Fulfilling, funny and utterly beguiling, A Fig at the Gate: The Joys of Friendship, Gardening, and the Gaining of Wisdom, her 19th book, takes us with Kate Llewellyn, now in her seventies, as she embraces a new phase in her life, establishing and nourishing an entirely new garden in which she finds not only delight but a focus for a meditation on aging.
Following the joyful trial-and-error crafting of her gardens in the Blue Mountains and in the north of Wollongong in NSW, Kate buys a house near the sea in Adelaide hoping to reconnect with old friends and family.
In her bare backyard Kate creates what is mainly a food garden, planting olives, plums, limes and blood oranges, learning how to keep poultry, setting a duck on eggs. She finds joy and solace in the fruiting of her trees and in enjoying the harvest of her own garden. Weather, birds, and learning new skills delight and enrich her. Kate also writes about relishing old friends, making new ones, long companionable beach walks, taking pleasure in old recipes, food and wine, and her three brothers.
Wise and joyful, accepting what she cannot change while relishing what she has, Kate shares the beauties and frailties of the human condition and shows us what the gifts of ageing can bring.
“I so feel that A Fig at the Gate is a book that is needed as we all sift and sort these things in our lives.” Belinda Jeffery
Until I read Kate Llewellyn I had no idea that gardening consisted of moving things around so much. She was constantly uprooting plants, shifting them as easily as furniture. This was a completely radical light bulb moment for me: you mean if it’s not thriving you can just dig it up and try it somewhere else? I tried it and it works. Just one of many tips I learned from this poet/gardener.
Llewellyn’s style is a little wild and messy, in the garden and on the page… What is, however, undeniable, is her formidable energy although she writes in this latest chapter of her gardening journals about the onset of age curbing her vitality, I see no sign of it. Her mind is agile, playful, and sharp as secateurs. Caroline Baum.