Big Book Little Book is delighted to host author Holly Webb as she shares her top ten secret gardens.
Holly has written a sequel to one of my favourite childhood books, The Secret Garden. Dickon, from the original story, was one of my very first book crushes, before I even knew what a crush was. There was something so wonderful about the walled garden, a secret , special place away from the adults, where the children were in charge, and in the case of Dickon, much more knowledgeable than the adults. I am really looking forward to sharing the story with my children in the future and this exciting follow up.
With out further ado, over to Holly. It’s 1939 and a group of children have been evacuated to Misselthwaite Hall. Emmie is far from happy to have been separated from her cat and sent to a huge old mansion. But soon she starts discovering the secrets of the house – a boy crying at night, a diary written by a girl named Mary and a garden. A very secret garden…
1. Great Maytham Hall
Frances Hodgson Burnett lived in this house in Kent from the mid-1890s, and the walled rose garden was her inspiration for The Secret Garden. She wrote in a little summerhouse in the corner of the garden. The garden is open one day a week under the National Gardens Scheme. Click here learn more about Great Maytham Hall, or here to find a garden
2. Misselthwaite Manor, from The Secret Garden
The site of the secret garden itself – in amongst the kitchen gardens and orchards, surrounded by a high brick walls. Mary first discovers the garden in winter, and the trails of roses look grey and dead. Only the little green points of the bulbs give any clue to the garden that’s waiting to come alive.
3. My childhood garden
I grew up in a Victorian house in South London, with a long, narrow garden. My parents still live in the same house, but strangely, the garden seems much smaller now! I remember it as huge, and full of hiding places…
4. The garden in The Magician’s Nephew
I loved (still love) the Narnia books, and this garden is fascinating – Polly and Digory fly on the winged horse Fledge (possibly my favourite character) to pick an apple from the tree in this walled garden.
While she’s still living in India, Mary Lennox makes toy gardens, picking flowers and arranging them in the dusty earth. I used to do this too, and I loved making gardens in trays with my children.
6. Kew Gardens
Not a secret at all, of course. But I remember visiting these as a child, and being fascinated by the glass houses, with the enormous water lilies. I loved fairy tales, and Beatrix Potter’s Jeremy Fisher, and I was sure there were secret creatures living in those glass houses. To learn more about Kew Gardens visit their website here.
7. Thumbelina’s garden
In Hans Christian Andersen’s story, Thumbelina appears inside a flower. After a whole series of adventures, she and her friend the swallow find a meadow full of flowers, and Thumbelina meets a flower fairy prince. I don’t know why, but I’ve always imagined that the flowers were tulips!
8. RHS Wisley
Again, I visited these gardens as a child, but all I remember is a house made out of wisteria. It was a summerhouse, completed surrounded by the purple flowers, and I wanted to live there. The wisteria in my own garden now is one of my favourite things! Looking at photos of Wisley’s long pergolas, I wonder if imagined that the house was round? But I’m sure it was… There’s a wisteria pergola at Great Maytham, too. I changed the idea of the summerhouse slightly for Return to the Secret Garden, my character Emmie imagines herself a house of flowers, but hers is made of roses and honeysuckle. (It would have been wisteria, except in the book it was the wrong time of year!) Learn more about Wisley here
9. The Lost Gardens of Heligan
Real life secret gardens! Heligan was abandoned during the First World War, and the gardens were rediscovered and recreated in the 1990s. Discover them for yourself by following this link.
10.The garden next-door, from Moving Molly by Shirley Hughes
One of my favourite books ever. I read it so many times, and I still have my copy. Molly moves house and finds that the garden next door has been abandoned – it’s a paradise for tigerish cats, and full of adventures. Post by Holly Webb Holly Webb is the author of Dog Magic, Cat Magic, and Lost in the Snow. She has always loved animals and owns two very spoiled cats. They haven’t said a word to her yet, but she’s always listening, just in case! She lives in England.