Illustration by Inga Moore – from ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett
If you follow me on Instagram you will notice that I am a lover of the great outdoors. I also like historic places – houses and gardens – that have grown and matured with a succession of owners. I enjoy the sense of continuity that comes with occupation and slow change over decades or through centuries.
Houses – on a grand or rustic scale – are always fascinating. I like passing through marble halls and panelled galleries lined with ancestral portraits but also admire vernacular architecture styles and detailing. However, my favourite spot on such days out is always the garden.
From formal gardens with ‘parterres’ and sculpted topiary, to homely cottage borders or vegetable beds, they all have a kind of magic. Stripped back to the bones and covered in sparkling frost in winter, fecund, green and full of budding promise in the spring, overwhelmingly ‘blousy’, colourful and fragrant in summer and ‘mellow’ – full of dry textures and every possible tone of red, brown and orange – in autumn, they never cease to inspire me.
With their endless variety and ever changing sounds and smells, gardens are special places. They are testament to the natural cycle of life – birth, death, renewal – and consequently can be hugely restorative places of great tranquility and calm – good for contemplation, meditation and healing.
Nowhere is this concept expressed more clearly than in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s wonderful book The Secret Garden which was a childhood favourite and still remains a book I pick up and leaf through at regular intervals. The copy I have has the most beautiful illustrations by Inga Moore which convey the joy, excitement and hugely beneficial effects of spending time in a the fresh air, growing things on a patch of earth and caring for wild creatures.
Whether you have your own garden or just a local park, it’s great to get outside, watch the sky and listen to the birds. Why not hang up a feeder to help them through the colder days and nights that lie ahead.