A good read

            Gardens, gardeners and plants figure sporadically into novels.  Several years ago when I was still volunteering at the Miller Library (a fabulous gardening library at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture), I helped librarian Brian Thompson create a list of mostly fictional books where gardening was at least a part of the story.  It ranged from Nero Wolfe’s orchids to Miss Marple, who wisely said: “Gardening is the best disguise”.

            Gardening is often woven into English writing, showing it’s more ingrained in the lives of the English than it is ours in the U.S.  You can’t turn a page in the Harry Potter series without Jo Rowling mentioning plants and gardens, from someone tripping over an aspidistra to a description of the rhododendrons in the Weasley garden (let alone what goes on in the greenhouses at Hogwarts).

            So, it’s no wonder it was a Brit who came up with the English Garden Mystery series.  Our friends and fellow anglophiles Holly and Gerry Wilson told us about the books.  The author, Anthony Eglin (who now lives in California) has three books out with a fourth expected next spring.  I’m reading them in order, just in case I need to know something about protagonist/gardener Lawrence Kingston (there’s a good physical description of Kingston in the first book, The Blue Rose, but if you need a visual aid, check out the author’s photo on the inside back cover).

            What fun to see Hidcote Manor Garden featured so prominently in The Lost Gardens (as well as a good short history of Heligan).  Plants, gardens and garden history take center stage here, and the author, a rose specialist, takes great pleasure in making the plot turn on some horticultural aspect.  (Just this one small misstep:  In The Blue Rose, the author mentions “clematis tendrils.”  Clematis don’t have tendrils — grapes have tendrils, sweet peas have tendrils, clematis climb by twining their petioles — leaf stems — around a support.)

            I’m about halfway through The Lost Gardens, which takes place in Somerset (as did The Blue Rose); I await my afternoon cup of tea to find out what will happen next at Wickersham.


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