Jun 12, 2007

Book Review: Down the Garden Path by Beverley Nichols

Be led down the garden path in a pleasant way with Beverly Nichols' 1932 original book on country gardening. I found Down the Garden Path, a hardcover, at a library sale and got it for about 50 cents or so. It doesn't have the original jacket cover but was printed in 1932, when the author was in his 30s. Yes, Beverley Nichols is a "he", and of course, he's British.

Who else but an English gardener would rhapsodize on every page about flowers and plants and pamper them to an extreme, to the extent of sheltering a foxglove with an umbrella during a particularly heavy rain (because, as he says, foxgloves don't like to be wet).

After buying a country cottage in the English countryside, Nichols proceeds to fill the garden with flowers and bushes, and goes on to plant a wood, build a great rock garden, dig a pond, and of course, hire a gardner. Nichols, in his gardening frenzy, competes with the neighbors, in particular a Mrs. M, who never fails to find fault with his landscaping and the health of his plants.

He gets his revenge when he catches her red-handed, unearthing pots of flowers she had bought and planted in her garden, pots and all - the flowers she claimed to have grown from seeds bought in a "penny packet."

Down the Garden Path is entertaining and informative, and at the end, Mr. Nichols promised to write many more books on gardening, and he did. He wrote this book in his 30s and he died in his 80s, so he had a lot of time to rhapsodize some more about the modernizing of his thatched cottage and the development of his extensive garden.

At the beginning of the book, the author is determined to find flowers and plants and even trees that will flower in the dead of winter. He finds the winter aconite, the Christmas rose, mimosa, and others with Latin names he doesn't give us the common names for.

I used Botanica, an Illustrated Book of 10,000 Garden Plants, to look up a few. Of course, the English climate is milder than ours and English gardens will have blooms in winter that we won't have here.

Would you believe that Down the Garden Path is often reprinted, in hardcover! The original is illustrated with garden scenes of cupids, garden tools, and country landscapes, and I think the reprints also have these illustrations.

This book was a lucky find at that library book sale!


Blue Heron said...

I never put gardening and mysteries together... till you showed me how!

Anonymous said...

I have this in my TBR. It camefrom the 50p box in my local used bookshop. No dust jacket, but the endpapers are absolutely gorgeous.

Harvee said...

Fleurfisher: What a lucky find. I'm envious :) I'm sure there are more of his books to be found like that in the U.K.

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