For more than two decades, Marc Hamer has tended a garden that he doesn’t own. Now he has published what feels more or less like his private gardening journal, in sections with titles such as Pruning Roses, Swifts Arrive and Solstice. But this is no how-to guide — unless perhaps you classify it as a wholly original, semi-autobiographical book on how to live, how to be calm and content with only a little, in a quietly humming garden. And Hamer knows a thing or two about living with little — indeed, living with more or less nothing apart from the ragged clothes he stood up in.
“I’m on my knees, weeding, and the plants and the soil and I seem to flow into and out of each other,” he writes of the dandelion incident. That airy “flow” is often desired; but Hamer’s more earthed writing is stronger – more brutal, angry even (despite protestations to the contrary) and better for coming through his “rough, grubby fingers”. One time he reaches for his wood-axe from behind his car seat when caught up in a road-rage incident driving home from the garden. He tells this story not entirely against himself.