Saturday, June 15, 2013

Inspiration: Dirt, Books, and the Gardens of Others

I have an obsession with exploring other people's gardens.  Botanical gardens, city parks, backyard plots, and balcony pots--all of them fascinate me.  

I also love reading books written by gardeners.  In fact, I have a collection of books--not just how to's, but philosophical ramblings, scientific explorations, and historical overviews of garden design and landscape architecture.  

The more I read these texts, and the more I wander through the beds and borders planted by other gardeners, the more I learn, of course, but it's not the kind of learning that brings clarity.  In fact, I find gardens more mysterious and wonderful now than I did when I was five years old, building fairy kingdoms beneath the hostas and rhododendrons.

No matter how many seeds I have sown over the years, no matter how many daylilies I have divided, I am still amazed when a plant I planted makes its way up out of the soil and into the light of day.  Does this make me a simpleton?  If it does, so be it.  It's a heck of a lot more fun than the alternative.

So, I keep wandering.  And I keep reading. 

 This morning it was a book by Charles Dudley Warner, published in 1870 called My Summer in a Garden.  

"So long as we are dirty," Mr. Warner writes, "we are pure."  Amen, I say, as I find this passage in perfect keeping with that wonderful quote from Margaret Atwood: "In spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt."  I nearly always do, whether it's dirt from my own garden or someone else's.  Either way, it's my favorite perfume.

P.S. I took all these photos the other day at one of my favorite places, Gilsland Farm (Maine Audubon).  As my regular readers know, the community gardens there are an endless source of inspiration to me.  I hope they inspire you, too.


  1. You are a gardening kindred spirit! Gardens are my happy place. In books, online and especially in person, they are my favorite diversion, & I'm beginning to think of them as a necessity.

    This past winter I read English writer Beverley Nichols book, Down the Garden Path, for the first time. It is one of those books that you described that is not a how-to, but more a glimpse into the heart of a gardener.

    One of my favorite lines from the book is at the beginning where he says, "I believe in doing things too soon. In striking before the iron is hot, in leaping before one has looked, in loving before one has been introduced. ... I know that unless I write a gardening book now...swiftly, and finish it it before the last bud outside my window has spread its tiny will be too late to write it at all. For shortly I shall know too much...shall dilate, with tedious prolixity, on the root formation of the winter aconite, instead of trying to catch on paper the glint of its gold through the snow.."

    If you haven't already read it, you must! You'll love it.

    Your photographs are lovely as always, and very welcome today as the weather here has decided to pour buckets of rain on my parade.


  2. I love gardens and exploring also. Whenever we travel we search out gardens. How lovely to visit the photos of gardens here.

  3. I love going into other people's gardens and see their creativity. I always look for garden tours whenever I travel also and have come across some beautiful ones. Your photos are stunning as always!

  4. Did I tell you that our across-the-street neighbor garden bombed us? It was so great. She had all these extra plants from doing her daughter's beds and she did ours for us. I LOVE that!

  5. Gorgeous! Definitely inspiring garden, photos, and words.

  6. Just finished reading Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols. Have you read it? It is a delightful look at the author's garden and just the first book in a trilogy. I'll be posting about it in week, but couldn't wait to share it with you after your own lovely and inspiring post.


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