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Posts Tagged ‘Frances Hodgson Burnett’

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Ever since reading Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “A Secret Garden” as a child, I have been intrigued by garden doors, imagining myself as Mary Lennox, wondering what is beyond a locked door.

So it was upon entering the Rotary Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin that my imagination grew like Jack’s beanstalk and I squealed in girlish glee “oh, this is wonderful“. There I was, hopping around, opening and closing garden doors, peering into windows and otherwise embarrassing Tom who, after all these years, is used to my childish ways about these bookish gardening “things”.

There were doors opening on doors as groomsmen in gray – and senior citizens in greige -averted their eyes to the gleeful granny and her indulgent companion.

Isn’t it grand to discover something creative and open your imagination for a bit? Maybe it was because we had just spent several days with our darling grandchildren who love to pretend that images of Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy and Toto following a yellow brick road came to mind.

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Well, dear reader, when one door closes another opens, and so it did as something else caught my eye.

Can you see it? Click on the photo for a better look.

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Scattered about the gardens were many of these boxes. They reminded me of the Little Free Libraries and were painted in all manner of whimsy and creativity.

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A volunteer in the gardens told us that the boxes were made by a group of men. They were sold at a nominal cost to be painted and appointed however the artist saw fit. They will be raffled off (or was it auctioned?) and I, of course, imagine them filled with gardening books and secret doors.

What would you fill them with?

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Come summertime, when the roses are a bloom and the daisies start dancing in the breeze, I tend to pull out my gardening books and think about revisiting my favorite children’s literature. Quiet and shy as a child, I was content with my nose in a book on a summer’s day, curled upon my bed or sitting on the front stoop. The world came alive in my travels through books and I knew I always had a friend.

One summer I devoured all of the “Heidi” books by Johanna Spyri. I was immersed in the Alps with Peter and the Grandfather.  Lois Lenski and her regional series of books kept me captive another summer where I learned about strawberry farms and the devastation of floods and how children lived in rural parts of the United States. The best summer was when a neighbor, whose four daughters were grown, gave us a box of  books. Children’s classics.  I thought I had inherited the greatest of summertime treasures.

This year, I was determined to read once again The Secret Garden. Fueled by the gardens I’ve visited lately and buoyed by the garden walk last week, I pulled it out from behind a door that houses my collection of Tasha Tudor books.  I have been once again enchanted by  the garden’s locked door and what lies beyond it that holds so much hope for the children in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic.

This weekend, I had the opportunity to visit a most wonderful garden nearby, with mown garden paths and a smokehouse, a sprawling lawn for children to frolic in, and an 1880’s house that was a treasure to behold, not to mention Barbara, the hostess, who is a most remarkable woman and mother and gardener. When the feast was ready, we all helped carrying platters and bowls and trays through the paths and to the glade, where tables awaited, candles flickered, and good food was abundant.

I sat for a moment in the clearing and just looked about, sure I had tumbled into a secret garden. Has this ever happened to you?

Back on the cutoff, I enjoyed getting re-aquainted with ten year old Mary Lennox, her friend Dickon, who can charm animals , and her sickly cousin, Colin, who emerges at last from his bed to share the joys of the secret garden at Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire.

It is such a joy to watch Mary and Colin blossom, much like the flowers in the secret garden Mary is determined to reclaim. Dickon is such a wonderful boy. Even the adults soften and grow in this beautiful book, which I understand was originally marketed to both children and adults when it was first released in the early 1900’s.

Have you ever read The Secret Garden? It is such a sweet story, not only of a trio of children, two who have been virtually abandoned by parents and life, who attempt to restore a garden forbidden to all at Misselthwaite Manor, and flourish themselves in the process. It is also a story of hope in what lies beyond us and how our dreams can help us to grow and to thrive and to be the best we can be.

I love the edition I have, filled with Tasha Tudor’s soft illustrations. The Secret Garden, along with Barbara’s garden, which so reminded me of the pictures I’ve seen of Tasha’s garden, have made for a most delightful time.

The Secret Garden

A perfect book for a child – or for the child in you to read on a summer’s day.

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Being a princess inside

     “Whatever comes,” she said, “cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.”  

Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess

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