Here again, is a book about gardening with a different bent. I could never dream of having a garden such as this- 150 acres of avenues, hedges, flower beds, impressive views and gravel walks connecting what is really a series gardens in what sounds like lovely and surprising ways. I had never heard of this author when I happened upon his book by chance. He was a university professor and sounds like he very much loved literature, poetry and the arts. His gardens were built on a grand scale with amusing quirks- personal humorous asides and favorite quotations from writers and poets placed in very apt locations. Inscribed on stone usually, and relating to each portion of the garden by its design. He says the gardens were each to represent a particular aspect of garden design history, and those who knew the references would get it the moment they stepped into the garden. I admit that rather went over my head- I did not get far with the one serious book on garden design I tried to read. While the scale of everything he did felt so far beyond my own scope- planting dozens of trees to line a path, and then replacing half of them the following year (because they died), no problem. Having artisans design and built gates out of old farming equipment, which sounds very picturesque and practical, stonework laid everywhere, bulldozers flattening or changing slopes here there and everywhere- visitors later remarking how wonderful that he’d inherited such gardens (on the old family farm) but no he built them all from practically nothing- it looked well-established though because he did it properly right from the beginning, with effort and expense but I am sure the results were beautiful. The book does have photos but most are black-and-white, not very large so I did a lot of imagining. While I could never dream of having such a spread of well-designed and flawlessly laid-out gardens (he had formal gardens of many designs, an herb garden, a large vegetable garden, a cottage garden full of flowers, made a lake, etc etc) I really admire the way he thought it all through- “zany” as it sometimes sounded (his own term)- also so perfectly delightful and for once, I was familiar with most of the plants (same continent, though further north). I could well relate to many of the struggles and joys he had with plants- tending the young seedlings, digging and moving things that didn’t do well to a new spot next year, hoping to finally roust the pests (groundhogs in his case), and so on.
I was a bit surprised on finishing this book to look around online and discover that while it’s considered “a Canadian classic” there are very few online reviews- or at least I could not find any. Please see the one I linked to below. I was deeply saddened to learn at the same time that the author passed away recently in May 2020, of Covid-19. I did not know the man, nor do I ever expect to visit his gardens (if they are still kept up), but this does make me feel dismal.