An Island Garden

“I am fully and intensely aware that plants are conscious of love and respond to it as they do to nothing else.”—Celia Thaxter

Though Celia Thaxter had always thought of herself first and foremost as a poet, it is her Island Garden for which she is remembered. This, a collection of remembrances and advice from her summers gardening on Appledore Island among the Isles of Shoals, was originally published in 1894, shortly before her death.

Her father, Thomas Laighton, a linchpin of the nineteenth-century New England cultural scene, ran the Appledore House Hotel, which became a salon for many prominent writers and artists, including figures such as Emerson, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Jewett, and Whittier. Childe Hassam, the famous American Impressionist whose delicate watercolor paintings appear throughout this volume, treasured his summers spent with these “jolly, refined, interesting and artistic set of people… like one large family.”

Celia’s garden, on this same island, was admired by her friends and neighbors, and her picturesque language captures its stretching stems and blossoming flowers in vivid prose, ranging in mood from bitter defeat delivered by unrelenting slugs to the exultant triumph of birdsong and bursting blooms. For over a century, An Island Garden has served as an example of the very best garden writing has to offer, and an inspiration for all writers of prose.

Celia Laighton Thaxter was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and when she was four her father became the lighthouse keeper on White Island. He subsequently built a legendary hotel on Appledore Island, on which she grew her famous garden. In addition to her poetry, she also published a human and natural history called Among the Isles of Shoals (1873).

Childe Hassam (1859–1935), was a pioneer of American Impressionism and perhaps its most prolific and successful practitioner. He was born in born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, into a family descended from settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Hassam is best known for his urban and coastal scenes.