by Margery Fish
Charming little book about how the author and her husband Walter built a garden on a property in Somerset, England. I really enjoy reading about her forays into gardening later in life- and relating how she used to not understand her gardening friends who spent so much time out there working in it. Her love of the plants and excitement at trying something new really shines through the pages. Of course, being on a different continent, a lot of the plant names were totally unfamiliar to me, and the climate is different so there was quite a bit I couldn\’t relate to. She does a lot of rockwork in her garden- building walls and paths, planting succulents and other things in rock gardens and wall crevices. I couldn\’t relate much to that, either but it sounded nice. But I also have heavy clay soil so I appreciated reading about how she improved her soil. I really wish I could have my compost heap on a slightly tilted concrete slab with drainage to catch leacheate at the bottom, nicely screened by selected shrubs!
A lot of the amusement in reading this book came from the subtle antagonism between Margery and her husband. He sounds like a very domineering person, whose color choices always took precedent in the garden over hers, whose ideas of straight lines and proper plants supplanted her fondness for creeping things and interesting foliage. He at times callously took over and used a spot she had been preparing for her own choices all winter, or lopped off the heads of flowers she had been growing, because he didn\’t like the way they looked! She accepted all this, but remarks that after he passed away, she changed the color scheme of the flower beds and planted all the creeping things she wanted. There was one brief comment about how she envied men \”their pockets\” to carry secateurs around in! that neatly places this book in its era. Women\’s clothes did not even have pockets; heavy labor and decision-making was left to the garden help and the man of the house. I got a chuckle out of the way she used an old sharpened sword to cut down masses of flowers in one go, that were past their prime and needed trimming!
It would have been nice to see some illustrations of the plants, especially since I am unfamiliar with most, while their combinations are mentioned so favorably. There are some black and white photographs of the actual property and garden in my edition, but while the lushness of growth is very apparent, it is hard to really appreciate the beauty this garden must have been.
Rating: 3/5 120 pages, 1956