Lexington author extols green-thumb grandparents

Lexington author extols green-thumb grandparents

Contributing WriterJuly 21, 2012 


    Karen Angelucci reads and signs 'Across Grandma's Garden'

    ■ 11 a.m. July 21. The Morris Book Shop, 882 E. High St. (859) 276-0494. Morrisbookshop.com.

    ■ 2 p.m. Aug. 19. Joseph Beth Booksellers, The Mall at Lexington Green, 161 Lexington Green Cir. (859) 273-2911. Josephbeth.com.

When Karen Angelucci was a girl growing up in Cynthiana, she lived next door to her grandmother Emma Lou Wade, who tended a large vegetable and flower garden between their two houses.

Going to Grandma's house, which young Karen did often, was called "going across the garden." She also spent a lot of time in the garden with her grandmother, learning to appreciate plants and nature.

Those times have been captured in Across Grandma's Garden (Acclaim Press, $15.95), a brightly illustrated children's book that Angelucci co-authored with Lauren McDuffie.

It is written in rhymes, and Angelucci says it is aimed at elementary school readers. She also says it would be suitable for a grandparent to read to a younger child or even an infant.

"My message is that grandparents are the key to getting our kids to learn how to take care of the Earth, because parents don't have time to," she said. "They don't have time to raise a garden. They barely have time to go to Kroger to get produce."

The story is essentially autobiographical, with a little literary license taken (the dog called Henrietta in the book was a wire-haired terrier named Mandy, but the name was changed for the sake of rhyme).

Angelucci said that McDuffie, a cookbook author who lives in Indianapolis, was invaluable in helping with the writing. Seth McDuffie, a recent high school graduate who is Lauren's brother-in-law, provided the illustrations.

The Cynthiana garden is still there, although somewhat smaller. Angelucci's mother, Carolyn Williams, now maintains it. Angelucci's daughters, Sarah, 14, and Rachel, 9, have visited it, but not as often as their mother did at their age.

Across Grandma's Garden is just the latest in a series of gardening contributions by Angelucci, 44, who now lives in Lexington. Her first book was Secrets of a Kentucky Gardener (2006). It provides month-by-month advice on topics including when to plant and when to deadhead spent blooms in the Bluegrass, with bits of folklore sprinkled in. She followed that in 2007 with Secrets of Tennessee Gardening, which had the same format with a little more of a Southern accent. (There's also an Ohio secrets book that is ready to go but not yet published.)

In 2009, it was Grimy, Grubby Gardening, a how-to book aimed at children. It spoke of the importance of fresh air, clean water, sunshine and soil, and it explained the difference between annual and perennial plants. Grimy was dedicated to daughters Sarah and Rachel, who were referred to as "My Beautiful Flowers."

Angelucci got more high-tech in 2011 with Karen's Garden Secrets, an iPhone app patterned on the Kentucky Gardener book, but interactive and easier to carry in your pocket.

The lessons Angelucci learned in her grandmother's garden have served her well. She is a volunteer educator for the Fayette County Master Gardener Program. She also is the arboriculture chairwoman for the Garden Club of Kentucky, a past president of the Lexington Council Garden Clubs and a member of the city's Corridors Commission.

And her interests extends to very large plants: She is chairwoman of the Lexington Tree Board.

Now retired, Andy Mead was a longtime news and features writer at the Herald-Leader. He lives in Lexington.

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