I know the official start of spring is in March, but for me and many others in the Northern Hemisphere, it never really feels like spring until May. This is the month when we can shed our heavy sweaters, open our windows, and—best of all—spruce up our gardens for the warmer months to come.
May is also the host of many garden- and flower-related holidays and celebrations, such as Herb Day, Water a Flower Day, and Lilac Sunday. Today’s audiobook recommendations are all inspired by the changing weather and the beautiful flowers and gardens that truly begin to flourish during this month. Whether you like to dig in the dirt or prefer to appreciate the wonders of plants from a comfy lawn chair, remember to enhance your experience with the power of a good story.
What’s your definition of a wildflower? I think of violets and dame’s rocket as flowers that like to live outside the confines of a garden bed; others, however, may think of them as weeds that invade their yards. In NATURE UNDERFOOT, entomologist John Hainze helps us learn to appreciate pesky plants and bugs by revealing their unique features. For example, we discover dandelion roots can be several feet long and that house centipedes help keep our homes free from other bugs. The audiobook ends with a discussion of how to live in peace with the wild denizens of our gardens and the ethics of using pesticides. Narrator Charles Constant’s animated performance makes for easy listening. To get more involved, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center for ways to celebrate National Wildflower Week (May 3–9).
Gardens offer many rewards beyond their natural beauty. Cutting gardens and vegetable patches, for example, allow us to give a bouquet for flowers to a neighbor and share extra zucchini with our friends. In her memoir LIFE IN THE GARDEN, Penelope Lively muses about her relationship to her own gardens—planting, weeding, and harvesting—and reflects on the role gardening has played in the lives and works of artists and writers. Though each gardener plants according to their own tastes, all of them tend their plots with an eye to future growing seasons. Narrator Helen Lloyd’s performance is pitch-perfect, capturing Lively’s full range of emotions. As you look forward to sharing your garden’s bounty with others, visit GardenLady.com for ways to celebrate Gifts from the Garden Month (May).
Throughout the ages, doctors, philosophers, and therapists have touted the healing powers of gardens and gardening. THE WELL-GARDENED MIND, written and narrated by Sue Stuart-Smith, explores the importance of gardens for our overall health and well-being. Rather than taking a self-improvement approach, Stuart-Smith looks to scientific research to show how gardening has helped people manage a variety of conditions, such as addiction and depression, and has had a restorative effect in prisons and hospitals. Her well-researched account includes personal stories as well as historical and literary references. Although the official National Garden Meditation Day (May 3) has passed, it’s never the wrong day to spend some quiet time in nature to soothe your soul; for tips, visit the website Always the Holidays.
If you prefer a hands-off approach, you can still enjoy the colors and scents of flowers by exploring your local public gardens or parks. Julia Kelly’s novel THE LAST GARDEN IN ENGLAND is about the founding, protecting, and restoring of the 100-year-old formal gardens on a British estate. Told from multiple viewpoints and set in three time periods, this audiobook introduces us to the women who were intimately connected to the gardens at Highbury House—Venetia designed the gardens in 1907; Beth, Diana, and Stella protected the gardens during World War II; and Emma researched and restored the gardens in the new century. A full cast of narrators connects us to these characters, both as gardeners and as women of their times. Learn the history of a formal garden near you during Go Public Gardens Days (May 7–16); information can be found on the American Public Gardens Association website.
Gardening is more fun when everyone chips in and learns together, from toddler to adult. You’ll find an abundance of short, engaging audiobooks for young children that just might spark a love of gardening and working outdoors with others to make the world more beautiful. Here are three to get you started: KAMALA AND MAYA’S BIG IDEA, written and read by Meena Harris (the vice president’s niece); GRANDMA’S GARDENS, written and read by Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton; and ALL AROUND US, written and read by Xelena González. Whether your potential garden is a few flower pots on a windowsill or a small plot outdoors, you and your little ones can celebrate National Children’s Gardening Week (May 29-June 6 in the UK) by participating in one of the activities suggested on the NCGW website.
Here’s hoping all your gardening dreams come true, whether you’re wrist-deep in soil or are strolling along a flower-lined path in a public park.