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    The Word on the Street

    Beacon Hill Garden Club publishes fifth edition of ‘Hidden Gardens’

    Thomas Lingner

    Cultivating new gardeners

    The 1999 edition of the Beacon Hill Garden Club’s guide to the neighborhood’s private gardens speaks to faded social conventions. The words “Mr.” and “Mrs.” followed by the husband’s first and last name were featured prominently next to almost every photograph of a garden.

    In the new edition, the fifth since “Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill” was first published in 1959, there is no “Mr.” and “Mrs.” and the names of the garden owners are in the back of the book. That’s probably a smart move because this year, at age 85, the 60-member club is hoping to reinvigorate its ranks and stir interest in urban gardens among a younger generation.

    Beacon Hill homeowners face the challenge of small spaces with limited sunlight, a fact that the new edition addresses head-on with suggestions, such as grow vines along building walls to create a vertical landscape and cover a bulkhead with a tiered plant stand. Gardens in the new edition are grouped in chapters by defining features, including walls, gates and doors, light, and color. The heavy use of photographs — most are by Tom Lingner and Peter Vanderwarker — and the lists of plants, shrubs, and trees that do well on Beacon Hill make the book a good one to browse for ideas. Flowering plants such as impatiens and begonias that can survive without full sun are neighborhood favorites. Potted plants that can be moved around the garden to follow the sun are another popular option.


    Proceeds from the club’s book and annual Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill tour are donated to environmental organizations.

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    Tickets for a self-guided tour to 12 private gardens cost $35 in advance, $40 on May 16, the day of the tour. Books and tickets will be sold that day at booths on Charles Street. For details, visit

    Young, British, and talented

    A British invasion will penetrate the Cambridge Public Library at 6:30 Thursdayevening. First, a little background: Every 10 years since 1983 the London-based Granta literary magazine has published 20 writers under 40 in its Best of Young British Novelists issue. Who makes the cut is of great interest because the Granta judges have a good track record in picking winners. “If they were stock pickers they would have their own global funds,” Granta editor John Freeman writes in his introduction. Granta’s first list in 1983, for example, included Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Julian Barnes.

    Fresh from appearances in Washington and New York, four of the 20 writers will appear in Cambridge with Granta associate editor Patrick Ryan. They include Adam Thirlwell, who also was on the 2003 list, and Sarah Hall, 39, the grande dame of the list, who has set her novel in progress in England’s Lake District and at a wolf sanctuary in Idaho.

    Coming out

     “Seduction: A Novel of Suspense” by M.J. Rose (Atria)


     “How Animals Grieve” by Barbara J. King (University of Chicago)

     “Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction – And My Own” by Mika Brzezinski (Weinstein)

    Pick of the Week

    Jean-Paul Adriaansen of Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, N.H., recommends “Death in the Baltic: The World War II Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff” by Cathryn J. Prince (Macmillan): “If you think that the sinking of the Titanic was the worst maritime disaster ever, you’re wrong. In the final months of World War II, the Wilhelm Gustloff, packed with thousands of Germans (mostly civilians), vanished in the Baltic Sea after it was hit by Russian torpedoes. It’s a harrowing well-written story.”

    Jan Gardner can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @JanLGardner.