Monday, January 30, 2012

Garden Books and Dreams

I love books about gardens. There is something so hopeful about them. The writer often tell an inspiring story of dreams and goals. There is the search for the house with enough land for a garden. It can be small or big, it just has to feel right. Sometimes the land is bare or there already may be a garden, but it is awful and needs to be torn out. Then the dreaming begins and such exciting planning. Garden books are studied and advice is sought. The space needs to be plotted out and the soil has to be prepared. 

The actual planting begins with all its mistakes, happy accidents, and well-thought out choices. There is the inevitable tearing out of things that didn't work, the advise from fellow gardeners, and the happiness at seeing something take root and flourish. Searching for garden ornaments is an ongoing project and designing garden structures such as arbors and pergolas is a creative part of the process. And oh what joy when treasures are found! Finding the perfect fountain to anchor the garden can be a glorious moment. There is the satisfaction as the years go by and the garden matures. One is in awe at the beauty and romance of the pear tree when it blossoms with the most beautiful and delicate white flowers. The result of all that effort is the peace and serenity of sitting in the garden and enjoying the magical retreat that has been created.

At this time of the year I love pulling out my favorite garden books. There are two kinds that I read. First, there are the how-to books. They have the lists of all the different kinds of roses, peonies, geraniums and any other flower you desire. They give advice on which vines will grow best on your pergola. They tell you what kinds of conditions that magnolia tree you want so badly requires. There are instructions on how to trim boxwood or how much sun your hydrangeas need. This information is necessary and crucial to figuring it all out.  

But I also love reading the classic garden books such as those by Elizabeth Von Armin, Beverley Nichols and Frances Hodgson Burnett. These are not how-to books, but are instead inspiring reads about hopeful gardeners and dreamers. Often the story of the garden is a metaphor for discovering meaning and hope in their own lives. Somehow the garden helps them get there. It is the process and the work that allows them to forget about their problems. There is also the joy of being outside in nature with the sun warming their backs, the community of fellow gardeners they meet along the way, the visible results of their efforts, and the paradise they have created that leads them to a greater state of happiness. It is as if creating a garden is a formula for finding happiness. 

As I looked at our garden in the shadows of a late afternoon on a recent day in January, I remembered the days when it was just a dream. I have to say that much of its creation is due to the wonderful books about gardens I have been reading most of my life. Spending time out here on a warm summer day with a good book or just dreaming about the next new plant to introduce into the garden is true happiness.        


  1. Your garden is lovely!
    I too have a passion for books on gardens and roses. I recently watched the special on Prince Charles' garden at Highgrove. It is hosted by Alan Titmarsh and so worth viewing.

  2. Thank you for reminding me about Beverley Nichols! Someone somewhere told me to check out his books and then I promptly forgot.

    Your garden looks fantastic. It definitely doesn't look anything like January (or at least what January is like here!).

  3. On a cold and dark January evening what an uplifting post to read. We're just discovering our new garden. This month's surprise - the snowdrops that are popping up in the beds. I'm excited about what the spring and summer will being. I shall take note of some of your books.

  4. Ciao Domenica :)
    Your blog is very beautiful. And your garden looks - WOOOOW :))
    Warmest wishes,

  5. I have fond memories of reading that Martha gardening book as a little girl! Those rows and rows of hedges!

  6. Hostess, I would love to watch that special on Prince Charles' garden at Highgrove!

    Lauren, you will love Beverley Nichols, he is an English writer, eccentric and so funny. Really you will laugh at loud. Start with "Merry Hall." He tells the story of finding an old manor house in the English countrside and restoring it and the garden.

    Joan, I love the image of the snowdrops popping up in the beds. What an uplifting sight.

    Meg, I love that you were reading Martha Stewart when you were a little girl!

  7. We're going to be moving into a different home, and I FINALLY have a real chance to plan the whole garden. We have lived on the beach before, or in NYC in an apartment, so no real garden opportunities. I'm so excited about it, and will be ordering some of these books you've recommended. Beautiful and inspiring post, and your backyard is glorious!

  8. Kathy, I am excited for you. You will be so happy to get an outdoor space, it's like an extension of the house, another room for you to live in. Congratulations on your new home!

  9. While I know what I like and can certainly appreciate a beautiful garden, I have no talent whatsoever in this area! I am the not so proud owner of a brown thumb and therefore cannot weigh in on the merits of any of these lovely sounding books!

  10. Sunday, your garden is absolutely beautiful! I love it and I am sure that you spend many happy days there with family and friends!

    I could not agree more with you about Downton Abbey! At least 10 Kleenexes were needed for last nights episode!

    Have a great week, Elizabeth

  11. Such a beautiful garden Sunday...and I love you tucked yourself in the corner. A perfect image for such a wonderful post. A creative spirit works here...there is no question about that! As always, you have given my much to think about. I have so many garden images laying in is time to unleash them. Thank you!

    Jeanne xx

  12. Your garden is beautiful! I especially love the row of trees on the fence line, and your pool is making me long for sunny Calif. weather. (Have I told you that I was born in southern CA and spent over half of my childhood there?)

    My garden is still partially in the dream stage, and "armchair gardening" is one of my favorite winter pursuits.


  13. Wow...your garden is an absolute dream. I can see the love and thought that went into each planting...stunning!!

  14. I have a couple of Beverley Nichols books - 'Down the garden path' and 'A village in a valley' - that I regularly re-read, partly for the inspiration but also for the nostalgia. Like most of us, I'm a mixture of 'real' gardener and the armchair variety and I've got really hooked on finding out where some of our garden flowers originally came from and why they were brought to our country (UK) - it's fascinating stuff....

  15. Sunday, what a lovely blogsite! I'm searching for a beautiful book(s) with photos about garden pathways (that's how I ended up at Ciao Domenica!)... Do you know of any? Best wishes - Anthea G