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“Dean Hole, the celebrated Nineteenth-century rosarian, reported a variety of answers when he asked the question ‘What are gardens for?. ‘Strawberries’, a youngster replies. Those slightly older answer, ‘Tennis’ and ‘garden parties’. A horticultural bore opines, ‘A garden is for botanical research and for the classification of plants.’ A rapturous ‘flapper’ takes a different tack: ‘What is a garden for? For the soul, sir, for the soul of the poet. For visions for the invisible, for grasping the intangible, for hearing the inaudible, for exaltations…above the miserable dullness of common life into the splendid regions of imagination and romance.’ The first answers may be succinct to the point of being lapidary, and the last may breathless gush, but all contain a grain of truth about the universal motives for garden making and for garden visiting. Among other things gardens are for food, fun and fantasizing. Remembering Jane Austen’s heroines and all those significant walks in the shrubbery, we might extend the alliteration by adding ‘flirtation’.” – Rory Stuart pg. 8 in the book WHAT ARE GARDENS FOR? Visiting, Experiencing and Thinking about Gardens

Rory Stuart book WHAT ARE GARDENS FOR?

That is how Rory Stuart starts his book. Your mind is activated from the first paragraph of this delightful book. I love pondering, and this book helps the reader think more holistically about our relationship with gardens and gardening. It was recommended to me in a comment to one of my posts. In the book he talks about critiquing gardens. And that was very useful to me, as I critique my own work and the work of others. How I wish I could have a conversation with Mr. Stuart and get his thoughts on gardens I have designed. In lieu of that, I go back as often as I can to gardens I have designed and we have installed and let them tell me themselves if they work.

The painting A Lady Reading a Book in a Garden by the artist Frank Dicey (1838-1888)

The painting A Lady Reading a Book in a Garden by the artist Frank Dicey (1838-1888)

Reading is another one of my passions, only slightly second to visiting gardens and gardening. I have thought about the connection of gardens and books about them. I think I look to authors to help me define, in words, my life long obsession with plants and gardens. In the end of the day, I can’t truly describe why I love to be in a garden…but I do think it is very basic. I am at peace in a garden! And heaven would be reading a book in a garden : )

RORY STUART is the author of the Gardens of the World: the Great Traditions. He worked as a teacher of English literature in India and America and at Uppingham School, Westminster School, and The Cheltenham Ladies’ College. He inherited a Cotswold cottage with a beautiful garden and began to look at plants and gardens critically, which eventually led to a course in Garden Design. He set up as a designer, and began writing articles for magazines including Hortus, The Garden, The English Garden and The Historic Gardens Review. He has led garden tours of France, India and Italy and his fascination with gardens has now taken him to Rome, where he is learning how to grow plants in the challenging conditions of the hills outside the city. – from Amazon

Here is an interesting review of the book in the British paper The Telegraph. And a more provocative review by Sheppard Craige in the blog Thinking Gardens.

I would enjoy you sharing your thoughts about what gardens are for you in the comments?

Happy Gardening!