english garden flowers

English Gardens are looked to as the ideal for gardeners all around the world.

by John Bagnasco

Embedded in the essence and beauty of the English garden is a sort of controlled disorder. It is understandable that with such homage and respect, English garden lit had a tendency to become full of itself. The scene was just waiting for someone to bring it back to earth (pun intended).

Mirabel Birnstingl was born in London in 1925 and married Michael Julian Osler in April of 1951. The couple lived briefly in Thailand and Corfu before returning to live in Shropshire, where they built a garden together. It was this experience that Mirabel chronicled in her first book, A Gentle Plea for Chaos, published in 1989.

Author Michael Pollan, commented when this book was first published that “it blew fresh air into the stuffy precincts of English garden writing” While the writing itself was a bit chaotic, the simple story of building a garden completely captures the reader somewhere along the line. I felt as if I was making that garden with them and by the last page I was so involved that a tear came to my eye with one unexpected note (I won’t spoil the ending).

Mirabel published six garden books before she died on Oct 20, 2016 at the age of 91. She won the Sinclair Consumer Press Garden Writer of the Year Award in 1988 and the Journalist of the Year Award from the Garden Writers Guild in 2003.

It is comforting to look into the life of a fellow gardener. Mirabel’s books extol the unusual enchantment of a garden rather than bogging down readers in the minutia of soil composition and weed control. Her writing inspires readers to truly experience gardens as willing participants. In a world that offers too many troubles, it is satisfying to consider her advice, “Sitting in your garden is a feat to be worked at with unflagging determination and single-mindedness… I am deeply committed to sitting in the garden.