by Charles Elliott

Publisher: Frances Lincoln (October 2011)
ISBN 978-0711232396


The author is an American expatriate who settled in his home, Towerhill Cottage on the Welsh Marshes, where the prevailing winds batter the house and where falling trees are a feature of his domestic life. The book is interspersed with tales of his gardening experiences in Wales and America so we learn in an amusing way how he deals with such things as woodchucks or the relentless west wind, the challenge of knotweed infestation, etc.

We are taken through a series of entertaining and knowledgeable essays originally published in British and American gardening magazines, arranged into loose categories –  Eccentricities, Orientalia, Garden Tours, Botany, Country Life, etc. They cover a diverse and intriguing range of subjects including botanical hoaxes and frauds, imaginary plants, royal gardeners, the political fly where a tiny Gall Midge caused international furore, critters and the wild wind of the west, not to mention visits to Highgrove. I learned a lot from the essays such as the work of Darwin, not Charles but Erasmus, and his studies of plants. There are other horticultural topics in the book which also enhanced my education, I’m pleased to say.

Exactly why every man needs a tractor comes as a bit of a let down for me as the penultimate chapter of the book after reading through all of Charles Elliot’s learned essays on horticultural matters. Here we learn how Charles Elliot has a secret affection for all machines despite the noise and fumes and how is love for tractors started after a visit to a friend in Vermont who showed him the versatility of his machine. He describes how he made the decision to get a tractor despite the fact there was no good reason for having one.  For me, perhaps the book should be re-titled ‘Revelations in the Garden’ with the sub title relating to the need for a tractor as to me this is only a very minor topic amongst the more learned writings.

David F.J. Pearce