Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Very First Garden Book

I popped over to the Rant the other day and found this link about an interview with Amy Stewart who, among other things, is the woman who's entirely to blame that I'm a garden blogger today. If you have the time, do pop over and read the interview, it's fun and Amy's vid about her new book is quite amusing. In the interview Amy was asked what her very first garden book was and that got me thinking about my first garden book and how big it's influence has been on me as a gardener. I still have it, even though it's ever so slightly the worse for wear.
What's that you mumble? There's a cat on the front cover? Well hello, this is Bliss you know, where cats and gardens go paw in leaf. For those of you who can't read Dutch its title is Mimi, the Little Cat. I got this book as a present from friends of my parents when I was 3 years old and unable to read. I distinctly remember pestering all and sundry to read this book to me as I was dead keen on it. Once they had finished reading it to me I charmed them into reading it all over again, which they did, bless them. BTW did I mention the keen thingy? To this day I know the first page of this book by heart.
The book is about a little kitten that's playing outside in a very tiny courtyard garden surrounded by a very high wall. Mimi is chasing a fly but as there is so little space, not a lot of fun is to be had.
So she decides to climb that wall to see what's on the other side. But she loses her balance and lands on a clump of lovely daffodils and Primulas.
Guess what my favourite spring flowers are?
Remember, I even took the dafs to the Desert Island with me (among other things, which we won't mention now) and every year I buy lots of Primulas in February and March to brighten up my living room and kitchen and once they've finished flowering, I pop them in my kitchen garden.

After she recovers from the shock Mimi finds herself in a wonderful garden and she starts to explore it. While happily walking around, she stumbles upon some pretty flowers and has a very nice chat with them. To this day I'm ever so slightly disappointed that my flowers don't talk to me.
I remember impressing the heck out of many a gardener when 3 year old mini me was able to tell them the name of these flowers. In Dutch it's Oost-Indische Kers, a very long name, especially for a 3 year old. Nowadays I have my own version of Mimi with nasturtiums. My Mimi is called Dolly Daisy.
Mimi also has a meet and greet with a talking apple tree with pretty red apples.
And what does Yolanda grow at Bliss today?
And they are bright red, just like the ones in the book!!!

Then Mimi gets to meet a little doggy in the garden, its name is Puck, and a very cute doggy it is too. Together they have oodles of fun.
No guesses as to what Yolanda has running around in her garden.
Her very own version of Puck, better known as Tara.

In the garden in the book there is also a lovely pond filled with waterlilies, frogs and goldfishes, exactly what I had in my old garden and hope to have again this year (keeping fingers and toes firmly crossed that this will finally happen) in the Bliss garden.
So yes, this book about a kitten and a garden has had a big influence on me, and not only as a gardener. What it has taught me most is that a garden should be fun and shared with many creatures so that it becomes a truly magical place in real life, not just in children's books.

And now the 64,000 dollar question: what was your first garden book and what was its influence on you, gentle reader? One enquiring mind really would like to know.

copyright, the drawings not included, 2009: Y.E.W. Heuzen

Gardening, like living, should be fun. It can't be much of the time, but we can do our best to make it so. It is that intangible something which immediately proclaims that behind the scenes there is an original whose guiding hand has created something ephemeral, yes, but with the magic of a sunset.
Christopher Lloyd


Victoria Summerley said...

I can't remember having a book that was specifically garden-themed like yours when I was a child. It's so gorgeous: I would have adored it too.
But the Little Grey Rabbit books by Alison Uttley fostered a passion for wild flowers, and being outdoors, and I think my love of gardening grew out of that. Strangely, I'm not really fussed about trying to grow wild flowers in the garden, though. I like to see them in the wild!
My absolutely favourite story about flowers these days is The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim, with its wonderful descriptions of "wisteria and sunshine" and Italian springtime.

Victoria Summerley said...

PS: I have shameless copied your spring banner idea. Love V xx

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I don't remember reading a garden book until I was an adult. I just remember "being in" a garden all my life. As a child my Mother had a garden full of flowers and veggies. I was outside all the time. My first garden book was probably a Perennial Encyclopedia. I wanted to know what everything was that was growing in gardens all around me.

Margo said...

Leuk gedaan Yolanda!

Kathleen said...

This is a lovey post. I had children's about a kitten in a vegetable garden. I still treasure that little book.

I think we are kindred spirits. My cat is named Bliss and I had a pony named Dasiy.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, YE, this was the best post ever. The little book, the little YE, so precocious, the kitty and puppy and pond and flowers, it is just too too wonderful. This is a post I will come back to again and again and the online bookstores will quickly sell out of any volumes they might have for sale. I want one too! As for my first garden book, I was thinking more as an adult, it was a gift from the Financier when we got our first house. Garden Wizardry by Richard C. Davids, no pictures but humorous and helpful planting descriptions that set me on the path to enlightened gardening.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story! Alas, I have no 'first' garden book because in the world of gardening I'm a "late bloomer" no pun intended. I suppose a book called The Lupine Lady is my was given to me only recently and is about a lady who, in old age and after going everywhere and seeing everything, decides to spread lupine seed everywhere to make the world more beautiful.

Unknown said...

What a lovely story and a lovely book, too, Yolanda! The little expressions on the kitten's face just are too cute for words. Yes, it's not surprising that your influences of years ago continue to shape you today. I'm trying to remember my first garden book, but at the moment all I can bring to mind is Dr. Suess's Fox in Socks, which did have Three Free Cheese Trees. That sneezed. No, that was the fleas on the trees. I'm not sure that counts.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Is that charming little book still in print? It should be required reading for all children. It is just wonderful. My favorite kid's book with flowers is Margaret Wise Brown's "Home for a Bunny," which is filled with beautiful drawings of Midwestern spring wildflowers. That book I did not encounter until I was an adult. I can't remember my first gardening book, but I believe it was probably Beatrix Potter's "The Tale of Peter Rabbit." That's the story I most remember.

Betty said...

What a heirloom! The kitty is precious and all the beautiful flowers....

My girls had a cat book named 'Cindy' and it was their favorite...

Thanks for visiting and I can't believe that you have clutter!


Antigonum Cajan said...

In Puerto Rico, the environment
ecological issues are swept
under the carpet.

This article makes me think
of the irony of teaching/educating
children/infants about the
importance of nature... and
destroying it night/day while
building houses, highways..

Something totally absurd.
Discussed every week on

Anonymous said...

What a delightful post!
My early memories are of helping my mother in her much loved garden. xx

TYRA Hallsénius Lindhe said...

Wonderful Yolanda, wonderful post and very exciting to see how our childhood books shape us later in life. The books by Elsa Beskow was my favorites and they have definitely influenced me to the person I am today/

xoxo Tyra

Juliet said...

Your flowers don't talk to you? Is it just mine then?

I can only think of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, and Philippa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden, I suppose when I was 6 or 7, nothing earlier.

I can think of an earlier cat one though - Trois Petits Chats, by Anna & Edward Standon, my favourite when I was about 4, and sadly now out of print.

Anonymous said...

Ach ja, de Rinkelbel-reeks, ik heb er ook een paar gehad, een poppen-theevisite, die vond ik toch zó mooi, waar ie gebleven is weet ik niet, maar ik zie het nog zo voor me (en het is toch al heeeel lang geleden hoor, geloof me)
Mijn eerste tuinboek? Het groene leven van mevr. Muller-Idzerda!
Leuk dat je zoveel overeenkomsten met het boekje in je tuin hebt!

Ik wordt wel een beetje jaloers op je vorige logje hoor, wat komt er al veel tevoorschijn, dat wil ik ook, maar ik moet nog even geduld hebben.
Wat een romantische foto van Dolly Maisy!

Chookie said...

I remember reading parts of my father's Yates' Gardening Guide (a bible for Australian gardeners that has been published for many years now). The first work of fiction was probably The Secret Garden. The difficulty for us Down Under is that the story-books from overseas (which predominated in my childhood) referred to plants we never saw. I was just re-reading Anne of Green Gables, which refers to a huge number of plants which I've never seen!

♥Min Eden♥ said...

Helou there in Netherlands!
I have a little challange for you! Come and take a look :)

/Regards from Finland!!!

garden girl said...

What a lovely first garden book Yolanda, and how lucky you are to still have it!

Great minds think alike! I did a post about my first garden book a few days ago. I'll have to check out Amy's interview - I missed that Rant post.

I still have my first garden book too, given to me by my grandparents when I was 8 years old. It's called "Flowers and What They Are." I still read it occasionally, and feel very lucky I managed to keep it all these years. It's so much fun to read.

A wildlife gardener said...

What a delightful post, dear Yolanda :)

The first book I remember reading over and over again was a prayer book from Sunday School. It had beautiful illustrations of birds, animals, flowers and little children playing in the garden and in the countryside, accompanying the prayers.

In due course I became a Christian, a teacher of Primary, then Nursery children, then a wife and mother of two children, and have always surrounded myself with wildlife and pets.

So, there is definitely something about the influence of the first storybooks in a child's life :)

Thank you for the chance to walk down Memory Lane once more...for I still see that book so vividly. The front cover had a bear with wobbly eyes and I got it at Christmas, from my Sunday School teacher, when I had chicken-pox :)

Anonymous said...

That was a lovely post and I can see why you were impressed with the book as a 3 year old.
I had absolutely no interest in growing things until I got my first house. Suddenly I caught the gardening bug and I've still got it!

HappyMouffetard said...

A lovely post, Yolanda. Not a book, but the children's TV programme 'The Herbs' was important in developing my love of gardens.

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

Isn't it amazing how we hold on to things from our childhood and end up bringing them to life, often unwittingly? I just remembered a few weeks ago when I was 6 my Grammy and mom gave me a Barbie patio garden set with little planting wells and seeds to plant. Lo and behold, my garden of planters made from recycled blocks of concrete looks very much like that Barbie garden.


Anonymous said...

I do see the similarities between the book and your garden, YE. If you'd asked without showing me your childhood book, I'd have said that my first garden book was The Secret Garden. But now I'm remembering a picture book that resonated with me as a child. I still have it, and I'll see if I can do a post on it sometime soon. It's called "Eighteen Cousins."

Anonymous said...

Those are beautiful illustrations and this is a great example of seeing something in your mind and then having it become reality. Your picture of your cat with the nasturtiums looks so like the one in the book as does the lily pond etc. Love this!

Barbara said...

What a cute post about your first gardening book. I admitt, there wasn't a gardenbook in my childhood that influenced me, but a lot of my books then were telling stories about children living in the nature (with pictures!). My first and real gardening book I bought about 30 years ago when I had my allotment and no ideas how to go on with plants.

Glo said...

Like your other readers, I also think your post is wonderful. It is amazing to think how our first books can have such an influence. My mother made me a scrapbook from pictures she cut from birthday cards and then labeled all the flowers so I would learn to recognize them. The picture of the daffodil was raised and I remember rubbing my hands over the surface and saying 'daffodil'. Later on we moved to a market garden where there were daffodils everywhere ~ and all sorts of other flowers and vegetables. Each spring, the fragrance of daffodils transports me back to childhood :) Thanks for sharing your book and memories, and for bringing back mine ~

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

I love your book, and how you showed the drawings in the book and your garden today. I also love daffs, primula, and nasturtiums. But what do you mean your plants don't talk to you?! Maybe you have to start the conversation! My favorite childhood book had nothing to do with gardening, Die Kleine Hexe. Maybe you know it! :)

Matron said...

Not strictly a gardening book, but when I was just 2 years old my Auntie bought me a very large, very grown up book, 'The Oxford Book of Birds' . Illustrations and text about identifying British birds. I could not read then, but still have it, and reach for it almost weekly. By the way, I am just starting to make some more bird boxes from re-claimed wood, the habit has lasted nearly 50 years!! and still going strong.

Karin said...

That garden book is so sweet, simply adorable drawings. :) I can't remember mine though. Hope you're having a nice weekend!

Garden Cats + Crafts said...

Einfach zauberhaft Dein erstes Gartenbuch, Yolanda. Man meint, alles daraus ist Wahrheit für Dich geworden. Mein ertes Gartenbuch? Das wüsste ich gar nicht mehr, obwohl es höchstens 9 Jahre alt ist. Bin ja erst seit 9 Jahren Hobbygärtnerin. Vorher war da nichts in dieser Richtung.

Ein schönes Wochenende wünsche ich Dir und liebe Grüße, Birgit

Green thumb said...

It is such a cute book. I had seen a movie 'Baby's day out' in which the baby did all the things which a baby in a book of the same name did. Life of Fashionista of the gardening world has followed almost the same lovely pattern as the book she read as a child.

I wish I too would have been gifted a cute little book when I was a child. Well, I have tried to compensate for my loss by providing my little one with these cute little children books right from the age 3.

Aiyana said...

The illustrations in your first garden book are adorable! I didn't have any garden-related book that I can remember, but I did start reading the Farm Journal at a young age. We lived on a dairy farm and so everything in it was familiar. I also remember a small booklet about Victory Gardens that had great illustrations.

Poppins said...

What a cute book! And what a cute story you tell. I understand why you love this book and I clearly see where your love for nature come from.
I do not remember my first garden book. I thought gardening was boring until we got our little garden and suddenly got a passion for roses. And I think I love roses because I love history.

Sigrun said...

Schöner Post! Ich liebe Kinderbücher!


Unknown said...

Oh, I love it! How amazing and what an adorable book. I want a copy!

Ruth Welter said...

Hi Yolanda... I always love seeing pictures of your gorgeous gardens and pets. I love the book you are showing as well...adorable!!


Cheryl said...

Hi Yolanda....what a lovely childrens book.....and it so reminds me of you. It is amazing how the little things stay with us through lifes journey.....

My first childrens gardening book ......the secret garden.....I still love it now. I always like to have part of my garden secret....hence the copse is slowly turning into a hideaway......

Felicia said...

Sweet kitties and doggies :)

Randi said...

That's a gorgeous book and an interesting post.
I have a link to your inspiring blog and hope it´s OK. If not - please let me know.

Kylee Baumle said...

What a great post, Yolanda! I do still have my first book that I read myself, but it's not a gardening book. It's "The Teeny Tiny Woman."

First gardening book? I think it was Amy Stewart's "From the Ground Up."

Crix said...

I do have this book sense my 6 years old, in portuguese, of course. The name of the little cat was Pompom, and it was one of the first books of my two kids
So, maybe this was my first garden book too, :)) and the influence on me? well, I never forgot the -Tropaeolum majus
A big hug

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