Literary Gardens Worth Strolling Through

CMBG At Home, Gardening

After putting the garden to bed, we might find we have a bit more free time on our hands. If, like us, you can’t get enough of the garden, even during the off-season, then maybe a stroll through some literary gardens might be just the ticket? If you haven’t visited them lately, here are some favorite (and famous) literary spaces to explore.

  1. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass: Who can forget the refrain, “We’re painting the roses red” in the Red Queen’s perfectly cultivated rose garden? Or Alice’s foray into the garden of live flowers? Potent settings for this dreamscape of a novel, they’re easy places to get lost in!
  2. The Secret Garden: Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s book taps into every child’s dearest wish: a secret, undiscovered space wherein adventures and discoveries abound. For gardeners, Mary Lennox’s careful work, bringing her uncle’s forgotten garden back to life, is especially satisfying.
  3. His Dark Materials trilogy: One of my favorite book series, you may have read it (and loved it) too, but did you know that Oxford’s Botanic Garden plays a starring role? In Philip Pullmans’ final installation, the main characters even talk about returning to the garden and sitting together on a bench there every year.
"Painting the roses red." Image in public domain.
Houghton Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  1. Five Little Pigs: Okay, so this isn’t quite a heart-warming classic, but Agatha Christie was an enormously prolific and experienced gardener. She also had incredible knowledge of plant constituents (and plant poisons), thanks to her training as an apothecary’s assistant during WWI. Five Little Pigs is a good example, not only of the horticultural murder weapon (spotted hemlock), but also for its real-life setting—Greenway, Christie’s own cottage and garden located near Torquay on the coast of England. She even created a commercial nursery there! If you’re a mystery lover like I am, maybe some of her other books (and their botanical weapons) will sound familiar: A Pocket Full of Rye (deaths by henbane, nicotiana, and yew); The House of Lurking Death (ricin from the castor oil plant), They Do it With Mirrors (monkshood), Hickory Dickory Dock (opium poppies), and Appointment with Death (foxglove), to name a few.
  1. The Gardens’ Winter Book Club: If reading about gardens and nature sounds like your cup of tea, then we invite you to our Winter Book Club. Join the conversation as we discuss four acclaimed books with nature at their core. We’ll conduct these conversations via Zoom, so anyone can participate. To see what we’ll be reading, head on over to the first class listing here.