Book review: Outside in My Dressing Gown by Liz Cowley

Outside in my dressing gown
Outside in my dressing gown

‘Spring – where are you? Where have you been hiding for so long?’

The weather certainly hasn’t given us much to smile about this year so step into the garden with people’s poet Liz Cowley and let her wicked wit work its growing wonders.

Cowley always gives us real-life ‘chapter and verse’ in her funny, piquant poetry and in her new and vibrant anthology she digs over the triumphs and disasters of being an avid gardener.

Outside in My Dressing Gown, a true labour of love for a self-confessed, obsessive amateur gardener, is her warm and winsome follow-up to A Red Dress, What Am I Doing Here? and the acerbically observational And Guess Who He Was With?

Penning her odes in the form of a seasonal gardening diary, Cowley slips on her dressing gown and takes a whimsical peek at all those loved and hated perennials from an army of snugs and snails, rampant dandelions and bitter allotment wars to sunny salad days, soaring dragonflies and shimmering seas of bluebells.

Nothing misses Cowley’s sharp eye and here she enjoys venting her spleen at infuriating weeds, nosy neighbours, expensive tree surgeons and the frustration of overcrowded flower shows where, she wryly observes, ‘if you can’t see the prizes and all the surprises, I think you should get in for free.’

Other pet hates like the next door’s barbecue, ‘equally jarring’ with its ‘smells of meat charring,’ and overgrown Leylandii which the neighbours think ‘splendid’ until ‘your friendship’s ended,’ also come into her line of fire.

Cowley leaves no stone unturned in this garden of delights. Her poems come in many different styles, from classic to modern, and she is as much at home describing the exhilaration of seeing the first crocus as relaying to us the irritation of losing a much-loved trowel.

A natural poet in the natural world, Cowley’s 100 gems of outdoor observation are guaranteed to strike a chord with gardeners everywhere, as well as making us laugh and lifting our spirits.

The ideal gift for gardeners good... and bad!

(Bene Factum Publishing, hardback, £9.99)