Olive Percival and her children’s gardens

The other day in a used bookstore I came across a book called ‘The Children’s Garden Book’ by Olive Percival.

The first line of the forward is, “This is a book of suggestions for children to whom destiny has given such golden things as a plot of ground and many hours, or several years, uninterrupted by the city’s call (ever more insistent, clamorous) to indoor amusement”.

And further down, “If, for the first ten or twelve or fourteen years of life, the children of today could have personal flower gardens in which to play, to study, to read, to work, to dream, the world tomorrow would be greatly lightened of it’s ugly and menacing burden of materialism and general faithlessness”.

The next section of the book are thoughts and notes to the “to the young gardener”.

Here is an example, “Long ago, in Elizabethan England and when our colonial history was just beginning, a bouquet was not called a bouquet nor a nosegay nor a boughpot by those of highest fashion. It was called a tussy-mussy! Nobody seems to know why.”

Thanks to the internet you can read all about tussy-mussies!

The books goes on with more tidbits and advice and then she shares her garden plans for children. Things like “the Fairy Ring”, “The Kate Greenaway Garden”, and “the Moonlight Pleasance”. Each garden comes with a plant list, and illustration and planting plan and text describing details of the garden.

It is so sweet. I fell in love with Olive Percival.Besides being a gardener of some fame and a published writter and poet, she was also a book collector, an expert on Chinese and Japanese art, a traveler, and a photographer.

I have acquired one other book written by her, “Our Old Fashioned Flowers”. The Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA has her diaries and photographs.

Olive Percival in her garden

“In this our lovely and bedazzling world – a perplexing world that deafens and deadens us with screaming sirens, rattling dragons, many toys, and noisy amusements – we contrive to to remain avowed lovers of flowers, even if allowed little time or place to make plants grow and willingly or unwillingly come into blossoms.”

– Olive May Graves Percival (July 1, 1869 – February 18, 1945).

You can read more about her here.

Oh, and someone’s term paper on her life here.

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