Observational, philosophical, romantic, optimistic, grounded, organic ... some of my notes on Charlie Hart's Skymeadow, a worthy addition to the shelf of gardening memoirs. Charlie's book is not a 'how to', or a straightforward 'what I did', but rather an account of the creation of a garden and the fledging of a career at a period of life marked by both grief and joy.
Charlie explores territory that is deeper and wider than his seven acre hillside plot in rural Essex as he describes how the death of his father and then the illness and passing of his mother coloured his engagement with the land and inspired his prodigious efforts at shaping a garden which was a product of his idealism yet rooted in practicality. As he learns to face anxiety and emotional pain, to somehow reach an accommodation with feelings which can so easily blight growth, he discovers the link between horticulture and healing, gains the confidence to be at ease with himself, and settles with his family into a new life in a place "whose essential character is cheeriness".
I found Charlie's efforts admirable. The energy - both physical and emotional - which he invests in his garden is enormous. Yes, he's a dreamer (and here's to us!) and he often bites off more than he can chew, but he's resourceful, positive, sensitive - in the best way, open and honest, generous of spirit, modest and frank. It's an appealing combination of traits and tendencies, especially when applied to the art and craft of garden making, and the result is a book both heartening and uplifting. I enjoyed it greatly.