Comments sought on a gardening book proposal
I am in the process of structuring a book, which I will be writing about our garden, Shadowlands. Since it is aimed at all those interested in gardening – ‘middlebrow’ – if you will, I would be most interested to hear of any suggestions that people have about what would be most appealing to you in terms of format/content. For instance, whether a chronological account or thematic account would be best; whether anecdotal episodes should be integrated into the text, or put as textual asides, and so on? Below is the rough intro, and any comments/suggestions would be very much appreciated. I think it would be fairly unique to the literature, and of interest to people, but I may be wrong, and in that case, I imagine GoY members are the people to tell me.
Thanks very much,
Shadowlands: Garden Notes from the Volcano’s Edge
Shadowlands follows the first three years in the establishment of a half-acre private garden, set eight-hundred and forty metres above sea level on the side of an active volcano, deep within the Hakone-Izu National Park, Japan. It is a story of personal horticultural discovery set against the backdrop of the Tohoku Earthquake of 2010; fuelled by the idea of regeneration, and supported by the first flushes of cultural awakening. The colourful horticultural journey combines a rich, surprising, and often humorous account of the many obstacles, difficulties and pleasures that arose, with original genuflexions on the many plants growing wild in their native habitat that are much celebrated in the leading gardens of America and Europe today. Shadowlands offers a distinctive and personal gardening philosophy that has developed organically – as is almost always the case – from trial and error, but more importantly through willingness to compromise, taking the reader on a journey from the excitement of initial stock surveys to a sober reconciliation with the climatic peculiarities and environmental limitations of the area. Above all, it is a sustained argument in support of the catharsis of gardening. Anecdotes of cultural misunderstanding in the early stages progress to a more mature appreciation of Japanese gardening styles that, through experience, are shown to be more rooted in practical aspects of gardening than the more celebrated (yet undeniable) concern for aesthetic harmony.
I scarcely remember naming it: I mean the house and gardens. It was never a process. Never was there recourse to the gardening equivalent of baby naming books (though I see some scope for such a publication to exist). It was always going to be Shadowlands. That is not to say there were not influences. Shortly after I first arrived in Japan in 2002, in a delightful antiquarian bookshop, I stumbled across a bound volume of Shadowlands theatre magazine – a short lived publication published between 1919-1923. Its art deco covers by Hopfmuller were so powerful and surrealistically evocative, that they helped to fix the name in my head, and I carried it around with me for weeks. The 1993 film of that name depicting the life of C.S. Lewis – which I had heard of, but not at that point seen – also seemed to imbue it with the bohemian promise of a literary life. But in Freudian retrospect, it has an imaginative and poetic connection with the house in rural Sussex, England, in which I grew up called Meadowlands. To this day it continues to conjure up the Elysian days of childhood which set-firm my love of nature, the English countryside, and of gardening.
- 22 May, 2013
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