A Spring Tour of Beloved Literary Gardens
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. — Cicero
Lush gardens and books are delights that never grow old. The Roman statesman and philosopher, Cicero, lived between 106 and 43 BC. Yet, his quote is just as fresh and appropriate on the first day of spring in 2023.
When walking into a spring garden full of bold red tulips and enchanting yellow daffodils, bringing a carefully selected book to read is a must.
As the days grow longer, imagine reading in one of these five lovely gardens from beloved stories:
Hester Gray's Garden
There is something poignant about four girls, full of life and dreams for the future, coming upon an abandoned garden once loved by another young girl who is now long gone:
"...hemmed in by beeches and firs but open to the south was a little corner and in it a garden...or what had once been a garden...
"There were traces of old paths still and a double line of rosebushes through the middle; but all the rest of the space was a sheet of yellow and white narcissi, in their airiest, most lavish wind-swept bloom above the lush green grass."
Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery
Elizabeth Bennet's Rambles
When I think of Pride and Prejudice, I first see the parlors and assembly rooms where subtle dances of conversation take place.
A second look makes me realize how many important scenes occur along cultivated pathways, gardens, and woods. Elizabeth Bennet especially enjoys her rambles when she can get away from the strict rules of society.
Elizabeth receives two unwelcome marriage proposals indoors, but it is a proposal on a walk outdoors that changes her life.
In this passage, Elizabeth first sees the grounds of Pemberley and begins to see Mr. Darcy in a new light:
"Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste."
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Lord Emsworth's Garden at Blandings Castle
Lord Emsworth, the beleaguered Earl of Blandings, just wants to potter in his garden and give unwanted advice to his head gardener. Everyone conspires against him, especially that most efficient of all spectacled secretaries, Baxter.
Instead of enjoying a day among his flowers, Lord Emsworth is neatly bundled off on a train to London. Here is what Lord Emsworth is missing in an early novel (one of my favorites) from the Blandings series by P. G. Wodehouse:
"...the immediate neighborhood of the castle was ablaze with roses, pinks, pansies, carnations, hollyhocks, columbines, larkspurs, London pride, Canterbury bells, and a multitude of other choice blooms..."
Leave it to Psmith by P. G. Wodehouse
Leave it to Psmith also contains one of the funniest scenes ever to grace an English novel, all involving raining flower pots.
The Vice-Regent of the Sun
G.K. Chesterton wrote one of the most striking passages about flowers in his essay, ironically named The Glory of Grey. We'll look ahead to a late summer garden for this quote about sunflowers:
"Against a dark sky all flowers look like fireworks. There is something strange about them, at once vivid and secret, like flowers traced in fire in the phantasmal garden of a witch. A bright blue sky is necessarily the high light of the picture; and its brightness kills all the bright blue flowers.
But on a grey day the larkspur looks like fallen heaven; the red daisies are really the red lost eyes of day; and the sunflower is the vice-regent of the sun."
The Secret Garden
The world is a closed-in place for lonely orphan Mary Lennox. When she arrives at Misselthwaite Manor, nothing seems to change at first. She is still unhappy and out-of-sorts with everyone around her. Gradually she discovers the power of love, life, and healing, centered around a secret garden:
"And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles."
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
May you find bright words and flowers within a book and a spring garden.
Writers often look for inspiration in their gardens. Take an armchair vacation to the homes of five famous authors:
Linda Borromeo is the author of Mystery Shores, a novel for ages 10 and up (and everyone who loves historical mysteries). Set along the misty Pacific Northwest coast, the story is filled with animals, birds, a rare type of flower, a lighthouse, and secrets that young sleuths Christie and Melina must solve.