“Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life” Book Review
“Beatrix continued writing books and designing spin-off merchandise — toys, china, wallpaper, and the like — in part to fund her garden efforts.” Marta McDowell
Summary: This easy-to-read biography may give you the feeling of being written by someone who knew her subject personally, but it was not! In fact, Marta McDowell admits that she did not even read Beatrix’s books as a child. Her introduction to Beatrix Potter came much later in life, which is explained in the book’s Preface. Perhaps this fresh eye becomes an advantage, as McDowell’s delighted perspective allows us to discover the magic of Beatrix Potter as if for the first time, as well! If the writings of Beatrix Potter have a special place in your heart, Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life will move right into that “special place.”
Gardening Experience Level: All levels
Publisher: Timber Press
Date of Publishing: 2013
Format: Hard Cover
This book has three parts:
Part One: Beatrix Potter’s Life as a Gardener – In this introductory section, the author walks us through Beatrix’s life journey, taking us through her “Germination,” “Offshoots,” “Flowering,” “Roots,” “Ripening,” and “Setting Seed.” (Clever!) As the titles of the chapters would suggest, Beatrix’s biography contains not only facts about and photos from her life, but also gives us much insight into how Beatrix wove her garden experiences into the tales that so many of us cherish.
Part Two: The Year in Beatrix Potter’s Gardens – This section follows Beatrix through a year in her gardens, allowing us to garden side-by-side with her, informed by her writing, artwork, and photographs past and present. It is here that the reader will recognize the flora and fauna from Beatrix’s work, including Peter’s cauliflower from “Peter Rabbit’s Almanac for 1929,” Timmy Willie’s pea pod bed from “The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse,“ and the peonies and irises from the beautifully illustrated “The Tale of Tom Kitten.”
Part Three: Visiting Beatrix Potter’s Gardens – The final section of this magical read takes us on a garden tour through present day England, Scotland, and Wales, stopping to visit the beloved gardens of Beatrix and allowing us to “see what she saw.” By the time you finish this section, I will be very surprised if your next step isn’t to excitedly reread Potter’s classics from a fresh perspective, reviving Beatrix’s work once again. What a gift from Marta McDowell!
Photos: You will see photos (of Beatrix and family) throughout the book, many are from the 1880’s. There are also instantly recognizable illustrations from her various books and many examples of her exquisite beautiful artwork.
Learn more about Marta McDowell:
Reviewer Melva Tibbetts has been gardening for over 45 years and lives in the high desert area of Northern Arizona. Walk Through Melva’s Garden Gate here!