Gardens in fiction

As you might know, we are designing a new garden for Bootle Library — a restorative space where we can go to read and relax or come together for workshops in the future.  At the very beginning of 2020 we hosted a series of collaborative design workshops with artist Harun Morrison to plan how we might transform the patch of land between the library and the jobcentre and the concept for the L-Shaped garden was born.

You can read more about the project here.

We had to pause on thinking about the garden for a little while, but with Summer fast approaching, we’re picking things back up again. We looking to collect 40 descriptions of gardens from Literature to help inspire our design for the outdoor space.

Would you like to help us? We’d love to hear your favourite description of a fictional garden if you have one and would like to share. These descriptions could be from novels, short stories, poems or song lyrics. 

If you need some inspiration, here is what some of our Librarians and participants selected:

“She knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed to get out of that dark hall, and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains.” — It is in the garden that Alice finds the rabbit hole, and once she tumbles down it she spies another garden from inside a hallway which she feels she must get to if she is ever to find her way home. The image of the garden Alice is desperate to reach, with its cooling fountains and lush flowerbeds, sounds good enough to magically shrink yourself to get into!

— ‘Alice in Wonderland’, by Lewis Carroll

“The exquisitely imagined garden appears every night for a boy who is staying with his aunt and uncle, transforming a space that by day is just a back yard furnished with dustbins. There is a great lawn, bordered by yew trees, secret hiding places in a box bush, and between a wall and a tree trunk, hyacinths and wallflowers in spring, geraniums, poppies and roses later on, evening primroses that “glimmered like little moons”. — Tom is joined in the garden by a little girl, Hatty, and the beautiful theme of the book is the passage of time, the mesh between past and present, for which the garden itself, wonderfully evoked, is the crucial backdrop.

— ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’, by Phillipa Pearce

“The things which happened in that garden! If you have never had a
garden, you cannot understand and if you have had a garden, you will
know that it would take a whole book to describe all that came to pass
there.”  — a malnourished, unhappy orphan girl is transformed by her discovery of an abandoned secret garden all her own where she can play in the fresh air and learn to nurture spring bulbs and help them grow. The garden’s power is so great that it even entices Colin, a bed-ridden boy who suffers more from hypochondria and refusing to leave the house than anything else, to venture outdoors and see the spring arriving in the garden for himself.

— ‘The Secret Garden’, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

“Before them, shining balefully in the moonlight, lay the walled in garden. The upper foliage of the trees shone as white as foam. The underside was black as well water. The whole garden was a lithograph of richest blacks and staring whites. The fishpool with its surrounding carvings appeared to blaze with a kind of lunar vulgarity”

— ‘Gormerghast by’, Mervyn Peake

If possible, we’d love to know the exact passage that you’re thinking of, but if you only know the name of the text that’s also really useful. If you’d like to contribute you can send an email to our usual address: humanlibraries@gmail.com, or add your description directly to this document: https://tinyurl.com/bootle123