Blogger Amanda Thomsen's new gardening how-to is equal parts sass and sage advice.
Cross a graphic novel with a gardening book and you have a grow-guide for the next generation, Chicago landscape designer and blogger Amanda Thomsen’s flinty, funny Kiss My Aster: A Graphic Guide to Creating a Fantastic Yard Totally Tailored to You. It was probably inevitable that the Daniel Clowes crowd would eventually find a way to blend the increasingly hip domain of growing and a new take on the gardening manual. Got a tween gardener on your hands? A cool apartment dweller flummoxed by her first suburban front yard? This may very well be the book for them.
With fun, cartoony illustrations by Cape Town, South Africa designers Am I Collective, Kiss My Aster has a wily, inventive spirit geared toward the beginning gardener who has moved into a new home and finds, in Thomsen’s words, a yard “with all the appeal of a cheap hotel bedspread.” As you would expect from a book targeted to the Urban Outfitters and Portlandia crowd, Thomsen serves up the yard as a lifestyle indicator and advertisement of personality. This will undoubtedly strike an appealing chord for growers who see gardening as the mosh pit of the 21st century: who wouldn’t want a yard as cool as they are?
With a title like Kiss My Aster, this guide book is naturally peppered with Thomsen’s quirky sense of humor.
“Overwhelmed? Don’t be. You’re just reading a book! Wait until you’re knee-deep in quick-set concrete before you freak out,” writes Thomsen. This helpful message is delivered by a pink unicorn. Clearly this is not your average gardening book. Be prepared for some snark served up along with the advice, as in Thomsen’s catalogue of “Bad Landscaping Bingo,” which will either sting like the truth (“gnomes”) or inspire a chuckle or two (“giant boulder in front yard for no reason”). Thomsen, being a landscape designer, can be blisteringly pragmatic, advising readers without plant expertise and lacking a great eye to consider hiring a professional.
With titles like “Shrubs: the Khaki Pants of the Landscape” and “Soil, Yourself,” this is a lady who likes to have fun outside and approaches gardening with just the kind of knowledge of human fraility and plant- and weather-caprice that can serve as the wind beneath any beginning gardener’s wings.
Despite the megadose of smarty-britches, Thomsen delivers sound advice, even if some of it may be familiar to experienced gardeners, like her recommendation to go “landstalking” and survey the beautiful yards of neighbors for ideas or her crash course on the function of gardening zones.
There is undoubtedly a niche in the current growing-crazed market for a bare-bones field guide (find out where water lines are buried before you dig!) that injects fun and irreverence alongside its solid advice, and Kiss My Aster may very well be it.