On Gardening and Reading

When I lived in London, I only had two window boxes to work with but I did the best with what I had, planting two layers of bulbs so when the first finished blooming, the second layer would be making its appearance.  I had a beautiful little orange tree and a jasmine plant, whose delicious scent would greet me at the door.


My best friend was a member of The Royal Horticultural Society and so we attended the famous Chelsea Flower Show. In our mid-twenties, we were among the youngest in attendance, but had so much fun, drinking (way too much!) Pimm’s and admiring the extraordinary gardens and plants on display.


Anemone from my garden ©readinginterrupted.com 


Now I live in America and have a garden. Much more room to work with. I have planted dogwood trees, hollies, hydrangeas. I just finished planting my crocus, tulip and daffodil bulbs and will only see them again when they bloom after we all hibernate this winter.



My pineapple sage was so big this year. I love its red flowers! ©readinginterrupted.com


I recently came across an article by Alan Titchmarsh (the famous British tv gardening expert) called “When bookworms go to ground.” He mentions some of his favorite gardening books, Peter Beele’s Classic Roses, My Kind of Garden by David Hicks, Christopher Lloyd’s Meadows, among others.

But what I liked best about the article is his obvious love of books. He writes:

“So it is with my own books; some are close friends—intimates—others are acquaintances, to be dipped into when the need arises and, like all good acquaintances, they seldom disappoint.”


Close friends and acquaintances, yes, what lovely descriptions!

Well, it’s now time to put away the gardening gloves and the shovel. The first snowflakes will be falling any day now. It’s time to curl up in my armchair with a good book, occasionally looking out onto the garden to watch it transform into a winter wonderland. I’ll be thinking of all those little bulbs I just planted though, as they patiently wait for Spring.



Spring in my garden ©readinginterrupted.com






77 thoughts on “On Gardening and Reading

  1. You have a beautiful garden! Wow you are really good at it, that last picture is amazing. Never had seen a pineapple sage tree before it beautiful.

    • Thanks, Doris! When I planted my pineapple bush it was only 5 cm tall and now it is 1 meter tall and wide. Unfortunately it won’t survive the winter and snow but I plant a new one at the start of every summer.

  2. Just the other day I said that I was looking forward to March when I will actually be dying to garden again. My gardening energy wanes and my reading energy waxes at this time of year…here’s to a lovely, quiet, book-filled winter!

  3. Beautiful post dear Letizia… I love the quote by Beele and the last paragraph of your post… well guess what It made me think of Marcel Proust…
    Do you like his books?… You sounded somehow like him in his book “On Reading”
    By the way I have found this quote by Proust and wanted to share it with you:
    “Every reader, as he reads, is actually the reader of himself. The writer’s work is only a kind of optical instrument he provides the reader so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this book. The reader’s recognition in himself of what the book says is the proof of the book’s truth.”
    Best wishes!, Aquileana ⭐

    • I know Proust well, A. His ideas on reading are so interesting, aren’t they? At the bottom of my blog, I quote Roland Barthes, the French literary critic. Barthes once said that everything he read he read “through” Proust – because he thought of Proust’s texts whenever he read anything.
      p.s. I enjoyed your last post, as always!

  4. I admire those of you who can make things grow. I’ve never been good with the plant world. At least I fared better with making my kids grow… 😉

    I love that Titchmarsh quote, especially the line: “to be dipped into when the need arises.” That’s really lovely and so accurate.

    • Your stories about your kids always make me laugh with glee – you’re obviously a great kid gardener!

      It’s a lovely quotation, right? We do dip in and out of some books.

  5. Okay, gardening envy over here! We keep saying we’re at least going to grow herbs inside and then we conveniently forget. Come spring though, we’re doing it! They’re pretty scented money savers, so we might as well. 🙂

  6. What a lovely garden! This San Francisco loft-dweller is jealous of your acreage! But you’re right. It’s time to hibernate, drink something warm and bracing, and curl up with a good book. Those of us in San Francisco are still running about in shirt sleeves, waiting for the rain—any rain. Cheers!

  7. Ah, Chelsea! Can there be anything much more quintessentially British than this wonderful event?! 🙂 I went to the flower show many times when in London and was always stunned at the beauty of the show gardens and the perfection of the flower displays in the tents – how on earth did they all manage to get everything ready so precisely on time? And I was also once rehearsing in the Royal Albert Hall with the BBC Symphony Concert for a BBC Prom at the same time as Mr Titchmarsh was rehearsing his lines for the concert broadcast that evening. My mother had come along to watch the proceedings and was beside herself – not because she was so proud of her wonderful daughter, but because she was within striking distance of her gardening idol!!! 🙂 Anyway, so glad to hear that you are able to have fun doing more gardening where you live now. I love the views from our current top floor apartment, but I do miss the cute terraced house we had in London which had a magical courtyard garden. Over the 10 years we lived there, I turned it into something of a fairy grotto…..

    • Yes gardening books can be wonderful above all in winter…. When we enjoy the beauty of the garden under the snow with the hope that everything is well underneath… C’est l’histoire de la petite tulipe rouge….

    • The Chelsea Flower Show is so fascinating, isn’t it? I didn’t know what to expect and we were so amazed that we ended up spending the whole day there. The most amazing aspect were the actual mini gardens set up everywhere. As you say, how did they find the time to set everything up?

      I love your story about your mother and Mr. Titchmarsh- so funny!

      Your garden in London must have been so charming, it sounds divine.

  8. LOL! I am laughing at myself. I was reading your post and comments and was interrupted, so I didn’t get to leave a comment last night. Here I am back again, for another look. What a beautiful spring garden you have to look forward to. Your winter garden reading and planning obviously bear ‘fruit’.

  9. I love flowers, especially those variety of daffodil (they look like ice follies to me), but I have an unfortunate and persistent black thumb. So far, I am keeping a small cactus alive.

    • Those small cacti (?) are cute. You should try planting daffodils – it’s super easy as you just have to plant the bulbs in the fall and then they come back every year on their own! Super easy and so beautiful 🙂

  10. I have always considered the winter season the most important for gardens. It is at this time, everything rests in preparation for the burst of energy that is needed in the springtime. Today, I was speaking with our wonderful master gardener that is responsible for the gardens along the Vancouver Seawall that heads into Granville Island. She is preparing all the plants for their winter slumber. Oh, what stories she can tell. I am certain that she understand tree-speak.

    “I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.” Andrew Wyeth

  11. You have a fabulous garden and of course adding books to the subject just makes it even better. Lots of books feature gardens, mysterious gardens and I do love to imagine such. We read outside in summer and gaze at our rained on gardens in the colder months and it makes me more appreciative of nature, it always adds to my book’s atmosphere as well which you can’t complain about.

  12. What a green thumb you have, Letizia. Lovely garden. Although my tropical garden is entering the dry season, there is always maintenance and tidying up to do since the winter winds can wreck havoc on banana trees, etc. You got me thinking about the connection between writers and their gardens and discovered two books that look interesting. Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden which is a compilation of essays by Eleanor Perenyi, published in 1982. Also, An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter. The original was published in 1894. She lived on Appledore Island, the largest of the Isles of Shoals in Maine and entertained Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, etc. In 1997 the book was honored by the American Horticultural Society as one of the 75 Great American Garden Books. Anyway, Love the London connection you had and the backstory.

    • Thank you so much for the book recommendations – I’m not familiar with them so am delighted! Here’s one for you, which you may already have read: Two Gardeners, A Friendship in Letters by Katherine White (EB White’s wife) and Elizabeth Lawrence. It’s a charming book of their letters, mainly about gardening but, of course, about so much more.

      Those banana trees and leaves are quite big so I can only imagine the chore of cleaning up after a storm…

  13. I’m no gardener but I do start to feel giddy around this time of year. I love to start thinking about winter reading. Much better than summer reading, when there’s all that pressure to do more. Instead, I like looking out the window at the cold snowy landscape and thinking, “better stay warm inside and read.” 🙂 Let it snow!

  14. from Being there (Oltre il giardino): http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Being_There
    Ron Steigler: Mr. Gardner, uh, my editors and I have been wondering if you would consider writing a book for us, something about your um, political philosophy, what do you say?
    Chance: I can’t write.
    Ron Steigler: Heh, heh, of course not, who can nowadays? Listen, I have trouble writing a postcard to my children. Look uhh, we can give you a six figure advance, I’ll provide you with the very best ghost-writer, proof-readers…
    Chance: I can’t read.
    Ron Steigler: Of course you can’t! No one has the time! We, we glance at things, we watch television…
    Chance: I like to watch TV.
    Ron Steigler: Oh, oh, oh sure you do. No one reads!
    (il tuo giardino è mio posto preferito!…baci)

  15. Not only is your writing beautiful, so is your garden! My garden didn’t do well this year, I’m afraid. The rabbits liked my radishes too much and my poppies never took. When the winter freeze exiles me to the indoors, I like to borrow a stack of gardening books from the local library and start dreaming of my spring planting.

    I’m a relatively new follower and reader and I wanted to let you know how much I already value your site. Thank you for sharing your insights and inspirations. Because your blog is so lovely, I’ve nominated you on my site for the One Lovely Blog Award. If you’d like to pay it forward to some of your favorite bloggers, participating is simple:
    ~Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
    ~Add the One Lovely Blog logo to your post.
    ~Share 7 facts/or things about yourself.
    ~Nominate about 15 bloggers you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog.

    I’m looking forward to future posts from you! Be well.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words and for the Lovely Blog Award, both are very appreciated!

      Your comments about your rabbit visit made me smile as I have a rabbit (fortunately just one for the moment) that visits my garden as well and nibbles away at a lot of my plants (he spared my balloon flowers for the first time this year, I was so happy). When my dog was younger she would chase him away but alas now they just look at each other in peace. I have had no luck with poppies either. I wonder if there’s a trick or they are just particular about their environment.

      Looking forward to checking out your blog, and thank you once again for your visit.

    • Thanks Kourtney. Everyone was drinking Pimm’s that day so we joined in as well. It’s one of those drinks that you don’t realize you’ve drunk a lot until you try to stand up and you find yourself a bit tipsy!

  16. You have a gorgeous garden. I have lots of space and gardens, too, but, I can’t find the time to properly nurture them. Last week, I did manage to make trails through my wildberry bushes and saplings (which grew out of my control) and will turn them into Haunted Trails next Halloween. 🙂 Aside from that, I think I have to start over when I do finally get around to gardening properly. They were gardens that we inherited when we bought the house, and it would seem the owners had a lot of time to garden — not to mention, know how! If I do start over, I will go with native flowers and such. I think I’ll have an easier time to manage them.

    • The idea of Haunted Trails sounds so fun (to create and to walk through!). I’ve planted perennials throughout the majority of my garden so that gives me less work as they just come back from year to year. And then every year, I have some new ones I plant for the sheer pleasure in one area of the garden. And I’m not the only one planting and pruning… I just take all the credit!

  17. Letizia I use to love how everybody, no matter the space still had a small garden in England. I desperately wanted to see the Chelsea Flower Show when I lived there but never managed to get tickets cheap enough (backpacker budget). My memories of London are of the flowers and gardens in spring. Also waiting in a line to get Michael Palin’s signature on his latest travel book. Your garden looks lovely. Ps Michael Palin was such a down to earth cool guy.

    • You are so right, no matter how small the space, everyone tried to garden in their own way. It was so sweet and inspiring! I wish you had had a chance to go to the Flower Show. I was lucky to have a friend who was a member of the Horticulural Society who invited me to come along.

  18. What a beautiful garden! Isn’t it interesting how gardeners become bookworms in the winter? I read a book written by the master gardener at Versailles, and he too described how his attentions shift from soil to the page with the seasons. He said that both provide time for a lot of introspection.
    Looking forward to seeing your garden come April.

  19. Lovely. I gave up cultivating. Now I just have the food forest, it had some food in it too! Bananas and teeny tiny little tomatoes that take hours to pick but make delicious salsa. Fave garden book: Jamacia Kincaid’s, In my Garden. Though it was years ago that I read it, when I still believed in gardening and stuff ; ) You might just restore my faith with your gorgeous photos.

  20. What a lovely garden You have! Before moving to the town where we now live, we had small garden. My wife was very enthusiastic in having her own garden. All her life she has helped her parents who had a greenhouse and on the countryside a big place full of flowers. I also helped there during fifteen years on weekends.

    My wife had “huge” collection of garden books which she sold before our move to Mikkeli.

    Thank You for this great post which awaked memories to my mind!

    • I remember the photos of your wife’s beautiful rhododendrons! Over the years it’s so easy to collect a vast library of gardening books, isn’t it? My mother is an amazing gardener and has so many gardening books.

    • I’ve been very lucky with my pineapple sage – it flourished in the spot I first planted it so each year I plant it in the same spot and, voila!, amazing results each time (I take no credit as it was pure luck). I love hydrangeas too – lovely in all seasons.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Hope you’re having a lovely Thanksgiving holiday!

  21. Thank you for sharing about your garden, Letizia! I enjoy going to my parents’ house and seeing their beautiful flowers in the front and back yards. I don’t have a garden myself so I live through other peoples’ beautiful lots 🙂

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