During a sort through my gardening books recently, I couldn’t help but open up a few covers and thumb through a few pages, as you do…. Naturally, a few historic maps and illustrations caught my eye, including the Stanley Spencer image shown below. Whilst pouring over the image though, I couldn’t help but take in a few well chosen words on its opposing page – it would have been rude not to…
It is a book called Gardens of Delight by Miles and John Hadfield, published in 1964. It’s a hardback with a muted holly green cover and gold wording along the spine. As it turns out, there are many more recent books of the very same title.
I don’t know how it arrived in my collection, but my general fascination with garden history and literature, combined with a pencil written £1.50 on the inside cover, it most likely found its way to my shelf via a charity book shop – I never have been able to resist them!
As soon as I read the words I felt duty bound to pass them on as they really struck a chord, bringing quickly to mind a few gardeners I’ve met along my gardening ways. Therefore, I shall dance around the edge of the room no longer, and will lay out below the text as presented, I hope it makes you think of a gardener, or maybe the gardener in your life.
Gardeners are good. Such vices as they have
Are like the warts and the bosses in the wood
Of an old Oak. They’re patient, stubborn folk,
As needs must be whose busyness it is
To tutor wildness, making war on weeds.
With slow sagacious words and knowing glance
They scan the sky, do all that mortals may
To learn civility to pesty birds
Come after new green peas, cosset and prune
Roses, wash with lime the orchard trees,
Make Sun parlours for seedlings.
Add cunning next, unless you’d put it first;
For while to dig and delve is all their text
There’s cunning in their fingers to persuade
Beauty to bloom and riot to run right,
Mattock and spade, trowel and rake and hoe
Being not tools to learn by learning rules
But extra limbs these husbands of the earth
Had from their birth. Of malice they’ve no more
Than snaring slugs and wireworms will appease,
Or may with ease be drowned in mugs of mild.
Wherefore I say again, whether or no
It is their occupation makes them so,
Gardeners are good, in grain.
By Gerald Bullett.
In Gardens of Delight, by Miles & John Hatfield.
Cassell & Company Ltd