Review of “Unearthing the Secret Garden”: the seeds of a classic

In temperate climates, fall is the season to put gardens to bed. Gardeners tidy up dried leaves and stems, graze flower beds, and place tender hyacinth, daffodil and tulip bulbs under the ground for a long winter sleep. No more flowers and bees, colors and scents. Melancholy seems to be in order. So it’s nice to learn that Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924), a prolific writer and joyful interpreter of horticultural magic, didn’t care about the leafless trees and dull grass of the cold months. She didn’t welcome the cold, but she enjoyed poring over seed catalogs, sketching out new plant arrangements, and anticipating the coming glory of spring. In the flowered expanses that Burnett cultivated in England, and later America and Bermuda, she rejoiced in the cycle of the seasons.

Fans of “The Secret Garden” (1911) will recall that Burnett makes an explicit connection between the turning points of the year in a Yorkshire garden and the rejuvenation of two children: a sour little orphan named Mary Lennox and her hypochondriac cousin Colin. Craven. A year before the book’s release, the story unfolded in soap opera form. Advertisements for the American magazine praised the novel “mystery story” by the author of “Little Lord Fauntleroy” (1886) which would show “the magic of nature working under strange and romantic circumstances”.