Miss Esther Jackson
From the Glendale Branch of the Plant, Fruit and Flower Guild
In a more childish script:
First prize for school Garden
Little Esther knew as a child, that there’s magic in watching plants grow. I have no doubt she found amusement in the diminutive book, Flowers Shown to the Children by Janet Harvey Kelman. Pressed petals, browned and fragile, lie hidden among the pages that describe Great Wild Valerian, Small Bindweed, and Foxglove creating a bridge from that time to this.
Over the years, I’ve kept the book secure with its treasures inside a glass secretary, but every once in a while I must take it out, leaf carefully through frayed and spotted pages, sighing at the soft muted azure of borage. With the turn of each page the memories of my first blue ribbon awarded to me by an aging Esther leap forward and I am touched by this very special gift, a book that she carried with her until her garden ceased to flower.
A thin volume of British Garden Flowers by George M. Taylor, published in 1946 and 1947, sits on my bookshelf. While not as old as Flowers Shown to the Children, the scent of age is catching up to it. The plastic covering, placed over it at the Bryan Library, protected the cover from spills and fingerprints shows signs of wear.
I love the rich antique illustrations that bring floral history to life. The deep red of a peony, the twining stems of a clutch of sweet peas, and the glorious wonder of pink roses captivate me, holding me spellbound in imaginary gardens of the past.
A connection between me and the past forms each time I look through these two old books. I ponder who might have read the book and why. With little Esther’s book the mystery of who is solved, but still the image of a wee girl pouring over the descriptions, the enchanting illustrations and dreaming of gardens to be touches my heart.
Do you have a favorite old gardening book?