world book day - reading in the garden

April 23 is World Book Day

...and also World Book Night, the adult counterpart to the well-established event for junior readers, a celebration of books and reading for pleasure.

It is also La Diada de Sant Jordi, St George's Day; a Spanish festival also known as El Dia del Llibre - or book day - when people exchange roses and books with one another in a gesture of love.

 

Gardens in Books

Many authors have explored themes of gardens and plants in their work, from beloved children's classics such as Frances Hodgson Burnett's magical The Secret Garden
“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden”
and Philippa Pearce's magical Tom's Midnight Garden
"each night, when he walked into the garden, he forgot to be a detective, and instead remembered only that he was a boy and this was the garden for a boy"
to modern works including Orchid Fever, Eric Hansen's non-fiction account of the orchid collecting world;
“Many collectors died in process of searching for new species, and despite persistent reports that the men died from drowning, gunshot and knife wounds, snakebite, trampling by cattle, or blows in the head with blunt instruments, it is generally accepted that in each case the primary cause of death was orchid fever.”
and one of this writer's all-time favourites, Miles Franklin winner Eucalyptus, Murray Bail's Australian modern fairy tale woven around one man's obsession for native gums.
“There were dams the colour of milky tea, corrugated sheds at the trapezoid tilt, yards of split timber, rust. And solitary fat eucalypts lorded it over hot paddocks, trunks glowing like aluminium at dusk.”

 

Have you come across a surprise passage about plants or gardening when reading?

Like the satirical episode in Lewis Carroll's whimisical Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, when Alice sees the Queen's gardeners painting the white rose bushes red.
"`Why the fact is, you see, Miss, this here ought to have been a red rose-tree, and we put a white one in by mistake; and if the Queen was to find it out, we should all have our heads cut off, you know. "
Or the new bride's unsettling drive amongst blood-red rhododendrons in Daphne du Maurier's spine-chilling Rebecca.
"And these were monsters, rearing to the sky, massed like a battalion, too beautiful I thought, too powerful; they were not plants at all.”
And amidst all the hard-boiled gunplay and criminal intrigue of The Lady in the Lake, Raymond Chandler finds time to describe an avenue of grevillea trees
"We'll be coming to Ontario in a minute. We'll switch over to Foothill Boulevard and you'll see five miles of the finest grevillea trees in the world."
'I wouldn't know one from a fire plug,' Degarmo said.
We came to the center of town and turned north on Euclid, along the splendid parkway.
Degarmo sneered at the grevillea trees."

 

We asked our weekly email subscribers to share with us their favourite garden or plant related books, or passages.

We love to discover something new to read, for when we aren't looking after our plants. We had many suggestions, very varied, several completely new to us.

Here's a few of them:

Jan endorses our earlier recommendation, The Secret Garden, for its hopeful message as well as setting her on the path to a lifelong love of gardening, and appreciation of the daffodils which come up every spring.
“As long as you have a garden you have a future and as long as you have a future you are alive.”
Nicole loves The Overstory by Richard Powers, which explores in novel form the miracle of trees, the interconnectedness of live on earth, and what they mean to humans through time.
“What you make from a tree should be at least as miraculous as what you cut down.”
Jane suggests The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh; a contemporary tale of a young woman who uses flowers to communicate her emotions
“Common thistle is everywhere,” she said. “Which is perhaps why human beings are so relentlessly unkind to one another.”
Caitlyn shares her favourite quote from the C18th novel The Excursion, by Frances Brooke, a remarkably pioneering woman in many fields, whose heroines are equally adventurous :
"the marriage settlements shall be drawn, and the polyanthus imported. . . . . [Fortune] has enabled me to spend the evening of my life in the society of all those most dear to me, to give my amiable Louisa and Maria to the two men on earth who, in my opinion, most deserve them, and to have a collection of vegetative beauty which shall be the wonder and the envy of the universe.”
Diane enjoys The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman, an easy fun read with fairy gardens and growing vegetables combined with empathetic characters.
“It is unclear to me what happened, but I am often confused by Americans, so let’s pretend everything is fine and go to look at the garden.”
Annalisa turns to Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders, a novelised account of a wise woman learning herbal medicine, in one of the first English villages to quarantine centuries ago during the bubonic plague.
“When she had discovered that I hungered to learn, she commenced to shovel knowledge my way as vigorously as she spaded the cowpats into her beloved flower beds.”

We hope we've sparked your interest in finding a new book or three to read - even better if there are gardens and plants within the pages. Grab a cuppa and a comfy cushion, and enjoy!