Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Armchair Garden Traveler

Traveling to, and reading about, great gardens has always been a favorite activity of mine and I've been fortunate to visit so many over the years, both in the US and abroad. Two of my favorites are Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C, designed by the prolific Beatrix Farrand, and the magnificent Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C. The British have their own way with flowers, and I've enjoyed browsing the tiny yard gardens in England and magnificent castle gardens of Scotland. Closer to home, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden outside of Charlotte is awe-inspiring, and I returned home from a recent visit with dozens of new ideas. This week I am off to visit the gardens of Biltmore Estate, in Asheville, a visit I've looked forward to for a few years now!

But when time or inclination intervene and I can't 'go', I 'read'. Having moved 3 times in the past 2 years, my moving man's aching back can attest to how many garden books I own! Mostly, I love to peruse books on the great European gardens, those designed by such people as Gertrude Jekyll. A favorite is The Gardens of Gertrude Jekyll by Richard Bisgrove. Edith Wharton's 1904 tome Italian Villas and Their Gardens has just been re-issued, complete with the Maxfield Parrish plates and it is a beauty. Harder to find, but no less interesting, An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter, with illustrations by the artist Childe Hassam. Struggling with Southern heat and humidity is a cakewalk compared to the conditions Celia dealt with on Appledore Island off the rugged coast of Maine!

Flower Confidential-The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers, by Amy Stewart, is an interesting read about the 'dark' side of the flower industry. I'll bet you never imagined there was a dark side to it! One particularly beautiful book is Pink Ladies and Crimson Gents by Molly and Don Glentzer, a fascinating history of 50 glorious roses and how they came to be named.

To be truly inspired, see Eden on Their Minds: American Gardeners with Bold Visions. I am grass-green with envy seeing what people have achieved in their gardens by being fearless!

Now, where's my trowel?..

And if you voz to see my roziz
As is a boon to all men's noziz, -
You'd fall upon your back and scream -
'O Lawk! O criky! it's a dream!'

- Edward Lear, 1885

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