This is the last of the nature books (WIND IN THE ASH TREE, A SMALL COUNTRY LIVING GOES ON, WILD HARES AND HUMMINGBIRDS, and THE MAGIC APPLE TREE) I bought for summer reading. I enjoyed the latter two, I loved both the Jeanine McMullen memoirs, but I left this for last, and it truly was the icing on the cake. Let me reiterate again that I didn't inherit the Italian gene for gardening; I don't like to work in the dirt, I hate bugs, worms make me queasy, and I hate being out in the sun. But I love reading memoirs of this sort, especially when the author has a way with words as does Swift.
Basing her memoir on a medieval Book of Hours (a religious work that delegated what prayers and activities should be performed at certain hours in a monastery—Vigils, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and, at the end of the day, Compline), Swift recounts her years restoring the Dower House garden at Morville Hall in Shropshire, England. Part history of the Morville area, part garden redesign, and part memoir of coming to terms with her lopsided upbringing and past relationship with her parents, this is a beautifully written account of her days duplicating the different gardens that would have graced the Dower House in different eras of English history: a traditional knot garden, a cloister garden, a turf maze, a wild garden, and more. Her description of the flowers, the plants, the seasons are all exquisite. A glorious pleasure to read, especially for those who love nature and gardening (or just, like me, enjoy reading about it).