My claim to fame is that I love books, and I have a (novice’s) garden. So this review is coming to you from a beginner gardener, veggie eater, flower lover and book reader who took this book as I take most garden information – an opportunity to learn something that might help me keep my plants happy. And wow, did “The Bee Friendly Garden” help me learn!
[Images from The Bee Friendly Garden by Doug Purdie (Murdoch Books) Photography by Cath Muscat RRP $39.99 available now in all good bookstores and online]
The Bee Friendly Garden is, on first impression, a beautiful book. A mix of full page photo spreads, illustrated chapter pages and useful plant and bug identifying photos are offset by a clear layout and gorgeous fonts (and I care about fonts). This book is the kind that makes you want to pick it up and take it home. It feels good in your hands, the paper is a decent weight, and it even smells good. So it’s got the hipster coffee table thing sorted, but does it teach us anything?
I think it does. Again, I am only a beginner, but somehow I feel like that’s almost the point. Purdie is so passionate about the cause of bees that he has created an accessible reference guide that any newbie can pick up and take something away from.
I’m a vegetarian. I’m into organic food. I’m a bit of a hippie and I felt like the whole “save the bees” movement was something I was into, and that it had something to do with saving the planet, but (solely because of my own ignorance) it wasn’t until I read this book that I realised the true importance bees and other insects have not only our gardens, but our access to food sources as we know them. I also didn’t realise the impact that many things about our modern way of life (use of ‘low maintenance’ architectural plants, increasing urbanisation, use of weed sprays) are having on our bee and insect populations.
The Bee Friendly Garden lays out all the facts about what bees need, how they operate, and how we are harming them in a simple, clear way that I’m sure will create a swarm (see what I did there?) of bee supporters once this book gets out there.
My one and only criticism of this book is that if you read it cover to cover like I did (on holidays in the Northern Territory in a camp chair with a cup of tea), Purdie does seem to ‘go on’ a tad. Several key points – the importance of bees, the harmful nature of sprays, the benefits of some weeds – are rammed home throughout the chapters to the point where I almost wanted to say “enough already, I get it!”. However, I think most people will pick this book up as a flick through or a reference book, or at least dip into it systematically over a longer period of time, in which case I don’t think this would impact on the reader. Plus, given how important I now understand that bees are really are, I can’t begrudge them their advocate, or Purdie his air time – it’s definitely necessary.
Whilst Purdie does ram his cause home, he also gives us the tools to counteract the doom and gloom. This book really does live up to its subtitle “easy ways to help the bees and make your garden grow”. The Bee Friendly Garden also helped me to develop my ‘bee goggles’ as Purdie terms them, and to look at my garden, and the gardens around me, whilst sparing a thought for our buzzing friends.
As a beginner gardener, it was easy for me to takeaway a few simple strategies that benefit both me, and the bees. It also gave me a handy reference on both native and exotic flowers, as well as some bugs I might find hanging around my veggie beds (plus what to do about them). The thing I loved most about this book is that I didn’t just learn about the bees, I also learned about my garden. Plus, it was comforting to know that in many ways, I was already on the right track to making my garden bee friendly. And now, thanks to this wonderful book, I have the tools to make it a bee haven, without compromising my vision, space, time, or money.
This is a beautiful, useful, important book for anyone who doesn’t understand the importance of bees to all of us. As a bonus, it’s an incredible reference for all beginner gardeners, no matter how big or small your garden space, and most importantly, it just makes you want to get out into your garden and enjoy it.
[Images from The Bee Friendly Garden by Doug Purdie (Murdoch Books). Photography by Cath Muscat. RRP AU$39.99 – available now in all good bookstores and online]