Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Glory of the Garden

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall, UK
My mosaic of Heligan Gardens

This poem by Kipling has long been my favourite.  I'm not a keen gardener (unless sitting in the garden with glass of wine, watching hubby cutting the grass counts!).  There's just something about this poem that leaves me nostalgic, and wistful of an England of yesteryear that I never knew.  Where everyone had manners, it was sunny all the time, and they all sat in the shade drinking tea and eating cucumber sandwiches.  We'll skip quickly over the fact that if I did exist in those days, I would probably have been a lowly housemaid - with one afternoon off a month, and hands and knees raw from scrubbing the stone floors. 

The England of this poem is naive, polite and kind.  It's full of old-fashioned charm, and reminds me wholly of my Great-Uncle Dave who was head gardener at Dartington Hall in Devon many, many years ago.  It must have been written at about the same time he himself was starting out as a 'prentice boy.  I loved him dearly, he was the gentlest gentleman, and I always feel this poem could have been written about him.                                                                

I'm including some photos of Cornish gardens.  With the mildest climate in the British Isles, we are blessed with some wondrous gardens.  Many are in the once great private houses, some of which now belong to the National Trust.  Quite a few still remain in private ownership.  There are a number of large country estates in Cornwall, continuing to run in much the same way as centuries past - with the big house surrounded by it's rented cottage for the workers employed on the estate.  The only difference being that the gardens (and sometimes the house) are now opened to the public to bring in much needed income.

The Glory of the Garden - by Rudyard Kipling

Our England is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.

Lanhydrock House and Garden - National Trust
For where the thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You will find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all;
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dungpits and the tanks,
The rollers, carts and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks. 
The Potting Shed, Lost Gardens of Heligan
And there you'll see the gardners, the men and 'prentice boys
Told off to do as they are bid and to it without noise;
For, except when seeds are planted and we shout to scare the birds,
The Glory of the Garden it abideth not in words.

Living Sculptures - Lost Gardens of Heligan
And some can pot begonias and some can bud a rose,
And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows;
But they can roll and trim the lawns and sift the sand and loam,
For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.

St Michaels Mount - Castle & Gardens open in arrangement with National Trust
Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing:--"Oh, how beautiful!" and sitting in the shade,
While better men than we go out and start their working lives
At grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives.

Victorian Gardeners from Heligan
There's not a pair of legs so thin, there's not a head so thick,
There's not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick,
But it can find some needful job that's crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.

The Maze, Glendurgan Gardens - National Trust
Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
It it's only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner in the Glory of the Garden.

Caerhays Castle - The Williams family are renowned for Camelias
Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener's work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray
For the Glory of the Garden, that it may not pass away!
For the Glory of the Garden, that it may not pass away!


  1. Hi, I like that poem too - and I see you have some spectacular gardens in Cornwall. I've been to the Eden Project but I didn't realize there are so many older gardens. Your photos are great. I must try to persuade my husband to come there on holiday :)

  2. Absolutely beautiful post.

    Might the same thoughts be said of other parts of our lives? Just wondering. It seems that any work, or glorious undertaking, might bring the same honor to God and the workers.

    Love Kipling!

  3. Wow! Beautiful photos of an amazing garden. I also love Kipling.

    I'm an Australian but my great-great-great-grandmother was born in Cornwall and married a man from Devon. That makes the photos a little more special to me.

  4. Gorgeous pics! Makes me want to come and visit. :)

  5. A beautiful set of photos of Heligan also the other gardens.
    I am from Cornwall I have seen the Heligan garden.

  6. Beaautiful pictures and poems.I am from cornwall!


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