Garden Open Today Paperback – 24 Jul 2009
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"Beverly Nichols makes an unequivocal case for water in the garden."Valerie Easton, Seattle Times, August 31, 2004--Valerie Easton "Seattle Times "
"In this entertaining volume, [Nichols] weaves literature, music, art and travel into his anecdotes, peppering them with memorable characters and droll humor."--Moira Sheridan, People Places Plants, Summer 2003--Moira Sheridan "People Places Plants "
"No one has ever traveled down the garden path with quite the same flair as Beverley Nichols. The latest Timber Press reprints are here, ready to bolster the case." Bob Cowden, Pacific Horticulture, Winter 2003"
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His face lit up just as if he were 15 again he is 99
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Beverly Nichols book GARDEN OPEN TODAY (first published in 1963) is the next best thing, a narrative tour describing his garden which before his death he opened occasionally to the public. The book is lovingly illustrated with `whimsical' drawings by William McLaren (one photograph of Nichols and his friend Reginald Gaskin collecting money for charity at the entrance to the Nichols' grounds).
Nichols was a "real gardener" who worked side-by-side with several hired gardeners described in his earlier books, including MERRY HALL, LAUGHTER ON THE STAIR, and SUNLIGHT ON THE LAWN. If you haven't discovered Beverly Nichols and you love gardening and/or visiting gardens, you are in for a treat. His books are humorous and instructive, and definitely for cat lovers. (He wrote several books about cats). In GARDEN OPEN TODAY, he takes you step by step through his current garden (he moved a few times and wrote books about several gardens) pointing out some of the more interesting flowers and features.
As usual, the best bits of Nichols' book are anecdotal. His chapter on flower arrangers (apparently the bane of his existence) is hilarious. Nichols was a "loose bunch" kind of guy who detested those who "tortured" flowers in order to twist them into unnatural shapes. He often said that flowers were best left in the garden or picked for a loose and natural arrangement reflecting the perennial border. I suppose I get a big kick out his anti-arranger diatribes because I come from a family of garden club members and garden club founders and have had many encounters with the similar characters. However, almost anyone can appreciate Chapter 18. `A matter of arrangement'
Nichols is a product of his times so his not-quite-politically-correct comments about women gardeners may rankle some, but those of us who grew up in less privileged times will be able to look past the semi-misogynist tone (and hopefully younger women too) and appreciated the interesting and informative material he includes. Besides, he spends more time on cats than women. I recommend this book for bedtime reading.
The real juice of this book however, is in deftly hilarious portraits of hypothetical lady gardeners, retirees planting their first garden, and cats. In the hands of a less skillful writer these would be twee bores, as would characterizations of people as types of soil(attributed to Elinor Glyn), a chapter on the real Constance Spry and the occasional breathtaking sentence like one about lilies and music that you'll just have to read for yourself.
In the tradition of P.G. Wodehouse and E. F. Benson, 'Garden Open Today' is a more than worthy addition to any collection of lighter Britlit, and I am gleefully looking forward to reading anything else by Mr. Nichols I can get my hands on. Oh, happy, happy day when I picked up this one, I'd give it ten stars if I could!
Heftier in gardening tips, etc than his prior books (which included humorous distractions of country life and people,) it may surprise some who expect more of the same. However, if you love him and love gardening, get this book!