"I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose, I would always greet it in a garden." - Ruth Stout

The Plants: "Borders should have repetition and a backdrop," says Loi. Repeating perennials and bulbs such as alliums, Asiatic lilies, and 'David' summer phlox creates a rhythm that carries the eye—even through a small space. An English laurel hedge is the canvas from which it all pops. To increase depth, texture, and interest, Tom and Loi included silver, gray, and variegated foliage such as lamb's ears, 'Diamond Frost' euphorbias, dusty millers, and spotted dead nettles (contained by a brick walk).
Photo: Helen Norman

Snipped from books and essays and gathered like so many armfuls of blooms from a cutting garden, these words about gardens describe green grasses and lush blossoms, changing seasons and hard work. They come to us in the voices of writer-gardeners whose hard-earned knowledge is accompanied by telltale crescents of dirt under the fingernails. Some of these quotations can be found in favorite vintage garden books, which explore the work of gardening and those who love it, those who toil in the earth to cultivate something in it and in themselves. So gather your trowels and stakes, and kneel amongst the flowers—we hope these sentiments inspire you to tend your garden this season.

On Gardeners

  • "Each spring a gardening instinct, sure as the sap rising in the trees, stirs within us. We look about and decide to tame another little bit of ground." - Lewis Gannett, Cream Hill: Discoveries of a Week-end Countryman (1949)
  • "Odd as it may appear, a gardener does not grow from seed, shoot, bulb, rhizome, or cutting, but from experience, surroundings, and natural conditions." - Karel Čapek, The Gardener's Year (1929)
  • "…but we garden-lovers are greedy folk, and always want to have more and more and more! I want to have a Rose-garden, and a Tulip-garden, and a Carnation-garden, and a Columbine-garden, and a Fern-garden…" - Gertrude Jekyll, Home and Garden (1900)
  • "If you wish to make anything grow you must understand it, and understand it in a very real sense. ‘Green fingers' are a fact, and a mystery only to the unpractised. But green fingers are the extensions of a verdant heart." - Russell Page, The Education of a Gardener (1962)
  • "My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature." - Claude Monet
Helen Norman

On Nature

  • "Gardens straddle the divide between Nature and human nature." - Merilyn Simonds, "Introduction," Gardens: A Literary Companion (2008)
  • "Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another." - John Muir
  • "The design [a gardener] imposes must be constantly modified and sometimes totally transformed by a hand stronger than his own—the hand of Nature. Maybe the art of gardening is simply the knowledge of how to hold that hand, and how to clasp it in friendship." - Beverley Nichols, Garden Open Today (1963)
  • "Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain." - Henry David Thoreau
  • "When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world." - John Muir

On the Magic of Gardening

  • "A great deal of weeping goes on in my garden, but it is a happy sort of weeping, for all this bending of branches and bowing of heads is simply due to the fact that so much beauty is displayed on so small a stage." - Beverley Nichols, Forty Favorite Flowers (1964)
  • "The garden year has no beginning and no end." - Elizabeth Lawrence, A Southern Garden (1942)
  • "People who know the garden in which their vegetables have grown and know that the garden is healthy will remember the beauty of the growing plants, perhaps in the dewy first light of morning when gardens are at their best." - Wendell Berry, "The Pleasures of Eating," The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry (2017)
  • "The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway." - Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education (1991)
  • "To a four-year-old, though, the space made by the vaulting branches of a forsythia is as grand as the inside of a cathedral, and there is room enough for a world between a lilac and a wall." - Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education (1991)
  • "There is no spot of ground, however arid, bare, or ugly, that cannot be tamed into such a state as may give the impression of beauty and delight." - Gertrude Jekyll, Home and Garden (1900)
  • "The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul." - Alfred Austin
  • "Scents bring memories, and many memories bring nostalgic pleasure. We would be wise to plan for this when we plant a garden." - Thalassa Cruso
As most every gardener knows, the etymological root of the word "paradise" means "enclosed park." Enclosed or not, a garden of any size or design can give to its owner a respite that's as close to a paradise as we can get. My husband, Ed, differs. "Blissful and bothersome," he says. No matter how the anemones bloom on cue, how many wafts of gardenia and daphne and magnolia drift around the porch, or how scrumptious the basket of peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants is, there's always a moderating force: As you survey the beds, you begin to notice that some things could be better. You see weeds; fallen branches; yellowing remains of daffodils, hyacinths, and irises after the bloom is over. And why, why did anyone ever plant 10 walnut trees at the entrance, where guests could be conked on the head by falling nuts? Why the perpetual glitch in the fountain, the black spot on prize roses, and the peach tree dying for no reason?
Helen Norman; Styling: Victoria Maiolo

On the Work of Gardening

  • "Gardening is a vocation like any other—a calling, if you like, but not a gift from heaven. One acquires the necessary skills and knowledge to do it successfully, or one doesn't." - Eleanor Perényi, Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden (1981)
  • "Let no one think that real gardening is a bucolic and meditative occupation. It is an insatiable passion, like everything else to which a man gives his heart." - Karel Čapek, The Gardener's Year (1929)
  • "One must, to begin with, acquire a mental map of the terrain, know where falls the shadow, where shines the sun—and when." - Eleanor Perényi, Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden (1981)
  • "Garden as though you will live forever." - William Kent
  • "It always seems to me that one of the things most worth doing about a garden is to try to make every part of it beautiful […]." - Gertrude Jekyll, Home and Garden (1900)
  • "Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace." - May Sarton
  • "I know that I cannot make anything new. To make a garden is to organise all the elements present and add fresh ones, but first I must absorb as best I can all that I see, the sky and the skyline, the soil, the colour of the grass and the shape and nature of the trees." - Russell Page, The Education of a Gardener (1962)
  • "The world is full of good things that we could grow and do not grow." - Elizabeth Lawrence, A Southern Garden (1942)
James R. Salomon

On the Seasons

  • "From December to March, there are for many of us three gardens—the garden outdoors, the garden of pots and bowls in the house, and the garden of the mind's eye […]." - Katherine S. White, Onward and Upward in the Garden (1979)
  • "We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time: How much is enough?" - Wendell Berry
  • "I always take this personally; I think a frost is something someone is doing to me—only me. And this is how winter in the garden begins—with another tentativeness, a curtsy to the actual cold to come, a gentle form of it." - Jamaica Kincaid
  • "I tell you, there is no death; not even sleep. We only pass from one season to another. We must be patient with life, for it is eternal." - Karel Čapek, The Gardener's Year (1929)
  • "Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn." - Elizabeth Lawrence
  • "I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose, I would always greet it in a garden." - Ruth Stout
  • "The colors (the green of the leaf, the red-pink stem of rhubarb, the red veins of beet leaves, the yellows and browns of sunflowers) start out tentatively, in a maybe-or-maybe-not way, and then one day, perhaps after a heavy rain, everything is strong and itself, twinkling, jewel-like. At that moment, I think life will never change: it will always be summer." - Jamaica Kincaid
  • "It is spring again. The Earth is like a child that knows its poems by heart." - Rainer Maria Rilke
Above the rose garden, climbing 'New Dawn' roses atop shade-giving pergolas explode into bloom. Below it lies an intricately woven boxwood parterre.
Photo: Roger Foley

On Enjoying a Garden

  • "Plants are the material from which the garden is created. I think of a garden not as a manifestation of spring (like an Easter hat), nor as beds of flowers to be cut and brought into the house, but as a place to be in and enjoy every month of the year." - Elizabeth Lawrence, A Southern Garden (1942)
  • "Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed." - Walt Whitman, "Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun"
  • "Although gardening may not at first seem to hold the drama or grandeur of, say, climbing mountains, it is gardening that gives most of us our most direct and intimate experience of nature—of its satisfactions, fragility, and power." - Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education (1991)
  • "The hum of bees is the voice of the garden." - Elizabeth Lawrence
Evergreens thrive here, with different shades, shapes, sizes, and scales forming intricate plant combinations as the garden matures. Over time, the landscape has become a gorgeous patchwork of plantings. "We brought in color with interesting foliage like nolina, prickly pear cactus, and purple smoke trees so the garden doesn't rely solely on blooms," Broussard explains. The occasional flowers are juxtaposed with evergreens, which provide both structure and texture. "We added Italian cypress, bluebeard yucca, boxwood, and plum yew as well as man-made elements at strategic viewpoints. Even in winter, the evergreens and architectural elements form a structural backbone for the space," Broussard says.The mingling of various elements, both evergreen and otherwise, ensures that the eye is always being drawn somewhere new. Regardless of the time of year—and even in the heat of summer—whether sitting under the leafy arbor, winding along the paths, or glimpsing a vibrant bloom among the layers of evergreen plantings, visitors are transported. As Margie explains, "That's the delight of this garden; it doesn't have a bad season."
Wynn Myers; Styling: Sara Oswalt/Sisterbrother MGMT

On Practical Concerns

  • "Life is meaningless without some aim, and so is a garden path. By which I do not mean that you have to have some awful little statue glowering at you from the end, or some unnecessary sundial [...]. All I mean is that if you are walking down the garden path you must walk to something, even if it is only a tree, or a gap in the hedge through which you can look out on to quiet fields." - Beverley Nichols, Green Grows the City (1939)
  • "Gold in the garden is worth a lot more than gold in the bank…And just as money breeds money, so, in the garden, gold magnifies gold." - Beverley Nichols, Garden Open Tomorrow (1968)
  • "There is no end to bad gardens, but we need not mention them." - Christopher Thacker, The History of Gardens (1979)
  • "If people who are not concerned with the weather have so many reasons for complaining about it, what should a gardener say!" - Karel Čapek, The Gardener's Year (1929)
"We tried to do things that would keep it looking nice, rather than untidy, while still being very efficient in terms of production," Crawford explains. An arbor covered in Confederate jasmine serves as an entrance. To lend a formal-garden feel, they designed a center box taller than the rest and surrounded it with L-shaped and rectangular raised beds. "We want the garden to be like any other part of the yard," he says. Crawford knows just how to grow efficiently (and deliciously). Ultimately, he says, it comes down to "learning what the plants want and then giving them that." He sounds like a manager. "Yes, a plant manager," says Georgia.
Robbie Caponetto

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What are your best-loved garden quotes? Do you have favorite garden books that you return to and reread each season?