I’m getting ready to find out more about the writer Eudora Welty by reading One Writer’s Garden: Eudora Welty’s Home Place by Susan Haltom, Jane Roy Brown, and Langdon Clay (University Press of Mississippi, 2011)
Then I’m going to find out all about the poet Emily Dickinson when I read Emily Dickinson’s Gardens: A Celebration of a Poet and a Gardener by Marta McDowell (McGraw-Hill, 2004).
After I’ve become better acquainted with Miss Dickinson through her gardens, I’ll head across the ocean to meet Beatrix Potter and her gardens when I get my hands on Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Tales: The Plants and Places that Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales by Marta McDowell (Timber Press, 2013).
Then I might as well stay in England, figuratively, and dive into the life of Winston Churchill by reading Churchill and Chartwell: The Untold Story of Churchill’s Houses and Gardens by Stefan Buczacki (Francis Lincoln, 2007).
Detecting a theme here?
I’m down in a rabbit hole looking for the stories of writers, politicians, anyone, as told by their gardens. Gardens do tell us a lot about people, don’t they?
I’m not looking for stories that anyone wrote about their own gardens. I’m looking for stories about their gardens that tell us more about who they really were.
I’m sure there are more books like this. Do you know of any?
Marian S says
As a Virginian and history buff, the first that comes to mind is A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello.
Marta McDowell says
Two of my favorites are Derek Jarman's Garden and The Wild Braid by Stanley Kunitz. Neither exactly fit your criteria as both Jarman and Kunitz were involved in the books, though not as solo authors. Jarman died before the book was finished if memory serves, and the book was finished by his partner. Kunitz was 100 years old and wrote it with Genine Lentine. Both are poignant examples of what I like to call "the pen and the trowel effect."
If you haven't already read it, I'd recommend "The Language of Flowers," a novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. I've included below a link to the New York Times review. You're probably looking for stories from the past of or by writers whose gardens influenced or inspired their writings, this book is different. It's more a coming of age novel in which the power of plants comes through. Beautifully written, I'd recommend it for gardeners especially and non-gardeners as well.(http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/08/books/the-language-of-flowers-by-vanessa-diffenbaugh-review.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)
"An Island Garden" by Celia Thaxter. Try to find the boxed edition with illustrations by Childe Hassam. Delightful to read about gardening on Appledore Island in the late 1800s, and the illustrations are stunning.
Gardens are the most honest autobiographies a person can write.