Gardener’s Nightcap by Muriel Stuart

Gardener’s Nightcap by Muriel Stuart

English non fiction

Source – Personal copy

I had one of those days last week when I felt the wind had dropped out of my reading sail. I was caught ion the doldrums of being a reader. This happens from time to time.  I even mentioned it on Twitter I do feel that I need to mix up my reading a little I did last year and enjoyed the nature books I read. Initially, I had wanted to try some different books, and Music books were mentioned I went and got a copy of Fallen(A history of former fall membeRS)  I had brought a while ago only to find the paper and font just terrible so I put it to one side and then remember this something that for me had been an Unusual find I have long like the style and look of Persephone books I have maybe half a dozen of these books I had been a couple of times to there shop when it had been in London. I had missed this book which I think had been out when I visited them several years ago. It is a later work by the Scottish Poet Muriel Stuart. She was described by Hugh MacDarmid as the best female poet of the Scottish renaissance. But in her later years, she took to writing about her other passion Gardening, and this is one of the two books she wrote about  Gardening.


When making a gardening apron, don’t make the usual deep pockets in the front. When kneeling, or squatting as all women gardeners seem to do, these bulging pockets may be extremely painful to one’s front portion!

Set the pockets well to the sides; you may look like a pack mule, but you’ll be far more comfortable. Io prevent the apron sagging forward, attach a narrow clastic to the back of the apron sides, which will keep it in place.

I loved pieces like this and was remind who now would have an apron !

It is hard to describe Nightcap as it is a collection of vignettes about gardening. I will hold my hand up I am no gardener so I am looking at this as maybe an outsider. I did struggle with the Latin Names. What she has is little tips stories and guides around gardens; this is the sort of book I think used to be more popular as a sort of dip in and out of the collection is maybe what it is designed for. I had read it through in one, but with most vignettes being less than a page they tend to drift over after you finish from what makes a garden apron, how to plant certain plants which plants are suited for this and that. I will with my new garden maybe be dipping in and out with things like the ideal tree for a small garden and how to plant other things.


Although I am not particularly fond of yellow flowers, I find yellow roses always the most attractive of their tribe.Mermaid, the yellow climbing rose, is one of the most beautiful, and is, I confess, one of the few roses I have ever bought. Having bought it and planted it in an impossible situation, I moved it, in sheer shame, to the sunny side of a lych gate. There, outraged in some way, the whole length of her died, and I cut it down to within a foot of the ground, never expecting to see her again! But she needed this major operation, apparently, for she made great to-do, and began to climb most busily up the lych gate, spreading along the roof. There she finally burst forth into a galaxy of pure sulphur yellow single flowers, five inches across, with fringed amber eyes, set among varnished bronze leaves, keeping up the display from June to the last days of November.

I remember vibrant yellow roses in My Granddads garden.

I love Persephone books their books are always so smart looking with the grey covers and the endpaper. These are suitable gardens connected to a linen print on them. As I say I am no gardener, but this new house has a small garden which is a clean slate, so hopefully, I can plat some pots. As I said I will be dipping in and out of this and I think that is what it was intended as a collection of pieces of advice. I was reminded of my Grandfather, a keen gardener. He loved roses mentioned a few times in the book and had a patchwork garden of planting when I was little. I think if you are a keen gardener or know a keen gardener this will appeal to them. Strangely, there was just an article about what has happened to that middle age thing of becoming a gardener I know it has [assed me by until now. You can see the poet in her writing as well. Have you read this? Have you a favourite Persephone book? Have you been to their new shop in Bath?

Winstons score – +B a lovely old collection of gardening vignettes that stand the test of time.

February 2023


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