Thursday, March 12, 2009

Merry Hall

Here in northwest Ohio, capricious March weather will afford at least a few weeks more before yard and garden work begins in earnest. I'm spending the time reading about gardens, and there is no more delightful garden writer to read than Englishman Beverley Nichols (1898-1983). I first discovered him years ago when I spied his Down the Garden Path (1932) on the library gardening shelves. The book told about Nichols' first garden. His love and delight in flowers is infectious--what he wrote about winter-blooming flowers, in particular, thrilled me. However, it's the razor-sharp wit that keeps the pages turning. He's a blend of Gertrude Jekyll and Oscar Wilde, if you can imagine that. Now I'm reading yet another Nichols treasure, Merry Hall, the first in a trilogy.

Originally published in 1951, Merry Hall describes the author's purchase and renovation of a derelict house and garden in post-war England. The sure way Nichols expresses his opinions on all things horticultural and human is delightful and informative. Nichols' account of the home buying process is blisteringly funny--especially hilarious is the description of his friend who rattles his keys with condemnation every step of the way. I laughed aloud at the antics of his gardener, the indomitable Oldfield, who turns a blind eye to anything and anyone meeting his disapproval. And who hasn't known a "Miss Emily," whose warm letter of welcome to the neighborhood reveals a shockingly bold attempt to manipulate. His telling of an offending hedge, and the champagne-soaked plan to eradicate it had me howling. I'll tell you one thing: I won't be drinking and gardening any time soon. I will be reading the rest of Nichols' garden books, however. Timber Press has reissued many of them recently. Check out the following website:

Then hie thee to a library! Nichols books await!

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    I followed you from Kathi Dunphy's blog after seeing you were also from Ohio. Great blog you have here. I'll be back!!