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Book Review: An Author and a Gardener

Wharton bookAllan R. Ruff, An Author and a Gardener. The Gardens and Friendship of Edith Wharton and Laurence Johnston (Windgather Press, 2014)

This handsome hardback charts the lives and friendship of Lawrence Johnston, the designer of the influential Hidcote garden in Gloucestershire, and Edith Wharton, the novelist. While Wharton constantly placed herself in the public eye, Johnston was an essentially private figure, writing nothing about his gardens and permitting very few photographs either of them or himself. And the National Trust’s sale of Johnston’s furniture, books and paintings prior to letting Hidcote in 1956 served only to push his character further into the shadows.

This study charts the various gardens which influenced the friends’ own gardening styles, and is exceptional in gardening histories in the fulsome treatment – one trusts not too much for some whose interest is largely horticultural - it gives of the social circles the pair moved in both in Britain and France. It is exceptionally generously illustrated, and will be enjoyed by all who love Hidcote or have a wider interest in garden design in the early 20th century.

Paul Stamper, Historic England