Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas Thoughts

“It is only to the gardener that time is a friend, giving each year more than he steals.”
Beverley Nichols, Merry Hall

Just finished this famed garden memoir by Beverley Nichols, which falls on many people’s lists of favorite garden books of all time. This Zelig-like writer flitted in and out of politics, celebrity, and journalism during pre/postwar Great Britain, and somehow found time and money to garden like a crazed Johnny Appleseed in series of homes in the English countryside. Merry Hall is an account of the years he lived in a run-down Georgian manse surrounded by five acres where he torched unwanted shrubs, felled mature trees he deemed ugly—and then replanted forests of trees, lilies, roses, and more trees. He apparently did no work himself, preferring to direct gangs of workers and his fulltime gardener, a man of almost mythical horticultural skills named Oldfield. To read the book is to take an amiable meander through the garden with this interesting man, stopping for a moment in the greenhouse, witnessing hilarious drop-ins by eccentric neighbors and the antics of his two cats, and listening to Nichols natter on about his love for lilies. There’s a terrible poignancy about the whole book as well, embodying as it does a world now vanished, where infallible gardeners, faithful valets, and unimaginable real estate economies existed.


Infoman said...

Hello Libby. So glad you liked "Merry Hall, " (the actual name of the book), although "Merry Thoughts" does describe the book well :-)

I had the privilege of convincing Timber Press to reprint the book, for which I also did the index. I hope you'll want to read the second and third parts of the Merry Hall trilogy, also in print from Timber Press, with my indexing and an introduction for the second book. Part II is "Laughter on the Stairs," which goes into the restoration of the Georgian manor house itself, and Part III is "Sunlight on the Lawn," which is about the landscaping of the grounds, including a huge balustrade installation. Still, both have further gardening thoughts and comments, expressed only as Nichols can.

Timber Press has ten Nichols gardening books in print, as well as his two cat books and a new collection of the best excerpts from the gardening books that I was privileged to edit, "Rhapsody in Green" (which indeed could have been called Merry Thoughts!) If you and your blog readers want to know more, go to Timber Press's Nichols website at
Happy reading. - Roy Dicks

Libby at Aurora Primavera said...

Whoah, too much eggnog. Thanks Roy, proofing this post!