THE LITERARY GARDEN

Coming from Colorado to live in the Low Countries, I was immediately drawn into the wealth of colors the early breaking spring delivered here. People took great care with small spaces planting gorgeous flowers that have bloomed from early March right through. Right now, showy hydrangeas in white, blues, and pinks overflow my neighbors yards. I have enjoyed all the sights, textures, and scents as I walk the streets. It also got me thinking about books centered around a garden. Below are a few I think may be worth checking out.

The Girl from the Tea Garden- Janet MacLeod Trotter

Tea Garden

“In the dying days of the Raj, Anglo-Indian schoolgirl Adela Robson dreams of a glamorous career on the stage. When she sneaks away from school in the back of handsome Sam Jackman’s car, she knows a new life awaits—but it is not the one she imagined.

In Simla, the summer seat of the Raj government, Adela throws herself into all the dazzling entertainments 1930s Indian society can offer a beautiful debutante. But just as her ambitions seem on the cusp of becoming reality, she meets a charming but spoilt prince, setting in motion a devastating chain of events.

The outbreak of the Second World War finds Adela back in England—a country she cannot remember—without hope or love, and hiding a shameful secret. Only exceptional courage and endurance can pull her through these dark times and carry her back to the homeland of her heart.”

 

The Princess’s Garden: Royal Intrigue & the Untold Story of Kew- Vanessa Berridge 

Princess Garden

“The British enthusiasm for gardening has fascinating roots. The Empire and trade across the globe created an obsession with exotic new plants, and showed the power and reach of Britain in the early eighteenth century. At that time, national influence wasn’t measured by sporting success, musical or artistic influence. Instead it was expressed in the design of parks and gardens such as Kew and Stowe, and the style of these grand gardens was emulated first throughout Britain and then increasingly around the world.”

The Secret Garden- Frances Hodgson Burnett

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“Mistress Mary is quite contrary until she helps her garden grow. Along the way, she manages to cure her sickly cousin Colin, who is every bit as imperious as she. These two are sullen little peas in a pod, closed up in a gloomy old manor on the Yorkshire moors of England, until a locked-up garden captures their imaginations and puts the blush of a wild rose in their cheeks; “It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of roses which were so thick, that they matted together…. ‘No wonder it is still,’ Mary whispered. ‘I am the first person who has spoken here for ten years.'” As new life sprouts from the earth, Mary and Colin’s sour natures begin to sweeten. For anyone who has ever felt afraid to live and love, The Secret Garden‘s portrayal of reawakening spirits will thrill and rejuvenate. Frances Hodgson Burnett creates characters so strong and distinct, young readers continue to identify with them even 85 years after they were conceived.”

Good News for Elephants

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photo: Johnny Ljunggren

With 2017 getting off to a limping start, I am happy to report some good news this week for the long term survival of elephants. China will end trade in ivory this summer. Prior to European colonization of Africa, elephant numbers were thought to be around 20 million. The continent today  is home to less than 500,000 elephants.

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My latest book, Elephants Never Forgotten, envisions a time when the great African plains no longer support these majestic creatures. They are missed and an effort is underway to bring them back. To write the book, I did a lot of research on these sentient creatures and their emotional lives. I hope readers get to know these animals on a deeper level and come to see their value (and the value of all life).

Amazon link: https://goo.gl/EdYS3C

A BEATRIX POTTER CHRISTMAS

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The Christmas tree is up and as I peruse ornaments collected over decades, I’m struck by how many of them are animals. There are cats and dogs, rabbits and squirrels, hedgehogs and birds (a humming bird, blue jay, goose, partridge), and cows and horses. At the back door, I struggle with getting sunflower seeds and nuts out for my squirrels. Three inches of snow have to be cleared before I can lay down six piles of seed to accommodate the squirrels. After our dog died, we started feeding birds off our deck but soon found the squirrels to be more entertaining. The birds still come to the feeder and the overflow trickles down to feed a family of field mice who will come onto the deck once the squirrels have had their fill. I won’t see the bunny today because the storm is intensifying but I take comfort that I’ll see him tomorrow once the snow melts off. He was here earlier though; because I see his tracks crisscross the yard. The ornaments on the Christmas tree and the activity in the backyard scream BEATRIX POTTER. I live in a world she knew.

Beatrix Potter

Helen Beatrix Potter was born in 1866 in London. She is best remembered for her children’s stories featuring animals. As children, she and her brother spent many happy family vacations in Scotland and the English Lake District. Undoubtedly, the freedom to explore and interact with nature as a child grounded Beatrix in the natural world and fostered her connection to the land and its creatures. She and her brother made pets of wildlife including rabbits, a hedgehog, mice, and bats. Beatrix’s talents in drawing and painting emerged in childhood and were encouraged by her parents. In her teens, she wandered the Lake District sketching and immersing herself in nature. She took a keen interest in archeology, geology, entomology, and mycology. By the late 1890s, she had become adept at scientific illustration concentrating on watercolors of local fungi. She even had a paper on fungi reproduction presented at the Royal Botanic Gardens (women were not allowed to attend).

Peter

It wasn’t until her mid- 30s that Beatrix took a set of picture letters she had written to children and turned them into her first book. She had The Tale of Peter Rabbit printed in 1901. Publishers turned down the opportunity to publish the book failing to see its merit (think Harry Potter in the Edwardian Age,  JK Rowling was also turned down by multiple publishers). Along came Frederick Warner who published The Tale of Peter Rabbit with color illustrations the following year. Beatrix’s book was highly successful and so were the two (The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tailor of Gloucester) that came soon after. From then on, Beatrix published two or three books a year. Later her interests in farming and preserving the Lake District became foremost in her life, but she is still remembered fondly for the animal characters and stories she created.

www.beatrixpottersociety.org.uk

http://www.peterrabbit.com

Miss Potter (2006), the movie with Renee Zellweger & Ewan McGregor