Joyce H. Newman holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden and has been a Tour Guide for over seven years. She is a blogger for Garden Variety News and the former editor of Consumer Reports GreenerChoices.org.
Just in time for your holiday gift list, Marta McDowell, best known at the NYBG for her lively and informative landscape design classes, has created a wonderful new account of the writer Beatrix Potter and her love of gardening. The richly illustrated book, Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales, reveals the connections between Potter’s beloved characters—Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Squirrel Nutkin, Mrs. Tittlemouse, and many others—and Potter’s own childhood menagerie of pets; how she so keenly observed them for her pencil and paint drawings; and how much she was influenced by visits to her grandparents’ rural estate north of London and holidays at various country houses in Scotland and England.
The book has the most gorgeous collection of drawings, maps, photographs, and illustrations carefully selected and laid out to complement the narrative. In her preface, McDowell explains that Potter disliked using botanical Latin, so the main narrative of the book avoids identifying plants that way. However, the end of the book provides two extensive charts, covering 18 pages, that not only list all the plants Potter actually grew in her own garden, but also the plants that she drew and wrote about—all with botanical names included.
For anyone who loves gardening, the section of the book that takes us through the seasons of Potter’s old-fashioned cottage garden is a fantastic reading experience: seeing pansies and peas, foxgloves, roses and rhubarb, orchards in the snow, and much more.
Another part of the book focuses on visiting Potter’s gardens in England. McDowell makes you want to jump up and reserve an airline ticket. For the armchair traveler, she provides very helpful suggestions for travel books; for books on the Arts Crafts Movement and its impact on Potter’s time period; and for key biographies of Potter and collections of letters.
Beautifully published by Timber Press, an autographed copy of the book will be available at a book signing with McDowell scheduled for Friday, November 15 at 2 p.m. in the NYBG’s Shop in the Garden. In the meantime, check out some of Marta’s upcoming 2014 landscape design courses.
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