In the Garden- An 1899 Excerpt

This time of year I am besotted by the garden, and have great difficulty staying indoors for any length of time at all. In fact, anything on my horizon that doesn’t need to be fed or planted seems dim and distant:-). In the evenings, I read garden-related things, and make long lists of things to plant, prune, or pluck the next day.

One delightful old book I enjoy in the spring is Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim. This little gem was published in 1899, and I would definitely identify Elizabeth as a kindred spirit. Here are a couple of passages for you:

“May 16th. –The garden is the place I go to for refuge and shelter, not the house. In the house are duties and annoyances, servants to exhort and admonish, furniture, and meals; but out there blessings crowd round me at every step– it is there that I am sorry for the unkindness in me, for those selfish thoughts that are so much worse than they feel, it is there that all my sins and silliness are forgiven, there that I feel protected and at home, and every flower and weed is a friend and every tree a lover… Did ever a woman have so many friends? And always the same, always ready to welcome and fill me with cheerful thought. Happy children of a common Father, why should I, their own sister, be less content and joyous than they?”

“We have been cowslipping today in a little wood dignified by the name of the Hirschwald, because it is the happy hunting-ground of innumerable deer who fight there in the autumn evenings, calling each other out to combat with bayings that ring through the silence and send agreeable shivers through the lonely listener… We made cowslip balls sitting on the grass. The babies had never seen such things, nor had imagined anything half so sweet. The Hirschwald is a little open wood of silver birches and springy turf starred with flowers, and there is a tiny stream meandering amiably about it and decking itself in June with yellow flags…”

One thing that I’ve discovered is that places exist for me only in dimmest shadow until they’ve been illuminated by words. As I go back and read my garden journals from previous years, or Elizabeth’s garden journal, or any other book redolent of place and time, I find myself transported. I can almost see the little Hirschwald, feel the springy turf, and hear the meandering stream. Words take me places!

How about you? What books transport you?

1 Response

  1. Pam says:


    Little Hirschwald reminds me of Hirschorn, a wonderful little German village full of beautiful gardens nestled in the woods about 18 km up the Neckar river from Heidelberg, Germany. There is a castle there and an old church that dates back to 700 AD. It is a quiet community (except during Fasching) where the people remind me a lot of Elizabeth and her garden. They care deeply about every garden, whether it be in a small window box or a terraced hillside. People congregate on Saturday mornings at the farmer’s market where they share gardening secrets, admire each other’s flowers and gather vegetables, milk, bread, sausages for the evening meal.

    Thanks for the memories- it is time for me to get back out to our garden! 🙂


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