Four Hedges: A Gardener's Chronicle. By Clare Leighton. (Gollancz. 10s. 6d.) Reviewed by GERALD WYNNE RUSHTON.
Miss Clare Leighton's is a lovely book. Yet if one starts out to judge it from the angle of strictly honticultural values it rapidly becomes obvious that Miss Leighton as a gardener is only four years old— which she herself admits.
But—and it is an important " but "—she knows the value of " plan." It is one thing to have a garden planned for you by someone else; it is quite another and greater thing to know the value of plan.
" We wanted good shapes," she tells us. " . . It is only upon a firm foundation that the irregular growth of plant and tree can best clothe and deck the garden.
. We decided we would have no sentimentality, no wilfully irregular edges to
ornamental ponds. . no timidity showing itself in an escape into false mossy bits,' or an aping of the old-fashioned."
If only the rest of England would follow Miss Leighton's sound principlest—since, as she profoundly observes, " It was by reason of its severe underlying structure that the really old garden scored its success; for what could be more rigid than the walled garden with the tight symmetry of espalier fruit trees. . . . the unswerving order of box edging?"
But it is not merely for the truth of her attitude to the craft that her book is notable. It is paged with the passion of her love of the land and all that walks on it and flies above it. How Clare Leighton loves birds! There are 88. lovely woodcuts in the book, and one of the most exquisite depicts a hen blackbird on the nest. That picture is instinct with that frozen motion that all birds on the nest achieve when watched. And Miss Leighton's writing matches her woodcuts—it has cadence, limpidity. Four Hedges is a book not merely to borrow from the library, but to buy and cherish. Incidentally, Christmas is coming!