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BOOK REVIEW

Green Space: An Excerpt from A Little History of British Gardening, by Jenny Uglow

Gardens are always unfinished, telling a long tale of immigration and connection and transformation. Even a small backyard or a window box, conceals stories of conquest, empire, aspirations and ideas. . . . Yet every garden is also the personal creation of those who work in it. Gardening is hard work, as a Victorian apprentice up before dawn in January to sweep the gravel paths of the great could certainly tell you. And it can bring fears as well as pleasure, frets as well as promise: in the middle of the eighteenth century a stout doctor, Erasmus Darwin, was stomping around his garden in his boots and greatcoat, writing the name of every plant in a scuffed brown notebook and mapping his small kingdom 'near the sundial', 'behind the shed', 'between the house and the river' and writing anxious notes like 'lost', or, even more poignant, 'lost?'. Men and women before and after him know what it feels like to breathe deeply when spring comes, smelling the warm earth but wondering what the frost has done.

A Little History of British Gardening
Jenny Uglow
North Point Press, $35.

 


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