The blurbs on this book sell it short, because they compare it to a Jeeves and Wooster novel. There’s the slightest of comparisons there, but it also belies that this novel is more so like a Stoner (by John Williams) for gardeners. We begin with the old Old Herbaceous working in his garden in his 80s. We’re told a little about his reputation and his sensibility. He’s arrogant, but competent. He’s a genius, and he’ll let you know it. Those kinds of things. When get transported all the way to his youth, we realize that he was once a small boy working in a manor house who basically just falls in love with gardening. Having a certain genius for it, and being taken by it, gives him the shape and trajectory of his life in ways we could all dream of. As we move forward in time (and this book takes a slow but steady progress forward) we are treated to a series of various events, moments in time, and other elements that give shape to this life. There’s a funny incident when he’s young when he “falls” for a young undermaid and steals some orchids for her, to the scandal of all the neighborhood. From there, we learn that he is unable to join the army when Britain decides to have the Boer War (lucky for him, I’d say), and this begins a kind of life in which it seems he keeps missing the big events of his life (or that happen outside of his small life). He’s too old for WWI (and presumably still unfit for the military life) and he’s nearly eighty at the outbreak of WWII. So what does he do instead? He gardens. He develops a asymmetric friendship with the owner of the manor, and when she grows old and sells the estate, he has to fight to keep his small house on the estate. This is a whole life, and it’s funny and weird and charming and sometimes boring and sometimes wonderful. I still think it’s lucky to not go die in those wars.