Professor Hortledore teaches her first gardening class

Good morning, class!

Good morning, Professor Hortledore.

Well, class, don't you all look spiffy and shiny and ready to learn.  Today in gardening class we are going to discuss "what elements are included in a good garden". 

We'll start our discussion by breaking down the following paragraph from The Spirit of the Garden by Martha Brookes Hutcheson.    Please turn to page 5 and read the last paragraph silently to yourselves, while I gaze out the window and count the number of daylilies.

"Above all, let us have a sense of seclusion in our flowered space, that the calm and peace shall in no way be broken. Here belong the song of birds and the hum of insects. When solitude is looked for, the garden is the place to which we naturally turn. Let it have cool, shaded places, where out of the summer sun one may steal to sit, and, with the sound of dripping water near by, see the brilliant flower beds in their masses of gorgeous color standing out in the full sunlight, with the bees at work among them and the blue sky overhead.  And let the garden be just near enough to the house to be part of the life of its inmates where they may go without effort, in the day or the evening. Does everyone know the garden in the half evening light, when all sharp outline is blended into one luxuriant composition of flower forms, paths, and fountain, held in a mass of green that us unlike that of day? And do we all know it by moonlight, when all green is gone and distant corners are lost in darkness, while perhaps a white evening primrose opens its bloom to the summer night and stands pale and cool with the moon's rays upon it, and its long shadow cast cross the pathway? It is at these moments that our gardens are of unspeakable worth to us and we begrudge no care that has gone to their making." ~ Martha Brookes Hutcheson, The Spirit of the Garden, 1923

Has everyone read the paragraph?

Yes, Professor Hortledore.

Good, now, eyes to the front of the class room.  What does this paragraph tell you about the elements of a garden?

That there is a sense of seclusion?

Good, yes.  That's one thing. Anything else?

It's flowered.

Yes, indeed, a garden has flowers.

There are birds singing in it and insects humming?

Absolutely!  Which means, say it with me class, "We avoid the use of pesticides that might harm the birds and the bees." Good job, class.

Professor Hortledore?


Are we going to talk about the birds and the bees in this class because I heard...

No, this is not going to be that kind of class. Now, focus, please. What other elements are in a garden, according to Miss Hutcheson?

It has cool, shady places to sit down and rest?

Yes!  What else?

The sound of water?

Good, class, very good.  A garden should include the sound of water in it.

From a recording, Professor Hortledore?

No, class, not from a recording. That would be awful. The sound of water needs to come from a water feature like a fountain or a pond.  Now class, we are almost done.  What else does a garden need?

It needs to be close to the house so people won't have to go far to get to it.

Yes, that's right!  What one other element in a garden is mentioned in the paragraph?

Paths and pathways?

Excellent.  Yes, you need paths to walk through the garden.

Class, I am very impressed.  I think you get it.  A garden includes a sense of enclosure, flowers, birds, bees, water, cool shady places to sit, paths and is close to the house.  I'm very proud of you class. Now you may go out to recess.  When you come back, we'll go even further into Miss Hutcheson's book to find out even more about making gardens!

Thank you, Professor Hortledore.


  1. Just what I needed today; true words of wisdom. I am looking for my next house and garden and trying to set my priorities straight. I have never commented before, not having a blog of my own makes me feel very "anonymous", but just wanted you to know how much I love your writing and your wonderful sense of humour. Stina

  2. Nice, I guess we passed the test, LOL

  3. Where do I sign up for one of Professor Hortledore's classes??

    Such a beautifully written passage; I see why you love these old gardening books, Carol.

  4. I loved this! I would like to sign up for Professor Hortledore's class, too!

  5. Love your new character, Prof. Hortledore. Looking forward to more lessons on garden wizardry.

  6. I'm curious; what did recess involve? I imagine it took place in a beautiful garden!

  7. How do you get the bees to come back? There are no bees in my garden and there used to be. I don't use pesticides.

  8. Prof H, You are the bees knees.


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