43 Literary Gardens

Gardens Change People!

Gardens make us feel like gods. They change deserts to paradise. They open hearts seeking more to life than just survival.

One day I was listless and unhappily married, the next found me hauling dirt ten blocks on the top of my children’s stroller.

The view from the ground floor Brooklyn apartment I lived in was pretty bleak. Concrete and brick abounded. Shouting and laughter from the bar across the way annoyed me when on sunny afternoons my children tried to nap.

Middlemay Farm garden

I bought a pack of 6 purple petunias, crept through the damp basement (the only way to get to my new secret garden space) and set the potted garden on my sill. But I’m obsessive. I saved pennies (we were broke), I stole irises from my mother and scanned gardening catalogues for days in January for cheap but pretty bushes that didn’t mind Brooklyn’s cramped spaces.

The first summer after my catalogue purchases I dragged in used furniture and argued with the landlord about cutting down a weedy sumac tree (non-poisonous). He was Greek and missed his gardens so let me have the final say with a warning to keep things under control.

The next summer the honeysuckle and the creeping ivy burst forth to cover an eyesore wall. A butterfly bush bloomed in the makeshift bed by the ugly chain link fence and I was hooked. The stroller took a beating but my kids loved walking the mile each day to get Italian ices (my husband had landed a good paying IT job by then) after I purchased yet more dirt and flowers.


Gardening Brings New Friends

010From nowhere squirrels, butterflies and robins arrived — their songs softening the bar noise. And then it happened. Neighbors I didn’t even know I had (since I was totally consumed with beautifying my life) started hailing me from their apartment windows. They loved the birds. They asked about the unusual plants. They smiled.

Literary Gardens

When I imagined my character John Weldon arriving at the McCullough home I knew he would fall in love with the girl in the garden, but first he fell for the garden with its possibilities. For a man escaping the wilderness of war Sarah McCullough’s charming garden offers Weldon hope that life is about more than just surviving.

 “Weldon, make yourself comfortable in the yard. I’ll be back lickety split.”

Weldon nodded and stepped back from the horse as it pulled away. His hands sweated. He had stayed away the Sunday but could not stand to be alone another day. A rabbit ran through the garden of ripe tomatoes and green pumpkins. A small tortoiseshell cat lay sunning itself on the side porch, where brooms and yard tools were hidden by trailing morning glories in blue and purple.

Weldon considered bolting. He didn’t belong here, but after a quick glance toward the house he crouched down to run his fingers over the hilly pumpkin skins and the soft round tomatoes. Weldon pulled a furry leaf from the low-lying lamb’s ears and slipped it into his pocket. Sunny black-eyed Susans burst out where they’d be most pleasing. The wild lilies stood at attention like well-disciplined followers of an inspired leader. Weldon marveled at the planning. His visit was unplanned, unannounced—that had been a blunder. The McCullough family might not like such surprises, and it was still so early in the day. [THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD]

Do you have a favorite garden in books? How about in your real life? Let me know in the comments!






Our new baby call ducks!



22 responses to “43 Literary Gardens”

  1. Beautiful! Anne Shirley’s garden and scenery descriptions are some of my favorites, also in Elizabeth Goudge’s books there are always marvelous gardens. The Secret Garden, of course. I know there is more!


  2. I always enjoy learning about a writer’s background for the stories she writes. I can just see you hauling your dirt and seeds to plant a tiny plot of beauty in Brooklyn.

    When we first moved to our house, a strip of asparagus fern lined the edge of our yard. I hate this plant. We finally got rid of enough of the eucalyptus trees to plant something attractive. Three years later, I realized that the landscape company I’d hired to pull the ferns and plant other bushes and flowers, had simply rolled the asparagus fern bulbs into the soil. The yard is already poisoned by the eucalyptus roots (they never go away,) making an unfriendly space for most plants, so now asparagus fern is all over the yard.

    I’ve been planting succulents with a little success but I’ll never have the garden I’ve always dreamed of.


  3. Those baby calls are so adorable!!! My favorite garden story as a child is a bit similar to yours. I read it over and over– Rumer Godden’s “An Episode of Sparrows”. Thanks for the reminder to take a peek again at that heart-warming tale.

    Liked by 1 person

    • HI Lori! How are you?

      We got the call ducks as a companion to our one remaining Khaki Campbell. Then the Khaki got killed by a raccoon. I had no idea how much I’d fall in love with these little call ducks. They’re old enough to live outside but I find it comforting to keep them inside a cat crate at night in my garage. I put a little sheet over the cage and listen as they nestle into the straw bedding… they may never sleep outside. LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Can I just tell you how much I love this?! That you created beauty–and beauty in a place you didn’t even OWN–that the beauty was more important to you than the permanence. Shows your soul, friend:).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Adrienne, a beautiful post! 😀 You paint a vivid picture of the young you, hell-bent on creating a garden in the midst of the concrete. It must have been magic for you to see the flowering honeysuckle, buddleia etc the next summer – and nothing like gardening to make new friends, bring people outdoors. One of my favourite books as a child was The Secret Garden – it held me entralled and I’m sure I’ve been seeking something similar ever since! 😀🌸🌼

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful Adrienne and I also love the way you give us a background which creates an even stronger bond with the garden you create. It is like a fairy tale story to me how among this rubble and concrete you create so much beauty and all is blessed. Watered by your hope and love. O.k. …and back breaking work.
    When the birds arrived my heart sang for you and all was well.
    ~ Miriam


    • Thanks, Miriam. When I’m driven to do something I don’t even notice aches and pains. I’ve seen too many people in my life worry about dying and their aches and pains while wasting time that could have been so pleasant. I think I’m blessed to have my mother’s unceasing curiosity and vigor. I hope you are well today!


  7. Lovely post and blurb, Adrienne. As for gardens, a plethora of perennials is currently marching in mine and I’m thoroughly enjoying the spectacular parade. As for literary gardens, Burnett’s Secret Garden and R.L. Stevenson’s A Children’s Garden of Versus. Gardens change us all for the better! ❤


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