If I Were Beginning a New Garden



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.

About Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her: Stephenyhoughtlin.com
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2 Responses to If I Were Beginning a New Garden

  1. Barrie Clark (Mr) says:

    Delighted you have discovered Mrs Marion Cran. I have many of her books and she is my garden guru. I have visited Coggers in Benenden Kent. Her appetite for gardening and life and new experiences is wonderful . How I should like to have met her.
    Love her book The story of my ruin and her books on South Africa and America and Kenya.
    She flew out to Kenya in 1937 by Imperial Airways.Her daughter was married to a tea planter.
    She knew everyone from Queen Mary to Charlie Chaplin and William Randolph Hearst.

    • How thrilled i am with your response. Life has gone on after I wrote this post and Marion Cran has been upstaged by many other delightful things. I haven’t given her the attention she deserves. Thank you for your information and reminder that I must seek her out again and pursue her writing. I will start with any info I can find on Coggers. How lucky you are to have the memories of that place. I’m sure her gardening spirit met you along the pathways. Wish we could sit down with a cup of tea so I could listen to more of your Marion Cran thoughts. So pleased you took the time to share what you did after reading my post. Thank you!

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