Posts Tagged 'books'

The Man Who Planted Trees

Illustration by Frédéric Back, 1987

The tale of Elzeard Bouffier, a solitary shephard who devotes himself to reforesting a desolate portion of Provence, in southern France, was originally written by Jean Giono, who was asked in 1953 by an American Publisher to write about an unforgettable character.

Apparently they meant him to write about a real character. When the editors objected that there was no record of a Elzeard Bouffier ever having died in Banon, France, Monsieur Giono informed them that, even though fictional, he was none-the-less unforgettable. Unable to publish the work now written, Jean Giono donated the story freely “to all humanity”, seeking no compensation then or in the future. It was soon after published by Vogue in 1954 and has been retold repeatedly and in many different languages. Never having received financial compensation for this tale was felt by the author to be completely fitting to the values expressed in the story.

I have a copy of this story published in 1985 by Chelsea Green, with beautiful wood engravings by artist Michael McCurdy and an afterword by Norma L. Goodrich (Professor Emeritus of French and Comparative Literature at the Claremont Colleges).  I have never forgotten this story and recently picked it up and reread it yet again, prompting me to post this information.

In modern times, some publishers have sought to take over the copyright of this popular story, generating outrage from many literary and environmentalist camps. There has even been a movement to remove the text of the story from various internet resources and prevent the online publication of works such as what I am sharing with you now.

Here the storywas adapted into an animated short by illustrator/animator Frédéric Back in 1987, narrated by Christopher Plummer, and produced by Radio-Canada (posted to YouTube in four parts) .



Book: The Way We Live Alfresco

The Way We Live Alfresco

The mediterranean climate perhaps affords more days per year for spending time out-of-doors, consequently the quintessential image of sharing a meal outside in Italy, France, Spain or another Mediterranean country. This is not mere romantic folly – often the most pleasant place to spend such time is indeed outdoors, and planning the garden with this in mind should not be overlooked.

A British expat friend living in Southern Spain once told me “Gardens in England are for strolling, gardens in the Mediterranean are for sitting”. Think about it – the cooler, overcast weather of the UK usually propels garden visitors to keep moving, if only to stay warm through mild exercise, and garden design has evolved under this basic survival need, whether conscious or unconscious. In warmer mediterranean climates, one may seek warmth in finding a south facing wall or sunny area, but in summer, a bit of shade is often sought instead – in both cases the natural inclination is to tarry a while to enjoy the effect of that micro-climate.

While the images presented in The Way We Live Alfresco* are by no means exclusively from mediterranean climates, they do illustrate a wide variety of simple ways in which living outside in such regions could be accommodated. A picture is worth a thousand words and so the lack of text in this work is seldom noted, enthralled as we are in the handsomely captured garden and courtyard vignettes. I use these pages to ignite my own ideas for outdoor designing as well as to encourage client to consider new possibilities for the enhancement of their lifestyle through alfresco living.

*alfresco is defined as ‘outside of a building’ or ‘in the open air’.


Book: The Mediterranean Gardener

The Mediterranean Gardener

I will always be fond of this book. Many years ago, after starting the Medit-Plants e-mail forum, I came to know Hugo Latymer (1926-2003), a participant of that discussion. Over time, he mentioned his book, The Mediterranean Gardener, though in a very self-effacing manner.

Intrigued, I sought it out for myself. While it did not contain the large number of plant listings of other, more recently published works, I found his lengthy and thorough descriptions of the most common cast of characters in mediterranean climate gardens to be an excellent introduction for the novice to this type of gardening. Hugo also covered a wide variety of general and specific topics that were equally instructional.

Hugo and I worked together – via e-mail and letters, I unfortunately never met him in person – on ideas for hosting a web site for The Mediterranean Garden Society, of which we were both members. This effort was dovetailed into a web site I had created as an extension of Medit-Plants. It was only later that I was informed that Hugo had left his birthright as the 8th Lord Latymer (a barony going back to 1431!) to find a less hectic, more natural lifestyle with a new second wife in Mallorca, Spain (interesting reading: his Obituary, published 14 Nov 2003,


A blog by Seán A. O'Hara

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