Category Archives: Earth Laughs in Flowers

Unearthing The Secret Garden


If you love gardens and are interested in the lives of authors, Marta McDowell writes books for you to love. My sister-in-law recently sent me a lovely gift — a copy of Marta McDowell’s new book, Unearthing the Secret Garden: The Plants and Places that Inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Frances Hodgson Burnett is one of my favorite authors. She wrote The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, two of my all time favorite books. She was also an avid gardener, and created three special gardens over her lifetime — one in England, one in the United States, and one in Bermuda. This book goes into great detail about each of those gardens and about the life of FHB herself.

What an interesting character was FHB! She was not at all what I expected, but I enjoyed getting to know so much about her personality and her life. The book was also filled with wonderful photos and illustrations. Two of the photos that I thought were quite lovely are below. The one on the left shows her sitting in her garden at Maytham Hall. I thought the photo was like a lovely impressionistic painting and had to look closely to see her. The photo on the right is of her writing desk, and I love to see photos of the desks and spaces that writers use to create their wonderful works!

Her love of gardens and her writing were deeply intertwined.

It was a lovesome, mystic place, shut in partly by old red brick walls against which fruit trees were trained and partly by a laurel hedge with a wood behind it. It was my habit to sit and write there under an aged writhen tree  gray with lichen and festooned with roses.

~ From My Robin (1912), describing the rose garden at Maytham Hall..

Marta McDowell divided the book into four sections: before The Secret Garden, inside The Secret Garden, after The Secret Garden, and outside The Secret Garden. At the end of Part Three, she wrote:

Frances Hodgson Burnett gardened as she lived — large — and became the unlikely inspiration for generations of gardeners through The Secret Garden. She unlocked a door that beckons. If you ask a gardener if they have a book — in particular a childhood book — that led them into gardening, many of them would name The Secret Garden. Frances would be pleased.

And for those of us who garden and grab ideas for our gardens from everywhere, there is an extensive table in the book that lists the flowers, fruits, and trees FHB planted in each of her gardens. Finally, I have to rave about Marta McDowell, not just because of this table, but because of all the amazing detail she put into this book! She is a wonderful researcher!

Garden Snapshot: Fall Hydrangeas

I love what happens to my hydrangeas in the Fall! This part of that “long cycle” is so beautiful, and I know that Spring will bring the return of these lovely flowers.

…the flowers ring their changes through a long cycle, a cycle that will be renewed. That is what the gardener often forgets. To the flowers we never have to say good-by forever. We grow older every year, but not the garden; it is reborn every spring.

~ May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep

I Cherish…#5: Dad’s Rose Garden

Today, my Dad would have turned 101 years old! He’s been gone for 27 years now, but I cherish my very special memories of him. They keep him close to me every day. The last time we drove past our old family home (pre-pandemic), his rose garden was flourishing! It warmed my heart to see his beloved roses in bloom, still gracing the old neighborhood with their beauty.

April Reflections, 2021

My reading in April really dropped off, due to some happy busy-ness. Reading time was given over to Spring garden projects, a visit from our daughter for the first time in most of a year, and the call to be outdoors by the return of very pleasant weather.

I was able to finish two books in April. The first one was Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell, (which I loved). The second one was The Consequences of Fear, by Jacqueline Winspear, (a fun addition to her Maisie Dobbs series). I also made a little more progress in my long-term project of reading The Emperor of All Maladies: a Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee, a book that is both painful and fascinating to read.

I must confess that not spending so much time reading during the day was delightful. It is simply wonderful to be outside in the sunshine after the long gray days of rainy winter/early spring in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Early February in the Garden, 2020

…from The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, by Edith Holden

One of the things I love about living in Oregon is that winters are mild and the “spring” garden really comes to life in January and February! I guess our reward for the very dark and rainy days of November and December are the early bulbs in bloom in early February! Around here, my gardening friends plant their Sweet Peas on President’s Day! That all just fills my heart with gardening joy!

These snapshots from my yard and garden give you an idea of what early February is like in an Oregon town 30 miles west of Portland, up against the Coastal Range, 50 miles from the Pacific Ocean!

 

January in the Garden, 2020

…from The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, by Edith Holden

It’s been a strange January, weather-wise.  We had one very short sprinkling of snow that I would have missed entirely if I had slept-in another hour that morning! The temperatures have been unseasonably warm, and everything seems to be getting ahead of itself — one bulb blooming in early January, other bulbs coming up all over the place now. I’m not complaining, but it does seem unusual.

Here are some January photos from around the yard.