In the last three and a half years I’ve spent more time reading books on gardens than I ever did when I owned one. I’ve done even more thinking about gardens since attending the Philosophy in the Gardens session at WORD, where philosopher Damon Young talked about authors and their gardens.
Highlights included Jane Austen – lover of apricots and syringas, although one cynic in the audience was moved to ask “was she a gardener or a pointer?” A gardener it seems, along with George Orwell, Emily Dickinson, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Nietzsche, Voltaire and Colette. Even Proust, a man who barely left his cork-lined room, owned a bonsai or three.
And is Young a gardener? Yes, but not a good one. He claimed he could recite a list of the plants he has killed in much the same way as the warriors in The Iliad who, preparatory to killing a man, recite a list of those they have killed before. Ah, the perfectly placed classical reference – one of the things you go to a book festival for.
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