“Between my finger and my thumb / The squat pen rests  / I’ll dig with it.”    Seamus Heaney, Death of a Naturalist, 1966

The next best thing to gardening is reading about it. And some gardeners write very eloquently about their craft. This blog is a tiny sample from a few of those who sometimes exchanged the spade for the pen, planting seeds for thought.

in gardenrvita1

Vita Sackville West at Sissinghurst 

“She walks in the loveliness she made,
Between the apple-blossom and the water–
She walks among the patterned pied brocade,
Each flower her son, and every tree her daughter.” Vita Sackville-West, UK The Land, 1926

“I have banished all worldly care from my garden; it is a clean and open spot.” Hsieh Ling-yun  謝靈運  China (385–433)  

“And what can life in town offer in the way of pleasure to equal the delight of any one of the calm evenings I have had this month sitting alone at the foot of the verandah steps, with the perfume of young larches all about and the May moon hanging low over the beeches and the beautiful silence made only more profound in its peace by the croaking of distant frogs and hooting of owls?”  Elizabeth Von Arnim,  Austria & UK  Elizabeth and her German Garden, 1898

“If you have a garden and a library you have everything you need.” Cicero, Italy. 106-43 BC

“Long experience has taught me that people who do not like geraniums have something morally unsound about them. Sooner or later you will find them out; you will discover that they drink, or steal books, or speak sharply to cats. Never trust a man or a woman who is not passionately devoted to geraniums.” Beverly Nichols, UK. Merry Hall, 1951

Pot Pourri

Mrs Charles Earle or Maria Theresa Villiers

“I have not mentioned during these spring months the cultivation of the kitchen garden. I leave that entirely to my gardener…” Mrs C.W. Earle, UK. Pot-Pourri From a Surrey Garden, 1897.

William Robinson

William Robinson

“Do not pay much attention to labelling; if a plant is not worth knowing it is not worth growing: let each good thing be so bold and so well-grown as to make its presence felt.” William Robinson,  Ireland & UK. The English Flower Garden, 1883. 

“Let no one be discouraged by the thought of how much there is to learn. Looking back upon nearly thirty years of gardening (the earlier part of it in groping ignorance with scant means of help), I can remember no part of it that was not full of pleasure and encouragement.” Gertrude Jekyll, UK. Wood and Garden; Notes and thoughts, practical and critical, of a working amateur. 1899. 


Gertrude Jekyll in later life

“No one writes poems about parsnips. Nor do you find chefs clucking and fussing over them in expensive restaurants. Courgettes have all the fun, primped out in a hundred different way. Parsnips rarely crawl out from their traditional berth, tucked under the Sunday roast…It was Jane Grigson who pointed out that the Russian for parsnip was Pasternak. Would we feel the same way about Dr Zhivago if we knew it had been written by Boris Parsnip? It just shows how low the vegetable has sunk in our esteem”.  Anna Pavord, Gardener, UK. The Independent. 1992

“Cats can almost break a gardener’s heart”. Lady Seton (Frances Eveleen), UK.  My Town Garden, 1927

Dorothea's Journal

Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal.

“I never saw daffodils so beautiful. They grew among the mossy stones…some rested their heads upon these stones, as on a pillow, for weariness; and the rest tossed and reeled and danced, and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake…” Dorothy Wordsworth, Grasmere Journal, 1802


Gardners Bed Book

“Begin now buying those Garden Books you intend giving away for Christmas; in the meantime you can read them.” Richardson Wright (author of  The Gardener’s Bed-Book, 1929) UK

“Plants are upside-down creatures. The roots are their mouths, the leaves are their wings and the flowers their love revealed”.  Carl Linnaeus, 1707-1778, Swedish botanist.

“I always see gardening as escape, as peace really. If you are angry or troubled, nothing provides the same solace as nurturing the soil.” Monty Don, Gardeners’ World, BBC. UK


“The garden that most influenced me when I was young was a neighbour’s gnome garden…Neighbours would turn the other way. I was delighted by it.” Diarmuid Gavin, Garden Designer, Ireland. 

“The very atmosphere of a garden is its core and when a person dies the soul of that garden goes with them. If a person leaves the garden it’s never the same again.” Christine Walkden, Gardener, UK  “No Nonsense Container Gardening”. 2013

“Old gardeners never die; they just very slowly turn into the most magnificent compost. But what a marvellous active brew it is!”. Peter Cundall, Gardener. UK & Australia

“In the Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”  Margaret Atwood, Author and Gardener, Canada 

“I go to a lot of gardens where clients will say to me, ‘my garden has no colour’, and I’ll look at it and say, ‘well, there’s about 42,000 shades of green…Green is a colour too. Green is great because it’s textural and it offers contrast, you can get an awful lot of light and shade in a space with it.” Kate Gould, Garden Designer. UK

“All gardening is landscape painting.”  William Kent, Landscape Architect, UK. 1685 – 1748

“I have officially gone off purple foliage – it just makes a black hole in the border – so my dark-leafed dahlias have had to go. Good gardening is a constant process of editing, and really what it boils down to is that it’s not what you put in, it’s what you take out”. Helen Dillon, Garden Designer, Ireland.


Piet Oudolf designed garden, Nantucket, USA

“All my work is related to trying to recreate spontaneous feeling of plants in nature. The idea is not to copy nature, but to give a feeling of nature,” Piet Oudolf, Dutch garden designer. Author of “Planting the Natural Garden”. 2003

“I never feed my plants, I feed the soil” Carol Klein, Gardener, UK 

guerilla gardeninhg

Richard Reynolds at work “Guerilla Gardening” in London

“That stereotype (that gardening is only for older people) is out of date and there’s no reason why only old people should get the pleasure of gardening. I’ve been guerilla gardening now for about a decade and I’ve seen lots of young people get pleasure out of it.” Richard Reynolds, “Guerilla Gardener” UK. 



Image credits: 

Main image – Vita Sackville West (by Cecil Beaton) http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portraitLarge/mw79042/Vita-Sackville-West

Image of Gertrude Jekyll: http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Image of book by Richardson Wright: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com

Image of Dorothy Wordsworth journal: www.bbc.co.uk

Image of Nantucket garden by Piet Oudolf: www.oudolf.com

Image of Richard Reynolds – www.guerrillagardening.org/