Monday, 7 March 2011

What do you read? – Dear Friend and Gardener

What sort of books do you read?  Do you have favourite authors and if so are you faithful only to them?  Perhaps you dot around from one genre to another?

Some bloggers I follow occasionally talk about what they’re reading.  This is usually (but not always) restricted to books related to the main focus of their blog.  Given how I enjoy reading these posts, and have even discovered some new authors this way, I thought perhaps I should do the same.

So here is the first up.


It’s called ‘Dear Friend and Gardener’ by Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd

I am fortunate enough to live quite close to Beth Chatto and visiting her nursery and garden is something I do perhaps four or five times a year.  It has nothing to do with their excellent cheese scones, honest!  Now in her late 80’s she has written many books on gardening and won numerous Gold Medals at the Chelsea Flower Show.  When you sit in the nursery tea shop it is difficult to not be impressed by those Medal Certificates displayed on the walls.

The garden is beautiful and once you realise that it has all been created from scratch it’s even more inspirational.

The book is a series of letters between Beth and another famous gardener Christopher Lloyd of Great Dixter.  So far I’ve not managed to visit that garden but believe me, if I ever find myself in the vicinity I’ll be there like a shot.

So why is this one of my favourite books?  Well, that’s difficult to explain.  I like different types of books at different times, dependant upon my mood.  There are times when I want something that will rivet, thrill and engross me, at others I want something to make me laugh.  Sometimes however, I want something safe and comfortable I can read without fear of upset.  The literary equivalent of that cosy armchair and blanket which you can snuggle into with a steaming mug of hot chocolate on a cold winters evening.  This book gives me that feeling.

There is a warmth between the correspondents which draws you in along with their obvious love of plants.  The idea of writing letters to a friend seems slightly old fashioned in this modern world of texts, emails, facebook and twitter.  Yet whenever I read this book I really do wonder if our reliance on these near instantaneous forms of communication has somehow taken something away from us.  A level of joy and eloquence in communication which seems to have been lost.  Perhaps quality really is more important then quantity.



  1. I love the Ivington diaries by Monty Don. Now there is another art I regret we are losing - writing a diary

  2. I also loved 'Dear Friend and Gardener', must reread it sometime. At the moment I'm not reading anything - shock! But that'll change in the next day or so.

  3. I work in a public library and read eclectically. The popular perception is that librarians read all day. The reality is that the only time I have to read is before bed. A good book will keep me up 'till the wee hours and have me dragging into work the next morning. Such a book was Hope is the thing with feathers, a personal chronicle of vanished birds by Christopher Cokinos. More recently The Passage by Justin Cronin (a vampire tale, but nothing like Twilight). I'll order Dear Friend and Gardener through interlibrary loan...our library system doesn't have it.