Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Down the Garden Path

Down the Garden Path is a hilarious, poetic, anecdotal romp through the flowers. Published by prolific author Beverly Nichols in 1932, this work of comedy was worth every moment spent reading. Chronicling his purchase of a cottage and garden in England, Nichols weaves deftly between humor, sentiment, and character sketches of the most delightful sort. While he dedicates many of the pages to gardening details, the common reader will likely find the story enjoyable, whether or not he or she is a gardening enthusiast.

Chapter XI, The Edge of the Wood

pg. 158

However, in spite of the rout of Mrs. Thyme, it is possible that I might not have bought the land, nor planted the wood, but for the international situation.

It was a question of seeking shelter. I wanted somewhere to hide in. Things looked so dreadful everywhere[...] Everything seemed to be cracking up. England was unutterably weary, America was in the throes of a nervous breakdown, Germany had consumption, Italy was suffering from delusions of grandeur, Spain was about to be sick, Russia had delirium tremens, and France had an acute attack of hysteria following indigestion. The world seemed vulgar, irrational and dangerous. And so I said to myself, selfishly, 'I will make my wood, and hide while there is yet time.'

There was something very fascinating in this idea. I planned to glower out at the world through the branches. Then, if I saw anybody awful coming along, I would rush behind a tree trunk and pretend not to be there. When the revolution came, the mob would march down my lane, see the wood, and pass by. If they happened to see me, and chase me, I could climb a tree and deliver a polite address on the economic situation, combined with a request that, as they went out, they would not trample on the delphiniums.

pg. 161-162

[describing an encounter at his local nursery gardens]

Mr. Honey talked exclusively in Latin.

The first thing I said to him, after explaining that I wanted to buy a wood, was that I liked 'that big bush with red berries over there.'

'Crataegus Pyracantha crenulata Yunnanensis,' crooned Mr. Honey

I took a deep breath, and was about to reply when Mr. Honey waved his arm to the right and murmured.

'Ribes sanguineum splendens.'

This, I felt, was enchanting. One had a sense of being a young disciple walking by the side of his master. Overhead there was the clear enamelled sky, all around were flowers and bushes, exquisitely displayed. And through the still air, as he walked, came the dulcet tones of Mr. Honey, speaking in Latin.

'Cornus mascula alba variegata,' he observed, diffidently.

I racked my brains for a suitable reply. But all I could think of was 'Et tu, Brute?' Which is the worst of a classical education.

Chapter XV, Women Gardeners

pg. 227

Most women - and I do indeed apologize for this - are really too gentle to be good gardeners. If the word had not been made so hideous by abuse, I should have written 'dainty'. For daintiness is their besetting sin. You cannot be dainty, for example, when you are planting daffodils. It is fatal if you mince about on tip-toe, pushing one bulb behind a laurel bush, popping another into the stump of an old tree, and whisking a third, with a whimsical gesture, into the middle of the lawn[...]

No! It needs a man to plant daffodils. An enormous man with bulging muscles, large nostrils, few morals and absolutely no pity. He has to be as callous as a mathematician, as orderly as a sergeant-major, and as cynical as a political agent. He must also have a capacity for wild extravagance[...] you must put in at least six times as many daffodils as you expect to see, and then - ah then, when April comes, your heart will dance, lightly enough! For you will be gladdened by many gay clusters, that seem to show an airy independence of the mould in which their birth was cast.

If you are in the mood to laugh out loud, I would also like to suggest A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle and Our Hearts Were Young And Gay: An Unforgettable Comic Chronicle of Innocents Abroad in the 1920s by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough. All three of the books I have mentioned here are perfect, light-hearted, summer reads!

1 comment:

Carole said...

Laughing out loud sounds good. Thanks for the book suggestions. I think I will try the library right now, actually!