Book Review: The Beauties of a Cottage Garden by Gertrude Jekyll

The Beauties of a Cottage Garden
Gertrude Jekyll

Well this is number 10 of the 20-volume of Penguin’s English Journeys series and it will be my last for a while. I had intended to read all 20 in the month of April. I thought a series of books on the English countryside would be an interesting and appropriate thing to read as nature was coming to life outside. And indeed there were moments when that was exactly the case. But rather than each book adding another happy dimension to my enjoyment of the English countryside, it all became a bit samey. I still intend to finish the series, but I think I need to take them in smaller doses. Maybe I will give myself until April of 2011 to finish off the final 10 volumes.

It is unfortunate or at least unfair that I should make this declaration as part of my review of Gertrude Jekyll’s The Beauties of a Cottage Garden as her writing is decidedly more enjoyable than some in this series. My husband is a huge fan of Jekyll and is quite the gardener himself. Over the last five years he has turned our 12’ x 16’ terrace into an English country garden that you would never guess was all grown in pots. You can imagine how excited he is to be moving to a new house with a big yard with lots of room to garden. Jekyll effectively sums up the heart and mind of a true gardener:

But the lesson I have learnt, and with to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives. I rejoice when I see any one, and especially children, inquiring about flowers, and wanting gardens of their own, and carefully working in them. For the love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies, but always grows and grows to an enduring and ever-increasing source of happiness.

These snaps of our terrace garden from last summer kind of proves Jekyll’s point. Lack of actual ground didn’t keep John from following his passion.

16 thoughts on “Book Review: The Beauties of a Cottage Garden by Gertrude Jekyll

  1. verity April 28, 2010 / 7:56 am

    What beautiful flowers and a lovely garden.

    I think your plan to dip into them is probably wise – I am sure there are some gems in there but not all at once. Sorry it wasn't quite the wonderful experience you had hoped for!


  2. sarahsbooks April 28, 2010 / 9:09 am

    Letting yourself off the hook is a fine thing to do, especially regarding self-imposed assignments. Life is too short to read books you don't want to read, just for the sake of reading them. And look, you have a very lovely garden to enjoy, instead of reading about someone else's (even Gertrude Jekyll's)!


  3. agoodstoppingpoint April 28, 2010 / 9:45 am

    That is a very lovely garden. I agree with the other commenters that you're right to back off the personal challenge if the books are starting to mush together.

    – Christy


  4. Stefanie April 28, 2010 / 10:46 am

    What a lovely garden! Before I got a house with a yard I had a townhouse with a deck and grew a small garden in pots. I loved rearranging the garden periodically and weeding was minimal. I wish gardening in the ground were as easy. But I wouldn't trade my yard for anything. Can't wait to see what happens with your new yard!


  5. bookssnob April 28, 2010 / 10:54 am

    What a talented man your John is, to create such beauty so creatively in a small space! I think rationing the books is a good idea – you might find more in them to enjoy when they are spaced out and you can have the time to ponder on them as individual books rather than as part of a series.


  6. bookssnob April 28, 2010 / 10:54 am

    What a talented man your John is, to create such beauty so creatively in a small space! I think rationing the books is a good idea – you might find more in them to enjoy when they are spaced out and you can have the time to ponder on them as individual books rather than as part of a series.


  7. Hannah Stoneham April 28, 2010 / 12:27 pm

    Congratulations on a gorgeous garden – how talented your husband is. Everyone seems to be posting on gardens today (myself included)… I have enjoyed reading your reviews of this series but I can see that it would be rather samey to read all of them through straight. Enjoy them at a more leisurely pace and I look forward to reading your thoughts.

    Thanks for sharing



  8. Jessica April 28, 2010 / 3:45 pm

    What a beautiful garden, thanks for the review on this book though, my MIL loves gardening and seems to have the same style in gardens as your husband so that would be a good book for her.


  9. JoAnn April 28, 2010 / 6:55 pm

    I've enjoyed following your journeys, but I think spreading them out over the next year is a good choice. Your garden is lovely!


  10. Thomas at My Porch April 28, 2010 / 9:12 pm

    John thanks you all for your kind comments about his garden. It is defintely the second love of his life. Thank you all as well for absolving me of my need to finish all 20 this month. As a little treat I will be posting a special Penguin post tomorrow (hopefully).


  11. Daniel-Halifax April 28, 2010 / 10:07 pm

    I don't blame you on stopping, although they sound beautiful, all in good time…or should i say thyme.

    This one sounds wonderful. I'm going to try and find it!

    And your pot garden is BEAUTIFUL!


  12. Jodie April 29, 2010 / 9:43 am

    Aww the little yellow one is gorgeous and sweet.

    That's the trouble with reaidng deeply, sometimes there's not enough new stuff to keep you interested.


  13. Nymeth May 1, 2010 / 11:43 am

    I can see how this collection would work better in small doses, but wow, it sounds so wonderful! I'd love to get my hands on at least some of the books.

    Thank you for sharing the pictures of your lovely garden. Lately I've been daydreaming of having one of my own. It's probably because now that the weather has been nice, I've been spending my lunch break at the garden behind the museum where I work. It's so wonderful to watch everything come to life.


  14. Hayley May 2, 2010 / 8:51 am

    Wonderful Gaeden, my flat doesn't have any outside space and I miss getting my hands dirty, fortunatly my partner does have a garden so whenever I can get out of the city I escape to it. Mostly weeds at the moment though.


  15. Lancashire rose October 20, 2012 / 8:26 pm

    I was searching for this book and came across your review. My introduction to this series was Some Country Houses and their Owners, no 13 on the list. I have a love affair with the National Trust and especially their gardens. The little book The Seven Deadly Sins of Gardening introduced me to the author of Country Houses, James Lees-Milne. He was instrumental in acquiring many of the properties. I then moved on to Ancestral Voices which covers his diary from 1942-1943. Yes, I can only read a few days at a time before moving on to my novel. Now I have the whole set of his diaries; a gift from my husband. It may take me the rest of my life to read them. I enjoyed reading your review and seeing your garden. I share John's passion.


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