Recommended reading: “The Gardener of Versailles” by Alain Baraton

Versailles head gardener and TV host Baraton reflects on his three decades tending some of the most beautiful gardens in the world.

Simply but thoroughly, the author narrates the history of Versailles, from the days of Henry IV sneaking off to these woods to hunt to the days of the revolution. The most surprising element is the speed with which an estate of such size was built. The gardens, on the other hand, sprung from the guiding hand of Louis XIV’s gardener, André Le Nôtre, but then took their own sweet time to flourish. Baraton importantly points out how people rush about on the Rue de Rivoli and other parts of Paris but then slow to a snail’s pace when they walk through gardens at Versailles. Gardens reach into your soul, writes the author, whether you plant them, harvest them or simply enjoy them. The author philosophizes about the ability of gardens to provide space for deep reflection, and he writes poetically about the beautiful power of the grounds he tends. He also provides some practical advice—e.g., the best places for a lovers’ tryst. The building and maintenance of the world’s grandest garden took the efforts and perspectives of a wide variety of great royal gardeners, including Claude Mollet and Jacques Boyceau, as well as builders like Louis Le Vau and Charles Le Brun. In addition to paying tribute to the work of these innovators, Baraton also looks at the various films that have been filmed on the grounds, storms that have battered them, and the effects of each season on the flora and fauna.

The descriptions of the various sites on the grounds could only come from a man fortunate enough to have lived on and loved the site for almost 40 years.

via THE GARDENER OF VERSAILLES by Alain Baraton, Christopher Brent Murray | Kirkus.

Recommended reading: “Writing the Garden – A Literary Conversation Across Two Centuries”

Gardening, more than most outdoor activities, has always attracted a cult of devoted literate practitioners; people who like to dig, it would appear, also like to write. And many of them write exceedingly well.

In this thoughtful, personal, and embracing consideration of garden writing, garden historian Elizabeth Barlow Rogers selects and discusses the best of these writers. She makes her case by picking delightful examples that span two centuries, arranging the writers by what they did and how they saw themselves: nurserymen, foragers, conversationalists, philosophers, humorists, etc. Her discussions and appreciations of these diverse personalities are enhanced and supported by informed appraisals of their talents, obsessions, and idiosyncrasies, and by extensive extracts from their writings. Rogers provides historical background, anecdotal material, and insight into how these garden writers worked. And wherever appropriate, she illustrates her story with images from their books, so you can not only read what they wrote but also see what they were describing. Since gardens are by their very nature ephemeral, these visual clues from the pages of their books, many reproduced in color, are as close as we will come to the originals.

What makes “Writing the Garden…” such a joy to read is that it is not simply a collection of extracts, but real discussions and examinations of the personalities who made their mark on how we design, how we plant, and how we think about what is for many one of life’s lasting pleasures. Starting with “Women in the Garden” (Jane Loudon, Fran­ces Garnet Wolseley, and Gertrude Jekyll) and concluding with “Philosophers in the Garden” (Henry David Tho­reau, Michael Pollan, and Allen Lacy), this is a book that encompasses the full sweep of the best garden writing in the English language.

Writing the Garden is co-published by the New York Society Library and the Foundation for Landscape Studies in association with David R. Godine, Publisher.

via Writing the Garden – David R. Godine, Publisher.

Recommended reading: “Philosophy in the Garden” by Damon Young

Why did Marcel Proust have bonsai beside his bed?  What was Jane Austen doing, coveting an apricot? How was Friedrich Nietzsche inspired by his ‘thought tree’?

Damon Young explores one of literature’s most intimate relationships: authors and their gardens. For some, the garden provided a retreat from workaday labour; for others, solitude’s quiet counsel. For all, it played a philosophical role: giving their ideas a new life.

This book reveals the profound thoughts discovered in parks, backyards and pot-plants. It does not provide tips for mowing overgrown cooch grass, or mulching a dry Japanese maple. It is a philosophical companion to the garden’s labours and joys.

via darkly wise, rudely great: Philosophy in the Garden.