NON-FICTION//The Virago Book of Women Gardeners- ed. Deborah Kellaway



First things first, it’s because of this book that I now write a garden blog.

I’m going to admit that I totally judged this by its gorgeous cover and first spotted it in The Book Corner in Halifax’s Piece Hall (go- it’s a lovely shop!), but didn’t have the money to buy it.  They very kindly reminded me of what it was when I came back from Cornwall desperate to read about nature and have a vague memory of this, in order for me to order it from the library. Please take this blogpost as proof of a promise that I will be buying at least a few books from them when I’m back in Yorkshire in the autumn. Honestly, if I lived nearer I’d be angling for a job and I’ve already added them to my imaginary book tour for the launch of my imaginary book.

Back to the book- it’s a real treasure trove of writing by women over the last 100+ years and there are many famous names here: Vita Sackville-West, Gertrude Jekyll, Beth Chatto, Sylvia Plath. All plant-life is here, from meditations about weeding and colour, to the perfect flower arranging and a look at life as both a country and a town gardener. There is stuff here for literally every type of gardener; you soon realise that you can grow a garden anywhere after a reading a piece about a tiny garden created on the balcony of a London high-rise in the late 1970s. I came away feeling a sense that I could do this stuff and, if it went wrong, what would that matter? As long as I learnt, then so be it. (Side note: there’s a lot of life-lessons hidden in these pages that apply to more than just the garden.)

Like any anthology, it’s a bit hit-and-miss and there are bits that are less interesting than others. It all depends on what your interests are. But overall, this is a brilliant and inspiring book. I also realised that there was no-one writing in the sort of way I like to read about gardens any more, so the seed of my garden blog was sown. But more than that, it made me want to get out in my garden and do the jobs I’d been putting off, to read more about how I can encourage wildlife into my garden. It feels wonderful to be so inspired and to see my garden as something to be enjoyed and shaped, rather than a tangle of weeds and hard work.

I also now have a reading list as long as my arm and a plant list that’s even longer. I’m searching out books particularly by Gertrude Jekyll, whose no-nonsense approach to gardening is just what I need. I mean, look at this amazing picture of her:


She has had enough of the male-dominated gardening field, mainly because she knows she’s better than loads of them.

I was also HUGELY inspired to learn that Vita Sackville-West became a garden writer without any formal training. I mean, obviously I’m not an aristocrat- they generally don’t come from South Leeds- and I’ve never successfully written a novel. But hey, if anyone wants to commission me based on a week’s worth of gardening blogs and a willingness to chip my nail varnish planting nasturtiums, let me know.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s