Archive for the ‘Gardens and Gardening’ Category

Almost as soon as I expressed an interest in gardening books, blog reader Margaret Powling recommended that I try The Laskett by Roy Strong.  Thank goodness she did as otherwise I would probably never have come across this wonderful chronicle of how Strong and his wife, designer Julia Trevelyan Oman, created The Laskett, “the largest formal garden created in Britain since the war.”  It has not only become one of my favourite gardening books – and probably the most inspirational of the ones I’ve read so far – but also one of my favourite books of 2012.

Part of what makes this book so incredibly fascinating are the plentiful photos included in it.  It is wonderful to actually see the garden progress over the years, from the bare fields that were there in the mid-1970s when Strong and his wife purchased a very ordinary early Victorian house set on four acres in Herefordshire, to the established, rather eccentric garden of the early 2000s.

Another huge part of the book’s appeal is the level of detail Strong happily goes into.  I loved how specific he was.  I need details (the more minute the better) and Strong provides them, getting into the particulars about cost and labour.  As a reader, it is very easy to win my affection: all you need do is disclose your finances to me.  Works every time.  As both Strong and his wife were devoted to a poorly paid field (the arts), The Laskett was created on a shoestring budget, with many cutting and plants donated from friends.  It was fascinating (but also a tad frustrating) to read how many trees could be purchased in the 1970s for less than £20 and equally intriguing to find out just how little cash there was to work with, Strong having received a paltry salary at the V&A (where he was the first director without a private income).  His portrait of 1970s, pre-Thatcher Britain is bleak and the creation of The Laskett, begun in the mid-1970s, was his escape from an ever-more worrying world that seemed on the brink of collapse:

I was fully conscious from the outset that The Laskett garden was a child of its time, the middle of the seventies.  When I talk to groups I am about to escort around the garden I always evoke those years on the backcloth to the making of The Laskett garden.  In front of me I often see nothing but a sea of bewildered faces, as though gardening was a world apart from reality.  I remind them how in January 1974 I went to the Victoria & Albert Museum and began my directorship in the midst of the three-day week, with the miners on strike and the imminent collapse of the Heath government.  My secretary and I sat and worked by candlelight, for government had decreed that the lights be turned off.  This was the prelude to over five years of social turmoil until, after the so-called Winter of Discontent in 1979, a Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher came to power.  Even then it was not until the middle of the eighties that anything remotely resembling stability and economic prosperity returned.

Strong writes so engagingly about the creation of the garden, sharing all number of personal stories about his inspiration and adventures while making it, that you can’t help but warm to him.  I did finish the book a tad envious of his diverse circle of friends, many of whom are paid tribute to in the garden.  He and Julia had such an amazing group of gardening-inclined friends and acquaintances to draw inspiration from.  I started taking down names as I read, eager to learn more about these people if I could.  Some are well-known (Cecil Beaton and Rosemary Verey, for instance) while others sounded vaguely normal but terribly fascinating (like George Clive), the kind of people who no doubt gain mentions in all sorts of books written by their friends but who will never be the focus of one themselves.  The best thing about reading memoirs (which is essentially what this is) by interesting people is how many other interesting people they know and are able to ‘introduce’ you to.

I think Strong may have also inspired a passion in me for formal garden design, which, given the spaces I’m likely to have available in my city-dwelling lifetime, is inconvenient.  Where am I going to have the chance to indulge a passion for topiary, or even the chance to create garden ‘rooms’?  His passion for structure, for trees and hedges creating walls and canopies, was intoxicating: 

Hedges to most people are a burden.  To me they are a joy.  If I had to simplify The Laskett garden I would indeed sweep away everything and leave just the hedges and topiary.  They endow the garden with its romance and mystery, evidence too that garden is as much about placing human beings in space as are architecture and theatre design.  It is not for nothing that I sometimes like to shock an audience by saying to them, ‘Remember, flowers are a sign of failure in a garden,’ a remark that is always guaranteed to produce a reaction. 

Who needs flowers indeed!  Me, I would have said before I read this, but Strong has converted me (except for my beloved blubs – I could never give those up). 

I think what I loved most about The Laskett is how individual it is.  Strong was inspired by others but this is identifiably his garden, telling his and Julia’s story.  It may not gain the approval of professional garden designers, may not follow the ‘rules’ gardeners are supposed to abide by, but it is wonderfully them, from the garish paint choices to the unexpected (and abundant) statues.  It chronicles episodes in Strong’s life, pays tribute to friends and family, and celebrates both his and Julia’s professional achievements.  There’s a Shakespeare Monument, erected after Strong won the Shakespeare Prize from the FVS Foundation of Hamburg, the V&A Museum Temple (Strong spent 14 years there as director), the Nutcracker Garden (one of the ballets Julia designed for) and the Elizabeth Tudor Avenue (named in memory of a book Strong wrote about her, the proceeds from which helped finance the planting).  The garden is truly Strong’s masterpiece:

The Laskett garden was never to me anything other than a work of art in the making, one that called for vision, the exercise of the eye, the application of taste, discipline, patience, craft and knowledge over a sustained period of time to conjure up an unforgettable experience through the time-honoured application of art to nature.  It was always viewed with that higher vision in mind, one of a kind I learnt about through studying garden history.  There I read that any great garden was not only an arrangement of plants and artifacts in terms of design and composition but also a tissue of allusions and ideas.  In our case to wander in The Laskett garden was a journey of associations.  On a superficial level the garden sets out to delight and surprise but, on a deeper one, for us the resonances have always been far more complex.

It took decades to develop the garden to the impressive state it was in when the book was published in 2003, restricted by time and money, but the garden is truly a reflection of the gardener, of Strong’s personality and influences.  Every garden should be this unique, should have its own identity, complete with a memory and sense of humour.  It is an art, garden designing, and really does offer you the scope for wit and whimsy, drama and tribute.  But few, I think, recognize that and are truly able to make as much of their gardens as Strong.

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Hollyhocks by Frederick C. Frieseke

I blame these fantasies on those isolated moments when, undemanded, garden ideas germinate.  I see I should have kept my head, but a part of gardening must surely have come from losing it?  Without being led astray from the known and tried, how would Charles Bridgeman have conceived the idea for the first ha-ha in 1712?  Vita Sackville-West contrived a clematis ‘table’ so that she could gaze lovingly into the upturned faces of the flowers; and wasn’t it Gertrude Jekyll who first thought of growing ramblers horizontally as ground cover?  Lady Anne Tree has a dressing table of yew, a four-poster bed made of clipped box with a vine canopy, a bedside table of ivies and an armchair of briar roses.  As for outlandish garden eccentricities, they burgeoned from the dotty nineteenth-century Frenchman Audot, who made whimsical fantasies from sculptured trees, and his batty compatriot the conductor Louis Antoine Jullien, who cut his evergreens in such a way that a howling gale played the opening bars of a Beethoven symphony, to the giant shell in which to bask at Strawberry Hill, and the invention of glass cucumber straighteners.  Thank God there’s no limit to fanciful garden deviants. 

– A Gentle Plea for Chaos by Mirabel Osler

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I first heard of Dear Friend and Gardener by Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd in that brief period between discovering that book blogs existed (in about November 2009) and starting my own (in January 2010), when I was content to simply lurk about reading other people’s blogs without commenting (hello to everyone doing that now!).  It was while sifting through Simon T’s archives that I came across his brief and intriguing review of this gardening-focused volume of correspondence.  Now, at the time, I wasn’t terribly interested in gardening but I have always loved a book of letters, so onto my TBR list it went.  Since then, I’ve developed a keen interest in gardening and garden literature so I when I picked it up from the library a few weeks ago I was more eager than ever to read it.

The book and the correspondence came about because of a suggestion from the publisher in the mid-nineties.  Clearly, it was one both Chatto and Lloyd found appealing and the results is this collection of letters between the gardeners over the period of two years.  This is not a private correspondence being shared with the masses but a correspondence written with the audience somewhat in mind – that ‘somewhat’ holding the delightful key to this book’s appeal.  Chatto and Lloyd are definitely conscious that their thoughts are going to be shared with the garden-loving public (there are lots of little explanatory notes that neither expert gardener could possibly need) but that does not keep them from talking about other aspects of their lives.  Each letter is garden-focused, of course, but is just as likely to touch on family and friends, visits from shared acquaintances, summer trips to Glyndebourne, childhood memories, or favourite recipes.  The letters are a rich source of gardening knowledge but they are also, much more charmingly, a reflection of a long-standing and affectionate friendship between Chatto and Lloyd.

As much as I’ve learned about plants and gardening over the past few years, most of the specifics Chatto and Lloyd discuss went well over my head.  My knowledge of Latin plant names is almost nonexistent and I could not keep up with all of the name dropping.  This is something Chatto would no doubt disapprove of, based on her comment to Lloyd that: “If you are unfamiliar with a plant, you can easily look, but your mind will not take it in.  Knowing it especially by name, is like recognizing an old friend.”  Her comment makes perfect sense – I know I’m always more conscious of the plants I come across that I know, while the unknown all fade into the background – but I’ve a ways to go before I’m up to standard!  I was especially delighted to read both Lloyd and Chatto’s comments about young gardeners.  Lloyd in particular seems to be surrounded by young people.  I got the impression of Great Dixter as a sort of multigenerational gathering place, more often than not brimming over with fascinating young people, who spent their visits helping out in the garden, overnighting on the floor in sleeping bags, and eating the amazing meals prepared by Lloyd.  Like any experts in their field, both Chatto and Lloyd are delighted when they come across enthusiastic young hopefuls and a tad grouchy when they find ignorant, passionless students:

I am sometimes saddened (more truthfully irritated) when meeting young horticultural students in the garden, who all too rarely exhibit a real hunger for the subject.  Perhaps I malign them, maybe they are too shy to express it.  They all seem to be studying landscape design; yet when I ask a few elementary questions I find they are astonishingly ignorant about plants.  What motivates them I wonder?  Surely some passion (a lot, I would say) is required to fuel the energies, mental and physical, to pursue a career in horticulture?  Many students seem to have chosen this career without ever having put together a few plants and then watched their performance for a few weeks, or months, let alone two or three season.  (Chatto to Lloyd)

While the plant names may have been mostly beyond me, I did get a wonderful education in what it means to run gardens on the scale of Great Dixter and the Beth Chatto Gardens.  All the people, all the tasks, all the energy that goes into them through the year made for fascinating reading.  As all the different activities were described, I found myself fidgeting as I read, inspired by both Chatto and Lloyd’s example to get out and weed or prune or plant.  I also loved reading about their approaches to garden design.  I was particularly struck by Chatto’s thoughts on the importance of other artistic influences on the design process, something that came through very strongly in The Laskett by Roy Strong (an outstanding book I hope to review soon), which I read only a couple of weeks before this:

Personally I think we may have a wider approach to garden design if we have been helped to appreciate other forms of art; to be aware of basic principles – balance, repetition, harmony and simplicity – which apply to all forms of creativity.  To look for ideas in painting and architecture, or hear them in music, has certainly influenced me as much as knowing whether to put a plant in the shade, or in full sun.

The book is definitely geared to a gardening audience but I think the warmth of their friendship, the affectionate, considerate way they deal with one another, should appeal to any reader.  It is a pleasure to read about people who love what they do, however incomprehensible that occupation may be to the reader, and the strength of Chatto and Lloyd’s passion for their work is gratifying.  I think this is a book I’ll need to reread several times in the years to come.  This time through, I was so distracted at points by my ignorance that I’m sure I didn’t get to enjoy the charms of both Chatto and Lloyd as well as I could have.  As my gardening knowledge grows (and my confusion over plant names lessens), I’m sure I’ll find it even more appealing.

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I think Bulb by Anna Pavord is my new favourite ‘picture’ book.  The photos in it are absolutely stunning, so much so that I’ve barely read any of the text yet.  I keep opening the book intending to read all about hyacinths or tulips or any of the other bulbs discussed but find myself flipping forward to the next sections, just reading bits and pieces as I go about whatever flowers catch my eye.  It’s is not an exhaustive guide (covering only 540 of Pavord’s favourite bulbs) but it offers a nice combination of the familiar and the obscure with lots of practical information about planting.  I’m finding the section on tulips particularly inspiring – I’m already keeping a list of which ones I want to get in the autumn!

I took a few photos of my favourite pages to share with you all.  If you click on the photo, you should be able to see a larger version of it.

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Signs of Spring

Snowdrops and crocuses are popping up everywhere, the first cheerful daffodils have come out and a few brave rhododendrons are bursting open.   How I love February in Vancouver!  (Apologies to the rest of Canada, which still has a few cold, grey months of winter to look forward to.)

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Of all the gardening books I’ve read over the last few years, The Curious Gardener by Anna Pavord is by far the most practical.  I love the comedy of Čapek’s The Gardener’s Year and the romance of books that tell about the makings of a garden (like Merry Hall, Paths of Desire, and Elizabeth and Her German Garden) but none of those attempt to give any sort of guidance.  Oh yes, Nichols may rhapsodize on the virtues of various species of Berberis but does he tell you how to care for them?  No.  Those books seek to entertain and succeed in doing so.  But they will not tell me when to prune what or give deep consideration to the merits of various types of potatoes.  Pavord, in this excellent collection of articles from her newspaper column, does just that.

The articles are arranged into 12 sections, one for each month, and are wonderfully varied.  There are practical tips (including detailed notes at the end of each section as to garden tasks that should be done that month), garden-related opinions (‘I’ve never graduated to a holster for my secateurs.  Too Clint Eastwood.  My nerves couldn’t take the strain of trying to beat him to an imaginary draw every time I wanted to snap a twig.’) and wonderfully personal musings about how she came to love and what she continues to love about gardening.  In the introduction, she writes about growing up with garden-loving parents, an obsession she could not understand – until she moved into her first house:

It was at our first house and on the first patch of ground that we actually owned that I really discovered the point of gardening.  It wasn’t a Pauline conversion.  There was no sudden, blinding vision of beauty.  I didn’t see myself (still don’t) trolling through bowers of roses, straw hat just so, gathering blooms into a basket.  Nor had I any idea at first of the immense joy of growing food.  But I had at least begun to understand that gardening, if it is to be satisfying, requires some sense of permanency.  Roots matter.  The longer you stay put, the richer the rewards.

I also realised how completely I had missed the point as a child.  Gardening was not necessarily about an end result.  The doing was what mattered.  At this time too, I learned about gardening as therapy.  Banged up with small children all day for the first time, I thought I would go under.  When a confrontation seemed to be looming of a kind that had no solution (apart from giving away the children to the first person that passed by on the lane outside) I would race to the newly made vegetable patch and furiously hoe beans.  The children’s legs were shorter than mine and if I was lucky, I’d have at least a minute and a half on my own before they caught up with me and wanted to hoe too.  Later on, when they were five or six years old, gardening with the children became a pleasure.  But at this early stage – not.

I loved all these personal details and stories and could not get enough of them.  But I was equally eager to read the more technical articles as well.  With so much useful information about plant care and selection, this is a book I’d really like to own and be able to reference quickly.  And, though she admits it’s not a sexy topic, she could never write too much about soil for my tastes (though it sounds like I might be the only person who finds it an endlessly fascinating topic).

Having never read anything by Pavord before, part of the joy in reading this came from getting to know her and her tastes, which frequently (and happily) align with mine.  As is only suiting for a woman who literally wrote the book on tulips, she has much to say about my favourite flower.  I was incredibly impressed to discover that she planted more than two thousand tulips in her garden in preparation for her daughter’s spring wedding.  I can’t imagine a.) having that large a garden (being used to miniscule city spaces) and b.) how amazing it would look when they came up.  Extraordinary.  In a delightful article evaluating flower choices for Valentine’s day, it’s no wonder that she saves her enthusiasm for tulips:

TULIPS: As far as I am concerned, these are the best, indeed, the only flowers to send or receive on Valentine’s Day.  Wild, irrepressible, wayward, unpredictable, strange, subtle, generous, elegant, tulips are everything you would wish for in a lover.  Best of all are the crazy parrot tulips such as ‘Rococo’ with red and pink petals feathered and flamed in crinkly lime-green.  ‘When a young man presents a tulip to his mistress,’ wrote Sir John Chardin (Travels in Persia, 1686), ‘he gives her to understand by the general red colour of the flower, that he is on fire with her beauty, and by the black base, that his heart is burned to coal.’  That’s the way to do it.

A wonderfully entertaining and educational book that I must add to my collection (having read a library copy).  It’s also made me determined to read Pavord’s other books: The Tulip, Bulb, and The Naming of Names.

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"Le Parc de Saint Cloud, 1900" by Henri Lebasque

While I was on holidays last September, I posted a three part gardening reading list (see Part I, Part II, and Part III).  At the time, I asked for readers’ recommendations and promised to compile them into a fourth and final post.  I very promptly started on that post but one thing led to another…and here it finally is.  In January.  Which, really, is when I most want to read about gardens so let’s just pretend I cleverly planned it that way and this is really a product of my genius, not my absentmindedness.

Thank you very much to everyone who responded to my initial posts with their recommendations.  You all had wonderful suggestions and going through them again this week has only made me more determined to track these books down.

George Forrest, Plant Hunter by Brenda McLain
George Forest was a professional plant collector in the heyday of the British Empire. Risking his safety and health, he discovered hundreds of new species, introduced many plants to our gardens, and became one of the most outstanding plant collectors in the Sino-Himalaya. This book tells of Forrest’s adventures and his legendary escape from death at the hands of warring Lamas. It describes the impact of his plant discoveries and introductions and his competitiveness and rivalry with other plant hunters, Reginald Farrer, Frank Kingdon Ward and Joseph Rock.

Onward and Upward in the Garden by Katharine S. White
Whether White is discussing her favorite garden catalogs, her disdain for oversized flower hybrids, or the long rich history of gardening, she never fails to delight readers with her humor, lively criticism, and beautiful prose. But to think of Katharine White simply as a gardener, cautioned E. B. White in his introduction to the book, would be like insisting that Ben Franklin was simply a printer. Katharine White had vast and varied interests in addition to gardening and she brought them all to bear in the writing of these remarkable essays.

The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift
This is a book about time and the garden: all gardens, but also a particular one: that of the Dower House at Morville, where the author arrived in 1988 to make a new garden of her own.

Katherine Swift takes the reader on a journey through time, back to the forces which shaped the garden, linking the history of those who lived in the same Shropshire house and tended the same red soil with the stories of those who live and work there today. It is an account which spans thousands of years. But is also the story of one life: of relationships tested to breaking point, of despair and loss as well as joy and achievement. It is a journey through the seasons, but also a journey of self-exploration. It is a book about finding one’s place in the world and putting down roots.

The Laskett: The Story of a Garden by Sir Roy Strong
This is the story of a garden. It is also the portrait of a marriage expressed through the vision and mystery of creating a garden. Neither the author, Roy Strong, nor his wife, designer Julia Trevelyan Oman, had foreseen this when they eloped and married in 1971. Over thirty years on, they find themselves surrounded by the largest formal garden created in Britain since the war, increasingly recognized as one of the most important of the second half of the 20th century. And yet it was done not only with little money and less labor, but quite unconsciously. It is not, however, so much the horticultural triumph that will grip the reader as what this garden on the Welsh Borders in Herefordshire has come to mean in the lives of its creators. The Laskett is the story of a great love affair, a portrait of a marriage, a haunting and human tale of a garden as the domain of ghosts and as the habitat of memory. No one who reads this remarkable book will put it down unmoved.

The 3,000 Mile Garden by Roger Phillips and Leslie Land
Two professional gardeners, one British, the other American, having met at a New Hampshire “mushroom foray,” continue to share their gardening adventures in this delightful collection of their letters.

The Invisible Garden by Dorothy Sucher
A longtime city dweller and expert storyteller takes a fresh look at gardening in Vermont, tapping the connection between the mysteries of the earth and those of the human spirit.

Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence – A Friendship in Letters edited by Emily Herring Wilson
A legendary editor at The New Yorker during its first thirty-four years, Katharine S. White was also a great garden enthusiast. In March 1958 she began publishing her popular column, “Onward and Upward in the Garden.” Her first column elicited loads of fan mail, but one letter in particular caught her attention. From Elizabeth Lawrence, a noted southern garden writer, it was filled with suggestions and encouragement. When Katharine wrote back her appreciation, she reported on her Maine garden and discussed the plants and books that interested her. Thus began a correspondence that would last for almost twenty years, until Katharine’s death in 1977.

Sissinghurst by Adam Nicolson
The story of this piece of land, an estate in the Weald of Kent, is told here for the first time from the very beginning. Adam Nicolson, who now lives there, has uncovered remarkable new findings about its history as a medieval manor and great sixteenth-century house, from the days of its decline as an eighteenth-century prison to a flourishing Victorian farm and on to the creation, by his grandparents Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, of a garden in a weed-strewn wreck.

Anything by Gladys Taber

In the Heart of the Garden by Helene Wiggin (fiction)
The tale of a garden in the heart of England, and the generations of women who have found solace there. The plot of land at Fritha’s Well first becomes a garden in AD 912. It lives through the terror of the Plague years, the divisions of Civil War, and the heartbreak of the Great War.

If you have any other suggestions, please mention them in the comments! 

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The Garden at Night

I shared plenty of photos last spring and summer of my delightful visits to the local botanical gardens (here, here, and here).  Well, tonight I was back there again, not to see any flowers (clearly) but to see the wonderful “Festival of Lights” that is put on each year.  It was a perfect cool, crisp evening and we arrived just at dusk.  On entering the gardens, we were completely awed by what we saw.  I had been told by one the gardens’ volunteers (an old teacher of mine who I caught up with at a school reunion last week) that the gardens looked amazing this year but, even so, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I saw.  It was magical.

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Deux Femmes dans un Jardin en Ete - Henri Lebasque

A gardening reading list, presented in three parts – See Part I and Part II

The Curious Gardener’s Almanac: Centuries of Practical Garden Wisdom by Niall Edworthy
…contains over 1000 entries of remarkable information about flowers, vegetables, fruits, trees, herbs, insects, birds, water, soil, tools, composts, climate, recipes, gardens and gardeners, myths, superstitions, biodynamics…  In short it is a collection as profuse and variegated as gardening itself. Woven into this wealth of knowledge are famous quotations, anecdotes, traditional sayings, lines of verse, and words of rural wisdom. The spirit and focus of the Almanac is British but the wider picture is international as so much of our gardens originated from overseas.

The Garden in the Clouds by Antony Woodward
It was a derelict smallholding so high up in the Black Mountains of Wales it was routinely lost in cloud. But to Antony Woodward, Tair-Ffynnon was the most beautiful place in the world. Equally ill-at-ease in town and country after too long in London’s ad-land, Woodward bought Tair-Ffynnon because he yearned to reconnect with the countryside he never felt part of as a child. But what excuse could he invent to move there permanently? The solution, he decided, was a garden.

A Countrywoman’s Notes by Rosemary Verey
Twelve chapters endeavour to capture the atmosphere of successive months, encompassing the minutiae of plant and wildlife behaviour in the garden and hedgerow. The author celebrates the intimacies of a rural world in an idyllic setting, but with an eye to modern existence and an appreciation of progress.

The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession by Andrea Wulf
This is the story of these men – friends, rivals, enemies, united by a passion for plants – whose correspondence, collaborations and squabbles make for a riveting human tale which is set against the backdrop of the emerging empire, the uncharted world beyond and London as the capital of science. From the scent of the exotic blooms in Tahiti and Botany Bay to the gardens at Chelsea and Kew, and from the sounds and colours of the streets of the City to the staggering vistas of the Appalachian mountains,
The Brother Gardeners tells the story how Britain became a nation of gardeners.

A Little History of British Gardening by Jenny Uglow
This lively “potted” history of gardening in Britain takes us on a garden tour from the thorn hedges around prehistoric settlements to the rage for decking and ornamental grasses today, tracking down ordinary folk, aristocrats and grand designers

Four Hedges by Clare Leighton
Clare Leighton was one of the finest engravers of the twentieth century. In the 1930s, when she settled in the countryside with her long-term partner, the political journalist Henry Noel Brailsford, she turned her creativity to the land. Gardening became her passion. Her obsession. This is the story of the garden she carved from meadowland deep in the Chiltern Hills.

Please feel free to suggest your own favourites and once I’m back I’ll do a fourth post devoted to them! 

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Garden at Champigny - Henri Lebasque

A gardening reading list, presented in three parts – See Part I

The Virago Books of Women Gardeners edited by Deborah Kellaway
From diggers and weeders, to artists and colourists, writers and dreamers to trend-setters, plantswomen to landscape designers, women have contributed to the world of gardening and gardens. Here Deborah Kellaway has collected extracts from the 18th century to the present day, to create a book that is replete with anecdotes and good-humoured advice.

We Made a Garden by Margery Fish
One of Britain’s most esteemed gardening writers recounts how she and her husband set about creating an exemplary cottage garden from unpromising beginnings on the site of the former farmyard and rubbish heap that surround their newly purchased home in the countryside of Somerset, England.

Cuttings: A Year in the Garden with Christopher Lloyd
Arranged to cover the seasons, this magical book will delight all who love good gardening and good gardening writing.

The Rose by Jennifer Potter
In The Rose, Jennifer Potter reveals what makes this flower so special. Challenging many long-cherished ‘truths’, she begins in the Greek and Roman empires and moves across Europe, the Middle East, and on to China and the Americas across 4,000 years, uncovering how and why this unique flower has driven people to distraction with its charm, mystery and beauty.

Weeds: A Cultural History by Richard Mabey
A lively and lyrical cultural history of plants in the wrong place, by one of Britain’s best and most admired nature writers.

Please feel free to suggest your own favourites and once I’m back I’ll do a fourth post devoted to them! 

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