Garden Reading: One Writer’s Garden

One Writer's Garden

A few years ago I read Eudora Welty’s memoir on her life and writing, One Writer’s Beginnings. At the library last week, I noticed a book in the gardening section (where I am spending more and more time!) called One Writer’s Garden, by Susan Haltom and Jane Roy Brown. It was an exciting discovery — a beautiful thick book full of history and photographs of the Welty garden. Eudora Welty’s works are full of flowers and gardens, and it is clear that this family garden was her inspiration. I was captured immediately!

I’m immersed in the book now, fascinated with the history of the family and garden, inspired by the beautiful photographs throughout, enthralled by the stories of Miss Eudora’s life as a writer and gardener, and intrigued by her relationship with her mother and her mother’s garden!

And this morning I came into the room to discover my husband looking through the book. He, too, is fascinated by it. He showed me one photograph that he said solved the question of what kind of fence he would like to put next to the sidewalk of our new home in the Grove. He’s been struggling with the design because, as he said, the fence must compliment the house, not detract from it. We’re inspired now by Miss Eudora! …he to build a fence (how sweet to perhaps be able to call it our “Welty fence!”) and me to be inspired with the flowers I plant along our fence.

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Garden Reading: Elizabeth and her German Garden

Elizabeth and her German Garden

It was a beautiful Sunday in the Grove, so I was actually able to sit outside on my lovely reading porch and finish this book. It seemed right to read it outside on a warm afternoon. It seemed right to read it on a porch that was almost as old as the book itself. It was a very pleasant read, full of love for her garden and full of wry humor that revealed a writer of intelligence and independence.

Elizabeth and her German Garden, by Elizabeth Von Arnim, was written in 1898 and was a popular novel in its day. It’s suddenly become quite popular again, thanks to Downton Abbey! The novel reads more like a journal, one that reveals Elizabeth’s new passion for gardening, recounts conversations with her husband (the “man of wrath”), and describes interactions with her friends and neighbors. There’s not much plot, but that doesn’t seem to matter because you simply follow along with her life over the seasons, and it’s delightful.

Humility, and the most patient perseverance, seem almost as necessary in gardening as rain and sunshine, and every failure must be used as a stepping-stone to something better.

Von Arnim has been referred to as a “forgotten feminist.”  As you read this quiet novel, and catch glimpses of the patriarchical culture of that time, you begin to appreciate her strength and independence.  Her writing is timeless and her sentiments still relevant today.

Give me a garden full of strong, healthy creatures, able to stand roughness and cold without dismally giving in and dying. I never could see that delicacy of constitution is pretty, either in plants or women.

As I read it, I kept wondering if my grandmother had read it, perhaps as a young mother in the early 1900s. I thought of my grandmother a lot throughout the book. She, too, was a writer, loved flowers and gardening, and was very strong in her own quiet, gentle way. I am sure she would have enjoyed both the beauty of Von Arnim’s writing and her humor.

My favorite part of the book was the ending, so beautifully expressing my own feeling about gardening:

I do sincerely trust that the benediction that is always awaiting me in my garden may by degrees be more deserved, and that I may grow in grace, and patience, and cheerfulness, just like the happy flowers I so much love.

elizabeth-von-arnim

Garden Reading: The Secret Garden

the_secret_garden

Most of my reading recently has been about gardens and gardening. Our beautiful old house in the Grove is waiting patiently for us to become full-time residents. The gardens, so bare and simple and easily maintained, are also waiting to be lovingly planned and planted. It will be fun to show you “before-and-after” photos in the next few years.

So, with gardening on my mind, it won’t seem strange to you at all that the current Read Aloud in my second grade classroom, is The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. My students are enraptured by it. I chose the word “enraptured” very carefully because there is a lovely Magic in this book, and my students have been captured by it, my boys perhaps even more than my girls!

One sweet example of that Magic happened last week. One of my boys, who is a struggling reader but an rapt listener, came to me quietly one afternoon and said, “Mrs. R, I think I’m starting to speak Yorkshire!  “Tha’ and Thee just come out of me without thinking about it.” That kind of magic is helping him love reading even though it is difficult for him.

I think my Reading Self also chose this book (without consciously thinking about it), because it is a book about emotional healing. And I must confess that reading it aloud to this sweet group of children has had a very healing effect on me! I so enjoyed the beautiful descriptions of the garden and of the healing power of gardening!

the-secret-garden-Tasha_Tudor

Garden Reading: The White Garden

The White Garden

Any book with “garden” in the title catches my eye these days. And this one had both “garden” and “Virginia Woolf,” as well as a lovely cover, so it was a must. It’s an enjoyable read with a story that imagines a mysterious ending to Virginia Woolf‘s life, and with a little bit about the White Garden at Sissinghurst CastleClick here to read a nice review of the book by my blogging friend, Sam Sattler, at Book Chase.

Sissinghurst

Garden Reading: Barnheart

barnheart-cover

I just finished reading Barnheart, by Jenna Woginrich, and enjoyed it very much. I don’t actually have “barnheart,” that incurable longing to own my own farm, but I have “gardenheart,” which is an equally incurable longing for a garden of my own! After living in a condo for many years, I’m ready to have my own yard, flower beds, and vegetable garden again.

If you find yourself overcome with the longings of barnheart, simply step outside, get some fresh air, and breathe. Go back to your desk and finish your office work, knowing that tonight you’ll be taking notes on spring garden plans and perusing seed catalogs.