I may have mentioned a time or two that when I got into gardening I would drag home oodles of library books. During these early days of my gardening novicehood I would simply drool over the pictures and marvel at how they were able to achieve such beauty. Usually these gardens would be a world away, across the pond in a land much less humid and hot than the deep south. This is when I discovered the delightfully English Rosemary Verey. This lady has a pretty amazing story herself which is told by Barbara Robinson in her new book, Rosemary Verey: The Life and Lessons of a Legendary Gardener. I haven’t gotten my hands on this book yet but I’ll be sure to do a full review when I do. In the mean while, I’d like to share with you four fantastic books written by Rosemary Verey.
Rosemary Verey started her garden design career at the age of sixty. She was a prolific garden author, designer and lecturer in the 1980s and 90s. Her famous garden at Barnsley House is still open for viewing today. Doubtless I’ll write about her other books in the future but today I’d like to concentrate on four in particular that form a small collection. These are: The English Woman's Garden, The Englishman's Garden, The American Woman's Garden, and The American Man's Garden.
What I love about these books is the collections of gardens. Rosemary includes over two dozen in each one. A lovely essay discusses everything from the history of the garden to design to specific plants. Each entry includes several photographs, sometimes in black and white, to show off particular features and the overall flavor of the gardens.
In The English Woman's Garden, Rosemary includes her own garden as well as that of the famous plantswoman Beth Chato. I did get a bit of a giggle when I noted that each garden was annotated with Mrs. Husband’s Name instead of the lady garden owner's name. But each entry does end with her own signature. The exception to this rule being if the lady garden owner has a title in her own right such as The Dowager Countess of Westmorland. Yes, indeed! Or Sally, Duchess of Westminster. Somehow I can’t picture a Duchess being named Sally, but her garden was a delight.
The Englishman's Garden features so many wonderful gardens. One of the most famous is probably Christopher Lloyd’s Great Dixter. Christopher Lloyd was a prolific garden writer in his own right having authored several books and a column in nearly every issue of Country Life up until his death. You can still tour Great Dixter today and if you can’t hop a plane anytime soon you can tour it virtually via the wonder world of Youtube.
But my favorite garden is that of Beverly Nichols’s. Beverly is yet another author but I hesitate to call him strictly a garden writer. He wrote about nearly everything and was a war correspondent to boot. He wrote some of the funniest garden books I’ve ever read save for Mrs. Greenthumbs. I so loved seeing his garden in this book. I actually got out one of his books, Garden Open Today, to compare the illustrated garden drawing to the photographs in the book. I wanted to be able to visualize how the garden was constructed and to understand where the photographer was standing when the photo was taken. I spent a long time peering over those pages, comparing the two, and even enlisted my husband to give his opinion on which direction was which. It was such a delight to see this garden immortalized on these pages after having only read about it before.
The next two books, The American Woman's Garden and The American Man's Garden, are physically bigger than the first two and contain larger photographs. It was such a pleasure to see Eleanor Perenyi’s garden after having read about it in Green Thoughts (a garden book you must absolutely read!). I also really enjoyed seeing Emily Whaley’s Charleston, South Carolina garden after having read all about it in Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden. Also, I really liked how this book was organized, by types of gardens: historic, city and town, estate, perennial, collectors and specialists, and country.
Last, but certainly not least and frankly possibly best, is The American Man’s Garden. Beautifully photographed and exquisitely laid out, this book is utterly delightful. Once again Rosemary organizes the gardens into great categories: estate gardens, country gardens, plant collectors, city and town, poets and painters, seaside, mountain, desert.
The garden of Georgia garden designer Ryan Gainey is featured on pages 124-129 and I have to say that these are some of the best photographs I’ve ever seen of his garden. I visited Ryan’s garden last year on a garden tour and can honestly say it is amazing in person.
If you ever have a chance to tour his garden it would be so worth it to get in your car and drive for hours to get there. Ryan is getting on up in years so no telling how many more times his garden will be available to tour so please take the chance when you can.
It doesn’t matter which order you read these books in but I do hope you
read them. They are a wonderful scrapbook of so many different kinds of
gardens that you will certainly find ideas to incorporate into your own.
For those of you in Georgia you can find these books in your local
The Englishwoman's Garden
The Englishman's Garden
The American Woman's Garden
The American Man's Garden
Those outside of the state of Georgia can find out which library closest to you has these books by searching here. Hint: type in your zip code to find the nearest library.