I have in my hand a book called @Garden Dreams, Illustrated & Edited by Ferris Cook. It was first published in 1991. All of the illustrations in the book are adapted from the covers of garden books published in the United States and England between 1894-1930. The beautiful illustrations are worth the price of the book, but the short writings from nine gardeners are exceptional too. It is a book I hold in awe because of the deep satisfaction it brings. I wish I could place a copy in your hands to also have and hold.
Included in the book is a short piece written by Marion Cran (1879-1942) called, If I Were Beginning Again. I had never heard of Ms. Cran, but research told me she had a garden, called Coggers, in Surrey, from 1910 until her death. She wrote a number of popular books on gardening and was the first gardening radio broadcaster in England.
A quote from her writing…“More than thirty years ago I stood upon a sharp hillside looking bewildered upon some three acres of ragged scrub flanked with pine and bracken. It was dull and untidy…I approached what in the end was to become the master passion of life in a most airy not to say flimsy way. I knew nothing; radio did not exist, nor did the daily Press instruct the amateur from week to week with “now is the time to.” Everything had to be discovered from the ground upwards; people today are taught; I had to learn. Breathless delight and enthusiasm, strength and energy hand in hand with the blackest ignorance made in the end my garden there; a charming place too, but not nearly as wonderful as it would be now if Time would turn back and I might begin again.”
Haven’t we all wished we could begin again in our gardens based on what we have learned the hard way, from “the ground up?” When I had the opportunity to create a new garden after a move from Chapel Hill to Durham NC, I consoled myself that in leaving the garden I loved, I would profit from my mistakes as I began anew. It didn’t occur to me that I would turn right around and made NEW mistakes equally as disastrous. (Knock Out Roses in gallon containers that outgrew their space in the corners of the boxwood parterres – who knew they grew into such large bushes.) I love my small English garden with its boxwood parterres that are filled with iris and peonies. Those Knock Out Roses that were a mistake….they have been transplanted along the edges of the garden and are full and happy. Even though I have created another garden that I love, I continue to edit out my new mistakes.
Marion Cran writes, “I fell headlong into an enchantment from which I have never recovered.” Written so long ago, I understand her heart. Our gardens become our passion, mistakes and all.