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Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children's Tales

By Marta McDowell

Gardeners brought up on the mishaps of Peter Rabbit can now curl up with Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life. ... This work brings Potter, as much as her garden, to life

New York Times

There aren't many books more beloved than The Tale of Peter Rabbit and even fewer authors as iconic as Beatrix Potter. More than 150 million copies of her books have sold worldwide and interest in her work and life remains high. And her characters — Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle Duck, and all the rest — exist in a charmed world filled with flowers and gardens.

Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life is the first book to explore the origins of Beatrix Potter's love of gardening and plants and show how this passion came to be reflected in her work. The book begins with a gardener's biography, highlighting the key moments and places throughout her life that helped define her, including her home Hill Top Farm in England's Lake District. Next, the reader follows Beatrix Potter through a year in her garden, with a season-by-season overview of what is blooming that truly brings her gardens alive. The book culminates in a traveler's guide, with information on how and where to visit Potter's gardens today.

Richly illustrated and filled with quotations from her books, letters, and journals, it is essential reading for all who know and cherish Beatrix Potter’s classic tales.

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Media reviews

"You will be charmed by this book."

Gardens Illustrated

"A volume rich with photographs and Potter's own enchanting sketches and watercolors."

—Nara Schoenberg, Chicago Tribune

"Gardening lovers and children's literature lovers alike will find beauty in these pages of photographs and stories about Beatrix Potter and her characters and flowers."

Carroll County Community Times

"I cannot over-emphasize the beauty of this book: the wonderful replicas of Ms. Potter's artwork, the photos from past and present, the engaging accounts of her life and her garden throughout the seasons ... what a treasure!"

The Gardener

"The first book to explore Beatrix Potter's garden and how it influenced her children's stories. ... A great gift book for old and new fans alike."

English Garden

"Brings the reader into the life of the beloved author and illustrator. ... Chock-full of wonderful photographs of Potter and her gardens. ... A book to banish winter blues."

—Georgeanne Davis, Rockland Free Press

"Illustrated throughout with Potter's charming watercolors and historic photographs, this book is a delightful exploration of the landscape that inspired one of the world's great authors. ... About as charming as a garden book can be."

—David Bare, Winston-Salem Journal

"In this visually charming book, McDowell takes us from her childhood summers in the country to her adult homes and gardens."

—Gloria Day, The Reading Eagle

"Illustrated on every page with scenes from Potter's life and her botanical illustrations. ... If you love gardening, you will love this book."

—Kathy Purdy, Cold Climate Gardening

"A beautiful book that gives a strong sense of the strong and practical woman that Potter was. Nearly every page has a photograph or delicate painting from one of her books. ... A visual feast."

—Pat Leuchtman, Greenfield Recorder

"McDowell brings to light a delightfully different side of the celebrated author. ... The book recounts Potter's life through a gardening lens and is copiously illustrated with her sketches and watercolors of plants."

—Charlotte Albers, American Gardener

"Stir your imagination ... a biography written through plants."

—Deborah Needleman, New York Times Book Review

"Gardeners brought up on the mishaps of Peter Rabbit can now curl up with Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life. ... This work brings Potter, as much as her garden, to life, as an energetic, sturdy soul with an uncanny understanding of animals."

—Anne Raver, New York Times

"A delight.…Beautiful illustrations from Potter’s early drawings and books, excerpts from letters and journals and abundant photographs."

Somerset Daily American

"A loving portrait."

Country Gardens

"Filled with vivid descriptions, photographs, maps, illustrations, and quotes from Potter, this book details the landscape that provided inspiration for some of the most well-known childhood tales of all time."

Alaska Airlines Magazine

"This is not an historical novel with a plot, but neither is it a mere documentary of facts. It is the perfect blend of both."

—Kylee Baumle, Horticulture Magazine

"Rich with photographs and Potter's watercolors, this is destined to be a coffee-table classic."

—Jane Milliman, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

"McDowell traces the journey of Potter the gardener, which is inextricable linked to Potter the writer. ... A fascinating insight into how Potter's writing and passion for plants (she experimented with a wide variety of species and was a prodigious propagator) fed each other."

The Age (Melbourne, Australia)

"A richly illustrated exploration of Beatrix Potter's evolution as an author-illustrator, gardener, sheep farmer, and land preservationist."

Shelf Awareness

"Potter springs to life from the pages of this fascinating and beautiful book."

—Cheryl B. Wilson, Daily Hampshire Gazette

"One of the best books this year for the gardener on your holiday gift list. ... A gem."

—Joyce H. Newman, Garden Variety News

"You may well want to buy a copy to keep and several to give friends. ... The book is a visual delight."

—Valerie Easton, Pacific Northwest Magazine

About the author

Marta McDowell

Marta McDowell lives, gardens, and writes in Chatham, New Jersey. She teaches landscape history and horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden, where she studied landscape design. McDowell also consults for public gardens and private clients. Her particular interest is in authors and their gardens, the connection between the pen and the trowel.

Read more about Marta McDowell

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