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Picturing a World

Kitchen garden

Uh-oh, a couple of weeks ago, I dreamed I was inside a crossword puzzle. The dream is hard to remember clearly, much less describe (more surreal that an Alice-in-Wonderland card game); but the upshot was that the next morning I quit doing puzzles, cold. Now, as I finish my breakfast cup of tea, I'm reading Helen Gammack's Kitchen Garden Estate (2012) instead. It's perfect. Paper that's a delight to feel, many illustrations, and short, information-packed discussions of a wide array of gardening practices for raising edible and medicinal plants.

The books subtitle explains its primary purpose: Traditional Country-House Techniques for the Modern Gardener or Smallholder. I'll add, "And for the Historical Fiction Writer." If I'm ever inventing a prosperous family's walled kitchen garden, for instance, I know now to place apricots and peaches along the perimeter on the south wall, gooseberries and currants on the north. Apples can face east; greengages and pears should face west. Brick cost more than stone but held heat better. The north-facing wall must not be too high or its shadow will fall too much on the rest of the garden.
As for Papworth's apiary (which is reproduced on p. 96 of Kitchen Garden Estate), it's a reminder that formal decorative features can be part of a productive garden. Maybe my imaginary family would have garden rooms moving successively from the more ornate to the purely utilitarian. Or maybe this picture could inspire a cottager's special feature in an otherwise ordinary garden. In any case, it's a better source of dreams than crossword puzzles.


For a National Trust blog post on Gammack's Kitchen Garden Estate with a few bird's-eye views of estates, click here.


For more about Papworth, click here:

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