. A book that is so different, so appealing, and upon reading it, so completely perfect, that it must be shown with great excitement to everyone who loves books.

Last week I was in the Gabriola library and that is exactly what happened. Being an experienced bibionut I knew as soon as I saw No Guff Vegetable Gardening that I had to have it – for myself, for my children, my friends, for every book lover (and gardener) I could think of.

Mariko and Bryan McCrae, whom I know as artists in our community, were showing a hot-off-the-press copy of No Guff Vegetable Gardening to the librarian when I saw it, and almost grabbed it out of their hands. Mariko’s extraordinary art is part of the book’s immediate appeal, and the amazing blending of text, art, and photographs is one of Bryan’s special talents.

I asked Bryan and Mariko if I could take the book to Volume One in Duncan, a great independent book store where I purchase most of the new books I buy for family and friends. Off I went, along with my gardening-guru older daughter, who dived into No Guff as soon as we got on the ferry. “Mum, this book is so funny, and it has really good advice, too!” was her first comment.

Needless to say, the book got immediate thumbs up from the knowledgeable staff at Volume One. Next stop was the Sounder to see if I could review the book so that readers who haven’t yet seen No Guff Vegetable Gardening will find it sooner rather than later. Here are the reasons you must look at this wonderful book:

1. The appearance (yes, the cover does matter!) The book is beautiful in every way – layout, design, cover, illustrations, photographs, print, and binding. And I already mentioned the significance of two local artists being the reason for the book’s visual appeal. It will sit beside Katherine Gordon’s The Garden That You Are (the last book that gave me bibliomania) in my house, and emanate happiness.

2. The topic – yes, there are lots of good gardening books, but this one is written by two very experienced gardeners who don’t always agree. And that makes for some very interesting and informative gardening advice. That takes us to #3:

3. The authors – Donna Balzer is an expert horticulturist who writes for magazines and the Calgary Herald. Her television show Bugs & Blooms has been popular for a long time, and she has answered garden questions for CBC radio in Calgary for 20 years.

Steven Biggs is a horticultural science graduate who lives in Toronto, where he runs a gardening advice website and an e-zine, Homegrown in Toronto. He’s known as “Cousin Chlorophyll” to friends and family, and he loves to engage children in gardening while giving no-nonsense advice about growing food.

The Biggs and Balzer duo have gardened from Montreal to Qualicum Beach, and their combined experience reveals that there is more than one way to slice a tomato!

4. The wealth of gardening information – the book is crammed with practical advice, and it really is “no guff” – easy to understand and a lot of fun to read.

5. The humour – what could be more planet-improving than gardens and zany humour together? This book has everything from scallions in kilts to bus-riding transplants. Helpful bunnies are everywhere – masked, bibbed, hula-hooping, spade-wielding.

It probably goes without saying that our local library will soon have copies of No Guff Vegetable Gardening, but if you want to see a copy right now go to Artworks…it’s there, along with all the other beautiful things that remind us how artists and writers create magic and joy.