Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Lavender path in Bath, England

In winter ’09 I was a judge in the Garden Writers Association competition for best garden book of the year. The judges assessed dozens of books; the grand prize will be announced in three weeks.

I just finished reading my favorite garden book of the decade, maybe even of all time. It was written in 1932 so doesn’t qualify for this year's Garden Writer's award. The book is “Down the Garden Path” by Beverley Nichols.

I suppose every American and British gardener has enjoyed this book for years, but I came to it only last week, ultimately seduced by the exalted praise in the Timber Press catalog. I know never to believe a person trying to sell me something, and yet when I was desperate for a summer read, my library came up with an old edition, one of 32 editions that have been in print since first publication. No colored pictures, no “how-to’s”, just delicious adventures in gardening.
Dyffrn Garden, Wales

Nichols is not an expert, but a reporter/playwright/novelist who is in the full flush of garden discovery. He is peevish, his humor acerbic, his prejudices on full display. He’s a misogynist, and yet I can ignore this trait that would enrage me in a contemporary writer. "Down the Garden Path" is a book by a writer with a man-servant and a gardener, so it relates to another time and class, yet the author's discoveries are eternal.
His chapter on gardening in London speaks to the problems and joys of all Big City gardeners.
Treat yourself.
Magnolia in home garden below street level , Bath England

1 comment:

Ellen Zachos said...

I haven't read this one, but I love his books about cats (Beverley Nichols' Cats' A. B. C. and Beverley Nichols' Cats' X. Y. Z., also from Timber). To keep it relevant, the cats are often in the garden!

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