Jane Austen’s Letter to her Sister Cassandra and a Closer Look at the Beautiful Laburnum

"We know from Jane's letters to her sister Cassandra that gardens brought her joy and were also regulating."

February 8, 1807 

Jane Austen wrote to her sister, Cassandra.

Jane loved gardens.

She had a heart for ornamentals, herbs, and kitchen gardening.

And her family always had a garden - growing their food and beautifying their homes with flowers.

In every one of her books, Jane included gardens.

We know from Jane's letters to her sister Cassandra that gardens brought her joy and were also regulating.

In this letter written on this day in 1807, Jane wrote about her garden redesign, which included Syringa or wild Mock Orange.

And when she writes about syringa, she mentions the poet Cowper, who used the words “syringa ivory-pure” in his poem.

Jane also writes in this letter about Laburnum. Laburnums are small European ornamental trees that have hanging clusters of yellow flowers.

The beautiful hanging yellow flowers are how Laburnum got the common names Golden Chain or Golden Rain.

In modern times, one of the most significant elements of Rosemary Verey's Barnsley House garden is the yellow Laburnum Walk.

Many people consider Rosemary’s Laburnum Walk one of the most iconic garden plantings of the last fifty years.

Rosemary had seen Russell Page’s Laburnum Arch, which likely inspired her Laburnum Walk.

If you ever see it, Rosemary’s walk is a vision.

The Laburnums romantically drape over a sea of allium parted by a concrete walkway texturized with pebbles.

It is absolutely glorious.

Here’s Jane Austen’s letter to her sister Cassandra, written over 200 years ago today:

Our garden is putting in order by a man who bears a remarkably good character, has a very fine complexion, and asks [questions].

The shrubs which border the gravel walk, he says, are only Sweetbriar and Roses, and the latter of an indifferent sort; we mean to get a few of a better kind...

And at my own particular desire he procures us some Syringas. I could not do without a Syringa, for the sake of Cowper’s line.

We talk also of a Laburnum.

The border under the terrace wall is clearing away to receive Currants and Gooseberry bushes, and a spot is found very proper for Raspberries.

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Silhouette of Cassandra Austen
Silhouette of Cassandra Austen
Cassandra Austen
Cassandra Austen
Jane Austen
Jane Austen

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