Dame Penelope Margaret Lively

Life in the Garden

March 17, 1933
Today is the birthday of the great British writer of fiction for both children and adults, Dame Penelope Margaret Lively - so that makes her 88 years young today. Happy birthday, Penelope.

Penelope wrote one of my favorite garden books. It's called life in the garden, and I found myself enthralled with this book from the very first chapter. If you don't own a copy, get one, and you will love it - not only for what's written on the inside but also for the beautiful botanical cover on the outside.

Penelope’s writing often reflects on common themes like life and memory, and time.  
And in this book, in particular, Penelope writes about one of her passions: gardening.
Now, Penelope had the unique experience of growing up in a home in Cairo, Egypt, where she experienced the joy and wonder of a courtyard garden. And then she moved to a family cottage in Somerset.

As an adult, her own gardens flourished, and Oxford and London.
Now, as someone who loves botanical history and literature, what I especially appreciate about Penelope’s book is that she not only shares her own garden experience but also she takes us on a garden tour. We get to experience great gardens like Sissinghurst. And we also get to learn a little bit about creative people who loved to garden, like Virginia Woolf and Philip Larkin.

And it was Penelope Lively, who said one of my all-time favorite garden quotes. She uses the word “elide,” which means to suppress or strikeout. She said,
“To garden is to elide past, present, and future. It is an act of defiance of time.”

This post was featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

helping gardeners find their roots,
one story at a time
Dame Penelope Margaret Lively
Dame Penelope Margaret Lively

Leave a Comment