An Edwardian Lady’s February

A number of years back my daughter and I attended a nature journalling workshop at the nearby botanical garden, where we were first introduced to the lovely detailed drawings and observations of Edith Holden’s Nature Notes For 1906.

The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady

The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady

Holden was a 35-year old artist and illustrator living with her family at Gowan Bank, Olton, Warwickshire, when she meticulously crafted this month-by-month collection of poetry, flowers and wildlife. A facsimile of her diary was published years later in 1977 under the title, The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady.

A year or two after the journalling workshop my daughter surprised me with a copy of Holden’s diary as a Mother’s Day gift. While reshelving some books I came upon it today and as always, once I opened it up I could not resist the wonders within its pages. The watercolors are charming and in general I have always been intrigued with artists’ sketchbooks.

I decided to look up February to see what this month had been like in 1906 for the naturalist.

February Illustrated

February Illustrated

I was surprised to see a lovely little sketch of Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus), something I had only yesterday learned about through a photo on Gardening Jules. On February 12 Holden noted she had gathered some Gorse blossom on her way home from visiting the violet wood. That does sound splendid.

Common Gorse

Common Gorse

And while I have been indoors and overly obsessed with the weather lately, she recorded this entry for February 24.

Cycled to Packwood through Solihull and Bentley-heath.  I passed a rookery on the way, the Rooks were all very busy building yup their old nests, and a great deal of chatter they made over it.  I saw a little Robin gathering materials for its nest, at one place on the bank and further on, a Thrush with a beakful of long straws. Everywhere the branches of the Willow bushes were tipped with downy white balls and the Alder-catkins were shewing very red. In the garden of Packwood hall adding the church years the borders were full of large clumps of single snowdrops. I brought away a great bunch.  The farmer living there brought out a little lamb to show me, one of a family of three born that morning. I held i in my arms and it seemed quite fearless—poking its little black head up into my face. Rode home seven miles, in a storm of sleet and snow.

February entry

February entry

While I merely opened the window to take a quick picture through sleet and snow, she actually cycled home in the storm seven miles. (In common with her though I have noticed several American Robins checking out things the past week!)

With many blogging friends writing about snowdrops and after seeing catkins used in flower vases, I realize there is so much more contained in the pages of this journal than what I have gleaned before. After a few years of following blogs I have more context for seeing and understanding Edith Holden’s world. I am looking forward to reading back through her observations.

Aspen Catkins, Purple Willow, Goat Willow and Alder

Aspen Catkins, Purple Willow, Goat Willow and Alder

There is something decidedly unique about seeing Holden’s work on paper. Still, I wonder if she would have also considered keeping a garden blog.

____
Holden, Edith. 1977. The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, 1906: A Facsimile Reproduction of a Naturalist’s Diary. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

36 thoughts on “An Edwardian Lady’s February

    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Thanks for the link Cathy. I thought of you when I was writing this as I remembered you had it too. I enjoyed looking back at your review of it. I just adore her drawings.

      Reply
  1. bittster

    Beautiful book. I’d like to have that around for my kids, it would be a nice diversion from their tech-heavy worlds… and I wouldn’t mind leafing through it either 😉

    Reply
  2. annjrippin

    This takes me back to my youth – it was wildly fashionable and I still have some tiny bits of the fabric range that came out of it. I am going to my mum’s this weekend and I will dig it out of her attic! I think she would have been a blogger – but her book has an immortality that our blogs don’t.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Fabrics! I read there even was a TV series based on the book. Before that I hadn’t realized it became so popular. I think the handmade quality of Holden’s book is something we wouldn’t want to lose.

      Reply
  3. Julie

    This is a beautiful book Susie and a reminder of better times when life was not filled with fast stressful days. I try now and again to keep a diary like this, invariably I fail and blogging goes someway to filling that gap. However, its not the same as the relaxation you get from doodling a drawing and recalling wildlife seen during the day.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Julie, I so agree. The physical act of sketching is such a different and rewarding experience. So far I have not been disciplined or maybe passionate enough to maintain such a diary as Holden created, but I think I am inspired to drag out some old sketchbooks and see what happens today.

      Reply
  4. Pauline

    You have made me go searching for my copy, I know I have it somewhere! It is beautifully illustrated and takes us back to a much gentler time of living, everything rushes by too quickly these days!

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      I like to think if Holden had an online garden journal she’d be sharing images of her beautiful handmade drawings with us. Judy, you are such a maker yourself. I admire that.

      Reply
  5. Chloris

    Thanks for the reminder, I had to go and find my copy of this lovely book; I haven’ t looked at it for years. I bet she would be a blogger if she was alive now.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      I am surprised so many people not only know this book but own copies, thought I shouldn’t be really. Hope you enjoyed stepping back into the pages of her diary.

      Reply
  6. Christina

    You brought back some lovely memories; I used to have this book, it is one that I know I didn’t bring to Italy with me but I rather wish I had! I’m sure she would have been a blogger had she been living now. When reading this book it is the more mundane things that are actually the most interesting. Maybe in the future some scrolling back through our posts will gain a similar pleasure when reading about the weather or our Monday vases.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      I’m trying to cull my books and it’s so difficult to let any go. I think you’re right the mundane things she recorded are of special interest and we are still writing about today. I’ve tried to collect my blog posts into book form but the translation is not straightforward. Each medium has its advantages.

      Reply
      1. pbmgarden Post author

        Fill, feel, maybe a hint to fulfill that urge Bev! I think a modern version would be wonderful. I’m glad to know you also have this book.

  7. Annette

    absolutely stunning – wouldn’t it be nice to keep such a diary for yourself?! well, we might not be THAT talented but it’d still be fun and would make us notice things even more. Have you ever heard of Marjolein Bastin? Her nature illustrations are delightful too.

    Reply
    1. pbmgarden Post author

      Thanks for suggesting Marjolein Bastin’s work. I just looked it up hurriedly and it is nice. I’ve started many sketchbooks but fall away quickly from maintaining one. I suppose my blog makes a substitute, yet it seems like less of an achievement. Different niches.

      Reply
  8. casa mariposa

    I think blogging is just a different sort of journaling but with the same purpose – to record what’s happening in our gardens. Wonderful book. It feels much more personal than most garden books. 🙂

    Reply
  9. P&B

    Thank you for posting this book. What a lovely book. I will have to search for it. I have tried to build a collection of garden writing books; so far I have found that the older books are much more interesting and fun to read. Try ‘The Gardener’s Year’ by Karel Capek….it’s hilarious.

    Reply

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