Nov 3, 2011

Merry Hall

by Beverly Nichols

This read was delightful. I'm sad I didn't discover Beverly Nichols sooner, and happy there are more books of his to search for. It's thanks to A Work in Progress that I found this author!

Apparently his gardening books are the "less serious" of Nichols' works, but I'd be happy enough to just read them. Merry Hall begins the trilogy where he describes acquiring an old mansion with extensive grounds and attempting to restore its gardens. He is a man obsessed with plants, enchanted by flowers. While he kind of inherits an old, crotchety gardener who has worked at the manse for years and maintains a stupendous vegetable garden (envied by ladies around), Nichols himself dreams up, designs and attempts to put into place new lawns and pools, flowering shrubs and tall walls of living greenery, while at the same time tearing out plantings by the previous owner he finds hideous. Lots of commentary on that subject! Anyone who's ever moved into a new house with a piece of land on it and tried to remake it according to their own taste can probably relate. I really like this man for his eagerness to do gardening experiments: if he sees a plant he likes while traveling, he thinks nothing of gathering some seed or digging up a young plant and smuggling it home! he even hides an avocado pit in his pocket at a dinner party to sneak home to his greenhouse (from the way he spoke of the "avocado pear" it must have been a rare fruit to encounter). Quite amusing are his descriptions of neighbors and acquaintances, most of whom want to share their own opinions on what ought to be done with his gardens. And then there are delightful tidbits like his chapter on plants that give you flowers in winter, or one that describes his efforts to grow all the flowers needed to reproduce in life a painting of a floral arrangement that he loves. The book made me laugh out loud quite a few times, and smile to myself many others, and dream big ambitions of my own garden. I can't wait to get my hands on another Nichols volume, though I fear it will be difficult (my library only has this one title by him).

Borrowed from the public library.

rating: 4/5 ........ 320 pages, 1951

more opinions at:
The Captive Reader


  1. This sounds like a really delightful book! I'm so glad your library had it and it was rediscovered by another reader. His books are still in print, but it's nice being able to borrow them. Maybe you can get more via ILL? And I'm with you when it comes to liking the less serious maybe even more than the serious!

  2. oooh cool...nice find, Jeane! I'm putting Merry Hall on my wishlist.

  3. Danielle- I've thought of that, but when it comes to books I can't find I'd rather try and purchase them used than pay for the ILL (my library fee is a dollar per book). I miss the old system (in San Francisco) where ILL was free- I used it a lot, then!


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