Tunbridge Wells author and poet, Sarah Salway’s new book, Digging Up Paradise: Potatoes, People and Poetry in the Garden of England, takes a very different look at Kent’s gardens.
The book, which comes out in June from Kent-based publishers, Cultured Llama, combines original photographs, creative writing, poems and historical details to feature twenty-six gardens across the county.
Sarah was inspired by the stories to be told about each garden including the mystery of who built the Margate Shell Grotto, the injured Belgium soldiers who woke to a diorama of a lion pouncing at Quex Gardens, and how Charles Darwin’s children playfully interrupted his garden walks. A poem has been written especially for each garden, a project that began when Sarah was Canterbury Laureate in 2012.
“One of the magic things about these gardens is how they allow you to walk around someone’s dreams,” says Sarah. “The garden creators knew they would probably never live to see how their vision turned out so they are an act of faith in the future. I love that even the trees we see today were planted for several generations ahead to enjoy.
“There are many larger-than-life characters involved in Kent gardens too, some of whom I became happily obsessed with,” she continues.
The featured gardens range from tourist favourites such as Sissinghurst and Leeds Castle to lesser-known gems such as Great Comp, Marle Gardens and Quex. All the gardens featured are open to the public, some by appointment. Sarah’s hope is that her book will encourage readers to see the gardens a little bit differently, and even take their notebooks along to write their own thoughts and observations.
“Too often we just admire the flowers,” she explains, “but thinking about the people who created it and the people who have used it over the years, allows us to enjoy a completely new experience.”
Garden writer, Lia Leendertz, has called Digging Up Paradise, ‘a fascinating and unpredictable virtual garden companion, always drawing your attention to some unexpected detail, or taking some half-told story, exploring it and breaking your heart with it. How lucky we gardeners are to have her in our midst. This could not be a lovelier book.’
EDITOR’S NOTE: Sarah Salway is available for interview and to participate in articles and features. She is the author of three novels, a collection of short stories and a poetry collection. She was Canterbury Laureate in 2012, the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the London School of Economics for three years, and now teaches creative writing in Tunbridge Wells and for the University of Kent in Tonbridge.
She will be running workshops for writing in gardens over the summer. More information can be found at her website www.writerinthegarden.com
Digging Up Paradise: Potatoes, People and Poetry in the Garden of England will be published by Cultured Llama on 2nd June 2014. It costs £12. ISBN: 978-0-9926485-6-5
More information can be found at: www.culturedllama.co.uk/books
The Gardens Featured in Digging Up Paradise:
1.The Shell Grotto, Margate
2.Quex Gardens, Birchington
3.Secret Gardens of Sandwich
5.Chilham Castle, Chilham
6.Finchcocks Musical Museum, Goudhurst
7.Groombridge Place, Groombridge
8.The Labyrinth at All Saints Church, Tudeley
9.Marle Place Gardens and Gallery, Tonbridge
10.Penshurst Place and Gardens, Penshurst
11.Knole Park, Sevenoaks
12.Ightham Mote, Sevenoaks
13.Quebec House, Westerham
14.Down House, Downe
15.Red House, Bexleyheath
16.St John’s Jerusalem, Sutton-at-Hone
17.Sissinghurst Castle, Cranbrook
18.Rosherville Pleasure Gardens, Gravesend
19.Great Comp Garden, Nr Sevenoaks
21.The National Fruit Collection, Brogdale
22.Leeds Castle, Maidstone
23.Mount Ephraim, Faversham
24.Doddington Hall and Gardens
25.Dane John Gardens, Canterbury
26.Canterbury Cathedral Gardens