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We Made a Garden (Modern Library Gardening) Paperback – February 19, 2002
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Just in time for the 40th anniversary of its original publication, Margery Fish's classic gardening memoir has been published in the United States for the first time. Fish and her husband Walter, a former editor of the Daily Mail, bought a dilapidated house and two acres of limey clay in Somerset in 1937, fearing the onset of war. For the next two decades, they cultivated, pruned, and watered, with Walter providing the direction and the sense of order and Margery the flowers, the unstructured flora, and the wry observations. As in all of the best gardening books, Fish's memoir leavens technical information on gardening with memory and reflection. The book is above all the story of a marriage within the story of a landscape. Walter's lectures on the importance of structure, the distant war, the hardships of postwar England, come through slightly muted, like the outlines of buildings seen through dense foliage. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Crammed with good advice. . . . I defy any amateur gardener not to find pleasure, encouragement, and profit from We Made a Garden.” —Vita Sackville-West
“Gardening is like everything else in life, you get out of it as much as you put in. No one can make a garden by buying a few packets of seeds or doing an afternoon’s weeding. You must love it, and then your love will be
repaid a thousandfold, as every gardener knows.” —Margery Fish
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Walter deadheads roses, carelessly ignoring the trail of fallen blooms leaving Margery to pick them up like a servant. Walter cuts down her long awaited budding new flowers with a scythe without consulting her and she thinks he is teaching her a important lesson about not experimenting with new plants.In spring Walter plants high growing pole climbing roses in a garden bed that Margery spent a cold, wet winter preparing alone for her favorite low growing plants. Walter "allows" her one clematis of her choosing and buys five of the color he wants to decorate the famous front door with their blue blooms. He likes neat walk ways and she likes plants trailing over the edges which she plants after his death. In one scene they are putting in a paved walkway and she asks the workman for holes to be left for the small sprawling plants she loves. Water becomes furious and deems her greedy when she asks for "too many" and her holes are filled in with concrete. The sad thing is that she believes that she is greedy and that Walter is right.
I know this book is from another time, but reading it gave me a stomach ache at Margery's acceptance of her domination. She is a horticulturist of high intellect and personal opinions living in a sexist world who found insidious ways to get her way. She constantly defers to Walter, rationalizing that since he is the more experienced gardener, he must be right, but she orders new plants in secret and fears his noticing their arrival at the door. Walter purchases gaudy dinner plate dahlias that she hates, leaving her the work of meticulously planting, watering, digging up, cleaning and storing them. Margery takes her revenge, eventually letting all but a few die during their over wintering rest in the guest room.
My husband thought the book was hysterical. I first read it aloud to him as a joke but the more I read the more I got upset. Margery and Walter disagree on hydrangea colors, she like pinks, he likes blues, so they buy all blues until he dies when she replaces them all with pink. I guess she did finally get her way.
Fish's little book will be considered a gem by experienced gardeners who can picture the plants she names in the mind's eye, identify with her triumphs and failures, and appreciate a useful clues from an obviously seasoned hand. Garden veterans will also identify with the greedy gardener who never has enough space, the stubborn gardener who plants Nepeta despite it's runaway habits, the recalcitrant gardener who hides the verboten brilliant orange Lychnis chalcedonica at the back of the beds, and the disobedient gardener who leaves many openings in the cemented walkway hubby designed to thwart weeds.
The book may appear a bit dense to the new gardener as it describes activities such as composing flower beds, creating walkways, and engineering rock gardens with inferior rocks,with no illustrations, other than a few black and white photos-one of Mrs Fish on bended knee at work in her rock garden. However, all is not lost. Determined gardeners unfamiliar with the various plants Mrs Fish names can refer to a nursery catalogue since 60-70 percent of the plants available in the 1950s can be found contemporary mail order publications