A Writer in the Garden Book Review: Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life by Marta McDowell
I’ve loved Beatrix Potter’s books ever since I was a child. I have no doubt that her descriptions of Peter Rabbit, Mr. McGregor and the wood, of Squirrel Nutkin and Mrs. Tiggy-winkle, encouraged the future gardener and naturalist in me. I read the stories to my own children, too, and more recently to my grandchildren.
You can imagine how happy I was to come across Marta McDowell’s book, Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. It’s a beautiful book, filled with stories and photos of Beatrix Potter, images of her original artwork and writings, and photos of Hill Top Farm, her home and garden in England’s Lake District.
Her illustrations of Peter Rabbit and friends are engraved on my heart, but I’d not realized that she painted numerous, beautiful landscapes and botanicals.
Beatrix Potter was a preeminent gardener and naturalist. Throughout the book, amidst every sort of wonderful image, Marta McDowell tells the story of the gardener and her garden, and of the plants and animals within it. She is a knowledgeable and thoughtful guide. It is the sweetest sort of garden read.
Towards the end of the book, just when you think you couldn’t ask for anything more, she provides an appendix of all the plants in Beatrix Potter’s garden, which the author left to the UK's National Trust, and all of the plants in her books. She also offers notes and suggestions for further reading.
Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life by Marta McDowell is a wonderful, joyful book. Highly recommended.
Euonymus americana, Strawberry Bush, Burning Bush, Hearts-a-Bursting are the names I'm most familiar with for this gorgeous plant. I have three in the garden, but this is the only one to receive full sun all day and the only one already turning colors. I originally bought the shrubs for the birds. They're attracted to the fruit. Although Strawberry Bush is native to Texas (traveling up the eastern U.S.), I wasn't very familiar with it. I was therefore surprised and thrilled by the changing colors late last summer and well into fall.
For the second summer in a row, I've not succumbed to my annual gardening boycott during the hottest months. But it's not easy. High heat, humidity, and insects are formidable opponents. Aggressive weeds sometimes make gardening feel like a thankless task. But my garden is still evolving, as is this gardener. If things aren't working out there, I hold myself largely responsible.
Of course, the things that are working do make me smile.
For years, my husband and I worked at creating a series of gardens on our four-acre lot in a rural, Texas subdivision west of Houston. I have to say, it was a fantastic experience. Now, I have a pocket garden on a golf course.
From me to you with a smile.
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