Column: Cultivated, the book

Christin Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener and soon-to-be-published creative non-fiction writer

Big news, but first a story. Ten years ago, around the time we bought our house in south Oak Bay, I started a file on my computer called ‘Forty Somethings from the Domestic Front’. I was closing on 40 and thought it clever in a Nora Ephron or Erma Bombeck way, that if I could just pull together 40 personal essays about the suburban life I’d signed up for, I’d survive it.

I had abandoned a tortured memoir I wrote in graduate school, so I put essays and chunks of text about love and money and dinner in my 40-somethings file, and later when I started writing this gardening column, I popped them in there too. ‘On Love’ ‘On Gardening’ ‘On the Body’…there was pretty much a place for anything, whether raw and unpolished or published and fine.

I use a cracker bit of software called Scrivener which is the best tree any monkey mind can climb. You can organize layers of thought: parts, chapters, notes, pieces, pictures…it makes you feel together even when you’re not.

Over the years, the ‘40-somethings’ became who-knows-how-many-somethings as I added my work for Gardenista, my newsletters, blog, and musings on flowers, colour and design, as my garden and floral business – Cultivated, grew. Plants usurped money and love and most certainly dinner as my 40s wore on.

A bigger dream took root: What if these tens of thousands of words about plants could be shaped into a book?

So I added a new folder: ’Proposal’, dropped and dragged and wrote as a new tree grew…

I’m thrilled to announce that I have signed with Princeton Architectural Press in New York to create book on floral design.

We’re calling it ‘Cultivated: The Elements of Floral Style’. If you know the Strunk and White book about writing, if you know I once had to teach an undergraduate class called ‘Elements of Style’, you’ll know this title (which my savvy editor came up with) makes me happy. It will be a photographic and literary book produced by a press that specializes in visual culture. A fine marriage, I think.

My deadline is in six short months, so I’ll be slowing down my columns in the Oak Bay News to every six weeks as I write like a demon and create new designs and photograph them. Happily, I can report I’ve been over at Chatsworth House in England teaching the Duke of Devonshire’s house florists and have a fine story to tell. Until then, thanks to all of you in Oak Bay – be it at Windsor Park or Demitasse or in the village, who have encouraged me and supported Cultivated. It feels good to go big and go home.

Christin Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener and creative non-fiction writing instructor at the University of Victoria.

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Christin Geall works to deadline on both the words and imagery for Cultuvated (the book). This is her image of the unassuming but inimitable mignonette, Reseda odorata, with Briza maxima. (Christin Geall photo)

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