The Spirit of the Garden

If you wonder why I buy and read old gardening books, I hope this passage from The Spirit of the Garden by Martha Brookes Hutcheson (1923) explains it.

"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

Passages like these leave me speechless.  I read this and I am ready, even in the dark of night and when tired from a long day, to head out to the garden to see which flowers prefer the night, to listen to the sounds of the garden at rest, to remember why it is that I garden.

Passages like these, combined with being in a garden, are what feed my gardening soul and give me the strength to dig and weed and hoe and water through drought and heat, through floods and cold, because I know that tomorrow or the next day or the day after that there will be a perfect day in the garden for me to enjoy. 

Passages like these encourage me to read old gardening books with the hope that I might find some long-forgotten passage that deserves to be shared with others, just as we might cut a bloom that grows in the far corner of the garden and bring it into the house for others to enjoy.

This passage, this gem of writing, is why I keep finding and buying old gardening books.


  1. I really appreciate that you do buy and read them because then you share them! It is indeed a lovely passage.

  2. The old-time writers certainly knew how to turn a phrase. Thanks for sharing it, Carol. But I won't be going out in my garden at night - there are mean raccoons out there!

  3. That is indeed a gem of writing, Carol. Thanks for sharing it with us. It makes one yearn to go outside and let our soul become one with nature.


  4. Lovely. Now I know that you do read those books. You have your work cut out for you.

  5. A great tribute, Carol, to the wisdom of older published works.

  6. Carol, That is a lovely passage...I am glad you collect these wonderful books, glad to know they are lovingly being read again.

  7. I share your love for the evocative prose style of earlier garden writers. Thanks for sharing this stunning passage!

  8. That is a lovely passage, and made me think of my own garden. So much of those words describe how my garden works and looks and feels to me.

  9. Thank you so much for that beautiful passage. I too felt like stealing out into the garden to see which plants preferred the softer moonlight. And, lately, I've been trying to take more time to experience the quiet calm, the solitude of my garden by leaving behind the pruners, the spade, and the bucket. Thank you for sharing your wonderful finds with us.


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