"The Breath of the Garden"

Roses - the quintessential scented flower

Why do I read these old gardening books like "All in a Garden Fair" by Alice T. A. Quackenbush and "The Garden that I Love" by Alfred Austin?


Because  I can not easily find in newer books the passion for plants and gardening that these authors of another time express through their writing.  No one seems to write about gardening the way they did.

Yes, many newer books are good, well-written books with pictures that nearly jump off the page with clarity. Many are very good books, filled with useful gardening information that I absorb as much as the next gardener. But the authors seem to stop just short of passion, as though they are afraid that passion will scare people off. These passion-less books are like scentless flowers.

Consider this passage that Quackenbush wrote regarding scent in the garden.

"Some folks have a Puritan complex which inhibits the enjoyment of anything frankly sensuous; others consider a smell, even a sweet one, vulgar. Yet no one can quite banish such fragrances as those of spring, gentle and soft; of summer, hot and generous; or of fall, strong with the acrid overtone of burning leaves. Nor those of the earth after rain, a fresh plowed field, new cut grass, the seduction of dense woods. Smell is not merely the strongest of the senses and the most satisfying, it is health-giving in that it promotes deep breathing; let the utilitarian remember this, if he must have a reason. When he is blessed by the breath of the garden - that delightful mingling of Mignonette, Verbena, Stock, Wallflower, Honeysuckle, Pink, Lily and Rose - one hopes that he will forget himself for once and relax to happiness. If he cannot, he is surely of the damned."

"The breath of the garden" - what a great way to describe the overall scent of a garden.

Quackenbush also wrote "A small sweetly-scented Stock is surely lovelier than that giant bloom that has lost its soul."  Yes, she wrote that. She wrote that a flower with no scent has lost its soul.  Just like she wrote that if you can't enjoy the scent of a garden, you are damned.

I surely do not want a garden full of soul-less flowers or to be damned for not being able to enjoy the breath of the garden. Goodness. It sounds like an awful fate.  I want a garden with a good breath!

(Garden fairies here. We need some help. Do you know anything about Alice T. A. Quackenbush?  The Internet is not yielding much information about this author.  We have snippets of information but would like to find out more. If you have any information about Alice T. A. Quackenbush, email Carol! She won't rest until she knows who Alice is which means we  garden fairies will have nothing to do but watch her use the computer, which means we garden fairies won't be able to use the computer and post anything. Help!)


Kathy said…
Note to self: write with passion!
Leslie said…
I agree that many older gardening books had a certain approach that we don't see anymore. This one sounds like a wonderful read.
Fairegarden said…
This is romantic garden writing at its best, Carol. I think I need to buy some of these older gardening books! I love passion!
Shady Gardener said…
Dear Carol, You HAVE a garden with good breath!! (and bredth) :-)
Cindy, MCOK said…
I hope someone out there can come up with information on Alice T.A.Q. for you!
Those old books can transport us in time. I especially like 'Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady' by Edith Holden. I dragged the experience out to a whole year by reading about one month at a time in her diary. I just finished the last month for me - February.
Jill-O said…
My favorite garden writer is Beverley Nichols - his writings were not poetic nor romantic, but he wrote with dry humor, his personal adventures in gardening.
Kallie said…
I am about to deadhead all my roses so they can get a headstart on flowering when spring arrives! I do have soem candytift and azalea flowers that have already bloomed!
Oh, how lovely. I'd rather not be damned either. I love scent.
Gone Tropical said…
where do you find those lovely old books, I so enjoy reading your reviews.
calendula14@hotmail.co, said…
The people writing this older garden books lived in a world where there was much less cement, asphalt, and where computer screens did not tempt. Their sensual experience was very different.