Book Review – Virago Book of Women Gardeners

‘The Virago Book of Women Gardeners’ edited by Deborah Kellaway.

This book is a delight to read. Deborah Kellaway has brought together a collection of excerpts from the writings of some one hundred women gardeners. She was a gifted garden writer herself and her obituary in the Guardian is well worth reading.

She begins with a short but scholarly study of garden writing from the end of the nineteenth century through to the modern day, charting the ebbs and flows and fashions especially through the war years.

Then she allows the writers to speak for themselves. She includes contributions from such well-known writers as Jekyll, Chatto, Pavord and Hobhouse. She also includes the writings of others, less well-known, who have equally toiled in the design and building of their treasured gardens and taken the time to write eloquently of their observations and experiences.

These writings have a comforting old-fashioned feel to them. They take us back to an era when time seemingly passed at a more genteel pace. The words were not punched out on a processor but written with the refinement that only a fountain pen can bring.

There are no bullet points or sardonic wit that characterises the modern style of garden writing. Instead of gimmicks we find a poetical knowledge and wisdom that enthuses the reader with inspiration and encouragement.

This is a book that one can dive into and always find something interesting. To read of their dedication and their passion, their successes and their heartbreaking failures, is to be uplifted by those who have gone ahead of us.

‘The Virago Book of Women Gardeners’ is edited by Deborah Kellaway and published by Virago Press. On Amazon the price today for a second-hand illustrated hardback was 1p with £2.80 postage or second-hand paperback was £1.34 postage paid or £6 with postage for new paperback.

For my American cousins the price on Amazon today for a second-hand paperback was $1 plus $4 shipping or $3 new hardback but not sure of shipping costs.

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