EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


May 4, 2014

A book you won't be able to leaf

“Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening” by Carol Wall

c.2014, Amy Einhorn Books; $25.95; 295 pages

Every day, all spring and summer long, you try to go to bed.

First is the flower bed, with waves of yellows, pinks and reds. Then there’s a garden bed filled with the promise of lunch. Sheets of plants make the beds you love.

Carol Wall hadn’t known the appeal of such a bed; in fact, she hated plants until she met someone who taught her not to. In “Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening,” she spills the dirt on a friendship that changed everything.

No doubt about it: the Wall’s yard needed TLC.

Dick Wall hated mowing, so the grass was wild and overgrown. Trees needed pruning, holly scraped the windowpanes, and azalea bushes – which Carol Wall hated – stood in defiance on one side of the house. That’s how it was on that March afternoon when Wall noticed her neighbor’s new gardener.

She knew that the man worked with Sarah at the local garden shop, and he made Sarah’s yard flourish. If he could do magic there, Wall imagined that he might at least be able to dig up those detested azaleas. She asked if he could work for her and, within days, Wall met Giles Owita.

He was slender and gentlemanly, with a brilliant smile and calming demeanor that contrasted with Wall’s tendency to worry. He had a deep understanding of horticulture – she was later embarrassed to learn how deep - and despite her overwrought ideas for what he called her “compound,” he knew what she wanted more than she did.

And thus, a fifty-something West Virginia white woman became friends with a middle-aged emigrant who hailed from Kenya.

As the seasons passed and Owita delighted Wall with garden surprises and lessons, their friendship grew like the plants they tended. Owita supported Wall through breast cancer and the death of both her parents. Wall came to the rescue of Owita and his family during his health crisis. Theirs was an easy friendship, but Wall sensed reluctance from the Owitas to relax.

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