April 29th, 2008


Gardens in books

No hope of any gardening this afternoon as it’s pouring with rain, so I’m looking at gardening in books. The last Katie Fforde book I read was The Rose Revived and I realized that all her books were going to be a reworking of Pride & Prejudice and Bridget Jones. I just know that Hugh, in that book, looks exactly like Colin Firth but as the book and the TV series came out in the same year, how could the author have known? Spooky. Now I’m enjoying Wild Designs, mainly because there is a lot about gardening in it. So I’m wondering about books in which gardens play a central part. No cheating with ‘lovely gardens’ or ‘bright flowers’ but detailed and accurate descriptions.

I’m not including Elizabeth von Arnim or any other writers whose books grew out of the garden, as it were, but novelists who like gardening themselves and manage to make it part of the book. Elizabeth Jane Howard is rather good at this. E M Delafield and Angela Thirkell, both favourites of mine, are rather nasty in their books about people who take gardening seriously. Then in Jane Austen’s novels the people most interested in gardening are the Rev. and Mrs Norris, not agreeable characters. There’s no doubt in my mind which is the best ever book about a garden and it is of course The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This was my favourite book as a child and I’m sure it’s influenced my ideas of what a garden should be like ever since.

So I’m looking for suggestions, especially for books by men, where my mind has gone blank. Only don’t suggest The Cement Garden.