Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Gardens In My Favourite Books

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

" Flowers lead to books, which lead to thinking and not thinking
and then more flowers and music, music. Then many more
flowers and many more books..."

Alongside the heart wrenching world events happening at this time, closer to home I am immersed in gardening—flowers mainly, with a few veg and herbs in pots as well. It's mostly happening between winds and rain, mind you. I had to rescue a sun loving vine the other day; her roots were about to drown in the riverlet pooling beside it. Rearrangement of a few rocks to form a tiny ditch and the water was happily diverted. I do hope the vine is drying out in the sun now. It's true what they say....working in a garden and creating beauty, taking care of something certainly helps to keep the mind and heart quiet these days.

Since gardening is on my mind and I have not done a book post in a while, I'm merging both subjects in today's post: I am gathering eight favourite books in which gardens are part of the story. I sometimes find myself pining to wander through some of these storybook gardens—some are so delightfully described that they take a life of their own in my imagination. Many English novels seem to know how gardens can be what Penelope Lively calls 'an atmospheric ingredient' in the tale. Especially with their descriptions of heroines walking in the garden on a warm summer evening or experiencing the scent of lilacs wafting through an open window or arranging irises for the dining room table. I don't know about you, but sometimes these fictional gardens seem so real so as to create living memories of a place I have only ever visited in my imagination. I think of it as a joyful mingling of life and art.

And so I mingle gardens and books today. Not to get too complicated, I'll share the book titles with suitable excerpts from each. I had great fun putting this together—I do hope you enjoy! 

Image by dtaylor77 from Pixabay

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

"Will you tell me how long you have loved him?"

"It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know
when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first
seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley."

A very good reason to fall in love with the man, don't you think? After all, a man who appreciates such beauty around him must have beauty in his soul as well. No wonder Mr. Darcy lingers long in our imaginations.

* * *

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life, 2016
Wakehurst, West Sussex, England

The Secret Garden

by Frances Hodgson Burnett

"Where you tend a rose a thistle cannot grow."

"It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses which were so thick that they were matted together. . ."

"All the ground was covered with grass of a wintry brown and out of it grew clumps of bushes which were surely rose-bushes if they were alive. There were numbers of standard roses which had so spread their branches that they were like little trees. There were other trees in the garden, and one of the things which made the place look strangest and loveliest was that climbing roses had run all over them and swung down long tendrils which made light swaying curtains, and here and there they had caught at each other."

* * *

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life, 2016
A garden in England

The Scent of Water

by Elizabeth Goudge

"Mary waved to her and went back to the garden. She walked slowly along the moss-grown path beside the jungle that had once been a herbaceous border, her thoughts busy with Michaelmas daisies, golden rod and peonies. In the shrubbery on the other side, when she crossed over to it, she found among the weeds, japonica, guelder rose, escallonia and actually a couple of laurels, all of them grown into trees."

"She went down to the end of the lawn and sat on the edge of the empty pond, close to the pink and white blossoms of the crab apple trees, and looked up at the boy with the bow and arrow, remembering the glimpse she had had as a child. He had waited for her a long time. She sat by him lulled almost to sleep by the birdsong and the bee hum and the warmth and scents of spring. Then twelve o'clock struck from the church tower."

"They crossed the road to the orchard and leaned on the gate, the scent of apple blossom coming to them on the light wind. From the crimson of the unopened buds to the white of the fully opened petals, every gradation of rose color was present in flights and drifts on the lichened branches. The apple trees were old and it seemed a miracle that such misshapen age could support this airy lightness."

* * *

Image by Nick Stafford from Pixabay


by Daphne du Maurier

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. . ."

"I wondered why it was that places are so much lovelier when one is alone. How commonplace and stupid it would be if I had a friend now, sitting beside me, someone I had known at school, who would say: 'By-the-way, I saw old Hilda the other day. You remember her, the one who was so good at tennis. She’s married, with two children.' And the bluebells beside us unnoticed, and the pigeons overhead unheard. I did not want anyone with me. Not even Maxim. If Maxim had been there I should not be lying as I was now, chewing a piece of grass, my eyes shut. I should have been watching him, watching his eyes, his expression. Wondering if he liked it, if he was bored. Wondering what he was thinking. Now I could relax, none of these things mattered. Maxim was in London. How lovely it was to be alone again."

* * *

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life, 2016
Scotney Castle and Garden, Tunbridge Wells, England

The Blue Castle

by L.M. Montgomery

The Blue Castle doesn't have a garden exactly, but when Valancy moved with her new husband to the woodsy island where he lived, she found paradise. And so I had to include it in this collection. I have loved this story since forever.

"Barney knew the woods as a book and he taught their lore and craft to Valancy. He could always find trail and haunt of the shy wood people. Valancy learned the different fairy-likenesses of the mosses—the charm and exquisiteness of woodland blossoms. She learned to know every bird at sight and mimic its call—though never so perfectly as Barney. She made friends with every kind of tree."

"‘The woods are so human,' wrote John Foster, 'that to know them one must live with them. An occasional saunter through them, keeping to the well-trodden paths, will never admit us to their intimacy. If we wish to be friends we must seek them out and win them by frequent, reverent visits at all hours; by morning, by noon, and by night; and at all seasons, in spring, in summer, in autumn, in winter.’"

* * *

Image by Kerstin Riemer from Pixabay

The Shell Seekers

by Rosamunde Pilcher

"A long rope was strung between three of these trees, and here Penelope pegged out her washing. Doing this, on a bright fresh morning, was one of her deepest delights. A thrush was singing, and at her feet, thrusting through the tufty damp grass, bulbs were already beginning to shoot. She had planted these herself, thousands of them; daffodils and crocus and scilla and snowdrops. When these faded and the summer grass grew deep and green, other wildflowers raised their heads. Cowslips and cornflowers and scarlet poppies, all grown from seed that she had scattered herself . . . (she'd) pause by her little tree of Viburnum Fragrans, its twiggy stems smothered in deep pink blossom that smelled, miraculously, of summer. She would fetch her secateurs and clip a spring or two, to scent the sitting room. . ."

"The garden, when (Penelope) came here, was a wilderness, but that had been part of the fun. She was a manic gardener and spent every spare moment of her days out of doors, clearing weeds, digging beds, barrowing great loads of manure, cutting out dead wood, planting, taking cuttings, raising seeds. Now, after five years, she was able to stand there and gloat over the fruits of her labour."

* * *
Image by Lara Hughes from Pixabay

The Enchanted April

by Elizabeth von Arnim

Four women, a castle in Italy, wisteria, and solitude

"All down the stone steps on either side were periwinkles in full flower, and she could now see what it was that had caught at her the night before and brushed, wet and scented, across her face. It was wisteria. Wisteria and sunshine . . . she remembered the advertisement.

Here indeed were both in profusion. The wisteria was tumbling over itself in its excess of life, its prodigality of flowering; and where the pergola ended the sun blazed on scarlet geraniums, bushes of them, and nasturtiums in great heaps, and marigolds so brilliant that they seemed to be burning, and red and pink snapdragons, all outdoing each other in bright, fierce colour. The ground behind these flaming things dropped away in terraces to the sea, each terrace a little orchard, where among the olives grew vines on trellises, and fig-trees, and peach-trees, and cherry-trees. The cherry-trees and peach-trees were in blossom—lovely showers of white and deep rose-colour among the trembling delicacy of the olives; the fig-leaves were just big enough to smell of figs, the vine-buds were only beginning to show. And beneath these trees were groups of blue and purple irises, and bushes of lavender, and grey, sharp cactuses, and the grass was thick with dandelions and daisies, and right down at the bottom was the sea. Colour seemed flung down anyhow, anywhere; every sort of colour piled up in heaps, pouring along in rivers. . ."

If you haven't read it, you might want to also seek out Elizabeth's semi-autobiographical novel Elizabeth and Her German Garden. It's entertaining reading on a summer afternoon.

* * *

Image by Beverly Buckley from Pixabay
Heliotrope smells of cherries and vanilla, hence also known as cherry pie plant 


by Agatha Christie

Anyone who knows Miss Marple of St Mary Mead also knows, when not busy solving murder mysteries, she's in the garden tending her roses and doing battle royal with bindweed. In Nemesis, however, she is advised to leave her garden to go on a Famous Houses and Gardens tour to see scenery and visit gardens in a part of England she's not visited before; it's all part of a master plan to catch a murderer.

" 'Miss Marple said, looking at the flowers near her, 'How beautiful peonies are. That long border of them—so proud and yet so beautifully fragile.' . . .

After luncheon she was taken on a tour of the garden. It was Anthea who was deputed to accompany her. . .They had come along a grass path and were pausing in front of a kind of hillock that rested against the wall at one end of it.

'Our greenhouse,' said Miss Anthea mournfully.

'Oh, yes, where you had such a delightful grapevine.'

'Three vines,' said Anthea. 'A black Hamburg and one of those small white grapes, very sweet, you know. And a third one of beautiful muscats.'

'And a heliotrope, you said.'

'Cherry pie,' said Anthea.

'Ah, yes, cherry pie. Such a lovely smell...' "

* * *

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life, 2016
Sweet Peas seen in an English Country Garden

" There are few pleasures like really
burrowing one's nose into sweet peas. "

* * *

Any favourites you would add to this list?

Here's wishing you a beautiful day.

Heart Hugs,


  1. Oh Brenda!I am blown away by your wealth of beautiful literature you constantly share! Once again my to-read list grows!The Scent of water, The Shell-seekers and The Enchanted April! on this note I'm off to my garden!
    Blessings to you on this perfect June day!

    1. Janet, you'll love all three! We have no rain or wind this morning, so I'll be in the garden doing some fertilizing of perennials. Wishing you a great day!

  2. One book (or rather series of books) that springs to mind is the #1 Ladies Detective Series by Alexander McCall Smith. I love the little vignettes in the stories about the main character, Mma Ramotswe and her careful tending of her pumpkin vines--the cautious watering so as not to waste any of the precious liquid, and the providing of some shade if the sun got too hot for the young vines. Not a lush garden, not a large or important public garden, but just as well-loved and tended as any of those. In fact, perhaps more so, because of the economic importance of Mma Ramotswe's pumpkin patch to her household finances. I didn't realize the impression those descriptions made on me till now as I describe them for you; makes me want to re-read the series!!

    1. Oh oh oh...of course, Mma Ramotswe's simple garden is so evocative and it's not until you said it that I realize it too. I love when she finds a bit of shade under a big tree in which to park her little van.

  3. Reading in a garden can be lovely too! In the 1980's, I worked in a small shop called Booktique. The Swiss-trained bookshop owner
    had a reading garden at the back of the shop. I've read in lots of public gardens in Paris. We've lots of rain today so I'll have to move some pots to drier spots. I just placed a new book order yesterday. I've got some interesting titles awaiting me. Did you enjoy the Penelope Lively book?

    1. Your Swiss-trained bookshop owner sounds a delightful fellow--to have a reading garden back of the shop. Penelope's book arrived last week, so I'm in the midst of reading it. Enjoying as I go. :)

  4. Lovely! 🙂 Delightful selection of both photos and passages.

  5. Some of my favorite books but also 2 that I haven't read! So that will be fun to search for on my library. I have Rebecca as an audio book and I would highly recommend it to listen too....it's mesmerizing! Enjoy your day!

    1. I'll have to find the audio for Rebecca now that you recommend it too. Any particular presenter to watch for?

  6. This was fun! I've never read The Blue Castle but now its on my list. I recently watched Enchanted April, but I'm sure the book is much better. On the list as well!

    1. I love the movie Enchanted April; I saw it before I ever read the book. Now both are favourites.

  7. What a wonderful list, Brenda. I've read them all but will happily read them again. Maybe this time Mary will end up with Dickon.

    1. We can only hope, Amalia. Of course, in the old movie, Colin was played (when he grew up) by a young Colin Firth, so we were happy with that outcome too. :)

  8. Wonderful! Now I have a list of summer reading for relaxing in my own garden.

    1. Relaxing in your own garden, that sounds lovely. Happy reading.

  9. All of your book selections are favourites of mine, other than Nemesis, which I don't think I've read. Blue Castle is one that I have re-read many times. I'm currently re-reading Coming Home, another Rosamunde Pilcher book that also contains lovely gardens.

    Such a great idea you had, to delve into your books and share them with us. Thank you.

    1. You've given another book to add to my own list. I read Coming Home years ago, so I'll go in search of it.

  10. The garden photos offered a feast for the eye. The book excerpts provided a balm for the soul. I met old friends here and encountered new acquaintances.

  11. Gorgeous photos! Were you in England? What took you there?
    The first two books that jumped to my mind were Pride and Prejudice and The Secret Garden. After that, I had to think a little harder. Anne of Green Gables. The Mitford series. Beautiful books with wonderful garden descriptions.
    I hope you have a great day!

    1. Yes, Cassandra, we visited England the summer of 2016 and the spring of 2017. Both were holiday trips and both were a joy! Oh yes, both the Anne and Mitford books are filled with great garden descriptions; good ones to add to the growing list.

  12. Well, you've done it again, twisted my arm to buy another book. ;-) I ordered 'The Scent of Water'.

    Loved your photos, you really took some wonderful ones in England. Thanks for sharing ~ FlowerLady

    1. Lorraine, thank you so much for your comments. I do hope you'll enjoy The Scent of Water (now that you're arm has been twisted - wink). Thank you for stopping by, happy day!

  13. Brenda what a wonderful way to combine two of my favourite hobbies. I always loved "Rebecca". In reading that line makes me want to reread it. Some books are just wonderful to revisit. Enjoy your garden. Hugs!

  14. Oh my goodness! You have hit on so, so many of my very favorite writers! "The Scent of Water" is my favorite Goudge book. I can't wait until I've forgotten it well enough to read it again :) And E. von Arnim! Have you also read her "Elizabeth and Her German Garden"? You would love it. Austen, yes. And then you ended with a Thirkell quote! We must have a LOT in common :) It makes me want to go back and read all those lovely books again.


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo