Sunday, October 17, 2021

Unearthing The Secret Garden

I've long been a fan of Marta McDowell's elegant and knowledgeable garden-related prose. For me, as a gardener a writer, and a reader, my cup overflows when she turns her discerning eye to writers and their gardens. Beatrix Potter, Emily Dickenson, Laura Ingalls Wilder have all received their due from this fine writer.  But, oh! when she takes on Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, it is a match made in gardening heaven.

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in saying that The Secret Garden is one of the formative and best beloved books of my childhood. And McDowell's account of Burnett's life and writing and gardens is a sumptuous feast of delights. Much like Louisa May Alcott, Burnett supported herself and her family by writing 'pot-boilers.' With the publication of Little Lord Fauntleroy, she became a wealthy woman--and was enabled to support her gardening passion in a manner most of us can only dream of.  Gardeners! Cartloads of rose bushes! Delphiniums by the bushel!

During the course of her life, Burnett made gardens at three homes--one in England, one on Long Island, and one in Bermuda. McDowell details the making of these wonderlands in such vivid description that the photographs and illustrations of which the book is full, are hardly necessary, delightful though they are.

And learning about Burnett herself was fascinating. I've had an almost lifelong acquaintance with Mary Lennox (The Secret Garden) and Sara Crewe (A Little Princess) and I loved seeing how they echoed bits of their creator's life.

Highly recommended, especially for gardeners and fans of The Secret Garden.



KarenB said...

I read both The Secret Garden and A Little Princess to shreds along with Little Women in my younger days. I clearly need this book!

Vicki Lane said...

You do.

Barbara Rogers said...

Thanks for the recommendation!

Marcia said...

Sounds like an interesting book. I'll have to look for it.

jennyfreckles said...

Sounds fascinating. I'm a big fan of 'The Secret Garden' since childhood. It, of course, is set in the Yorkshire moors, which are just up the road from here.