To me, gardens and reading just go together naturally; a good summer read enjoyed amid the blooms is one of life’s great pleasures. Most gardeners I know are as happy with a book in hand as they are clutching a trowel. It could even be possible that one of the main reasons I create and tend my gardens is just to have a beautiful place to read when the weather is fine.
My ideal summer story is absorbing without being too challenging. No dark, depressing books at this time of year, thank you. When I find a novel with a garden theme my little heart leaps like scarlet runner beans spiralling up a trellis! A common theme threading through many novels in this Garden Lit genre is the healing power of plants and green spaces, as any gardener knows well. Check out this list of garden-themed novels I’ve enjoyed recently – maybe they’ll become your favourites too. (PS: their covers are as lovely as the stories!)
by Julie Cantwell
Prodigal daughter Lovey returns home to small town Mississippi to help her parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. As she works in her mother’s beloved gardens, she struggles with her need to heal her relationship with her bitter sister, versus her desire to carve out her own niche in a city far away. This charming story made me long to while away a sultry Southern afternoon among the black-eyed Susans, hydrangea and gardenias in Lovey’s mother’s garden, iced tea in hand, bees humming drowsily in the blooms.
The Language of Flowers
by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
For young Victoria Jones, recently emancipated from the foster care system with nowhere to go, the Victorian language of flowers communicates her loneliness and mistrust better than words. In the San Francisco park she calls home, she plants her own garden and gives away flowers full of meaning to strangers in need of healing. Can flowers help her open up to a life of happiness and love? This gorgeous debut novel had me from the first page, so much so that I am thinking I need to read it a second time.
The Forbidden Garden
by Ellen Herrick
In 1993 I had the good fortune to be part of a team tasked with recreating an 1890s pioneer garden at the Historic Stewart Farm. This project sparked my passion for old gardens that continues 25 years later. In The Forbidden Garden, nursery owner Sorrel Sparrow lands an opportunity to cross the pond to England to revive a long-dormant Shakespearean garden on a country estate. But things in the garden are not as they should be, and many have tried but failed to bring it back to life. Will Sorrel be the one to break the spell and restore it to full bloom? Take a cracking good mystery, sprinkle in a dash of magic, and seed in lots of old-time flowers and herbs, and you’ve got a perfect summer read. I discovered afterwards the book has a prequel called The Sparrow Sisters, which is another addition to my ‘growing’ list of garden reads.
What new garden reads are waiting in my hammock for me? I’ve just begun The White Garden by Stephanie Barron – a story that offers a new take on the tragic end of writer Virginia Woolf. Other characters include Vita Sackville-West and her famed White Garden at Sissinghurst (yes, a garden can be a character in a novel!), and members of the Bloomsbury Group. So far I’m all in. Also on this summer’s To Read list is Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King. It’s got gardens. Famous flower paintings. History. Bliss!
Help me grow my list of books set in gardens by adding your recommendations in the Comments below. Then go grab your own garden read and head outside because summer is short and there are so many books to read. Don’t forget the iced tea!