Eleanor Perenyi's book GREEN THOUGHTS is a memoir of sorts. She apparently never wrote another book on gardening, but as Alan Lacy says, sooner or later every writer who gardens will write a book about gardening. At the time her book was published in 1981, she had worked in her own garden in New England for a number of years. She says she had been gardening for 30 years, but does not indicate if she is including the years she lived in Hungary her birthplace. She was an immigrant who migrated first to Europe and then to America where she worked in New York as editor of Madamoiselle and lived and gardened in New England. Her detailed observations about gardening are of limited use to those who live and garden elsewhere in the States. However, Perenyi has many wise 'thoughts' that can be acted on in almost any garden, including the advice 'don't be overly neat' - something that's taken me a while to appreciate.
Perenyi's book contains many original insights and much information not widely available at the time she wrote her book - such as gardening tips from 'Organic Gardening Magazine'. Perenyi wrote only one book on gardening but she is often quoted-the main reason I wanted to read GREEN THOUGHTS. She organized her comments Alpha to Zeta (actually ends with 'W' for Woman's Place), which are literally a set of small essays ranging from a paragraph in length to several pages on various topics from hedges and lawns to onions and potatoes.
My favorite essay is "Woman's Place" which appropriately enough covers the history of women in the garden from Eve to Eleanor Perenyi. She reveals the sad truth that women invented horticulture while men were off hunting in packs, only to be thrown out of the garden at a later date when men "took charge" of the fields. Over the eons, women were relegated lower and lower positions garden-wise until they became decorative ornaments - well at least in upscale gardens East and West, whether the Seraglio with it's harem or the Virgin's Bower.
In the gardens (er..vegetable patches) of traditional societies she says women became beasts of burden. Perenyi notes that Oriental women do the weeding in the rice paddies and carry the firewood in Africa. At any rate, while European upscale men were busy adapting their posh Renaissance gardens to the latest 'Arabasque" notion or plowing up the 18th Century landscape under the guidance of Sir Humphrey Repton (and still hunting in packs one notes), enterprising nuns and country women with their "messy" cottage gardens preserved the diversity of the native species of plants. In the 20th Century, Gertrude Jeckyll and William Robinson discovered what the old wives had been up to and introduced "native" plants to upscale country gardens. The moral of the book is that men's overly tidy and rational gardening habits are bad and women's messy garden habits are good. Rational agriculture destroys, messy gardening preserves.