EVERYTHING YOU CAN DO IN THE GARDEN without actually gardening

After all the interest in the lead up to her visit, we were delighted to welcome Philippa on Saturday 15 May. Many of our customers who had been intrigued by the title of her book and wanted to know more had the opportunity to meet Philippa and have their copies signed. This is a delightful and well researched book looking at the history of gardening. Philippa looks at how people have enjoyed their gardens over the centuries, and combines quotations from the many words written on the subject with contemporary illustrations.

“Philippa Lewis is a picture researcher, with an eye for uncommon facts and a wry way of presenting them. Her book is a scholarly and entertaining social history with pictures. Most books of this type recycle old material, but this writer has a knack of discovering fresh facts. The Wordsworths papered their cottage with newspaper. Eric Ravilious tried to include a man diving into a swimming pool for his Wedgewood Garden service, but was told that the design would not be accessible to the British public. Princess Charlotte thought skittles were low grade at Claremont, so she turned the ninepin alley into flowerbeds. The knowledge is lightly worn and there is masses of information, a bit like Schott’s Miscellany, but better, because you can enjoy it in an old-fashioned way, as a good read, while absorbing facts to amuse your friends.

Philippa Lewis

Philippa Lewis

Another pleasure in this volume of garden tourism through the ages, is being reminded of passages from books read long ago, but now forgotten. Isabel Poppet, in Mapp and Lucia, ‘turned black with all those sun-baths and her hair spiky and wiry with so many sea-baths, resembled a cross between a kipper and a sea urchin.’ Sun-bathing, games, exercises, parties, fires, children, pets and ideas are all things that have occupied people out of doors. So too have love and feasts and picnics. Of course there are omissions. Don’t people ever play chess or cards outside? And not all the games that children enjoy, like French and English, or Go Home, are mentioned. The book makes one think about what else gardens are for and what extra possibilities there might be for outdoor life. The purchase of a ping pong table this summer has made our garden a much more attractive place for teenagers when they come to stay. One forgets that what P. G. Wodehouse called ‘flarze’ are really not enough to tempt non-gardeners out of doors. “

Review from Spectator

Everything You Can Do in the Garden Without Actually Gardening by Philippa Lewis (Frances Lincoln, £16.99)