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  • News

Launch at Innishannon of The Gift of a Garden new book by Alice Taylor

Tuesday, 15th October, 2013 6:31pm
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Launch at Innishannon of The Gift of a Garden new book by Alice Taylor

BY LEO McMAHON

A BOOK that’s destined to blossom, ‘The Gift of a Garden’ by best selling writer Alice Taylor was officially launched by gardening writer Charlie Wilkins at a packed Private Collector Gallery in Innishannon.

As stated by the author, the beautifully illustrated 265 page hardback is ‘about the comfort and sustenance that can be got from gardening and from the earth, about the wonderful pleasures and fulfillment that I get from my garden’.

In a delightful address, Charlie said that in a period when there was so much depressing news, ‘to work among plants, to paint, or to write – and Alice does all three – are gifted blessings and to make a garden or tend to any of the other arts, is to recreate the ideals that man once shared with God.

It bestows on us a sense of contentment and I like to think that if some developers and a whole lot of bondholders and investors had a garden to tend, a picture to paint or book to write, the world would not be in the situation it is today.

‘Having read Alice’s latest masterpiece, it confirms my belief that my garden, like hers, is still a place of repose and intangible consolation where the annoyances of the world outside are cooled of their sting.

‘One of the mysteries of this fascinating and health-enhancing hobby is the precise nature of the enjoyment it affords. The business of cultivating and tending plants or painting and writing, appeals to a vast number of people today and they continue to increase year on year, as evidenced by the success of the many gardening clubs and societies around the country.’

Charlie confessed, that unlike Alice, he didn’t always feel like gardening, especially with the onset of autumn and winter. However, reading would always rudder him and in seeking the help of a writer whose vitality for plants and simple living never fails, he would look for Alice Taylor.

Intense

‘Because of her North Cork country childhood, Alice’s response to nature remains as intense and immediate as a child’s. She has little use for scientific names, what she knows and writes comes from her exceptional sense of observation, memory, passion for detail and her love of life. As you read, you can almost hear her talking to herself’ and describing ‘The Gift of a Garden’ as ‘wonderful’, he said: ‘I’m amazed how Alice writes. Her skill is so accomplished, its appears effortless.’

To illustrate this, Charlie Wilkins read a passage from the book: ‘There is no end to the wonderful healing process that can take place in a garden. A garden can soothe the bereaved and calm troubled minds that have endured all kinds of trauma. The summer garden warms the cold bones of grief and poultices the mental wounds of the stricken. Walking into the summer garden is walking into the arms of a loving friend who hugs away all your cares. You may come in the gate bothered by the world outside, but herein is peace, calm and tranquility’.

To this Charlie said: ‘Alice, I know the feeling’ and went on to say that one of the best things about gardening was that it was inclusive, with gender and background immaterial. Most gardeners were anonymous with the exception of Alice who was recognised as a ‘a lighthouse among women,’ along with female gardening luminaries such as Nancy Minchin, Maud Kelly, Heather Pennefather, Dorothy Knox and Harriette Woods.

Concluding, Charlie said it would serve people well to imitate Alice by always being alert and noticing, learning how to do things and not get someone else to do these for you, steeping yourself in your place, as no one had more than Alice in Innishannon, looking with humility on those around and those who have gone before you, having a regard for nature, a reverence for detail, a persistence and respect for work, a belief in faith and a trust in the ordering of life, all which were part of her life and works.

Returning thanks, Alice Taylor said Charlie Wilkins made a gardener out of her and so many others through his column in the Irish Examiner by taking the mystique out of gardening.

Inherited

She said she was very lucky to inherit a garden from ‘Uncle Jacky’ to whom the book, along with grand daughter Ellie was dedicated. When she came to live in Innishannon in 1961, she loved it from the word go ands one of her pleasures was spending time with Jacky who always had time in the garden where he grew all types of fruit and vegetables.

Jacky died in 1977 and being busy with children, the shop and post office, the garden went wild but every so often she would walk to the gate, look at the garden and say ‘some day Jacky I’ll bring your garden to what it was’ and in that regard was delighted she finally got the chance to do that and commemorate him in a special way with Ellie as the future.

‘Gradually, as life slowed down, I retired and took up gardening, painting and writing, all the things I wanted to do. Inside me was a gardener dying to get out and I love every minute I spend in it. I have no in-depth knowledge, I just work on impulse,’

‘My gardening expertise, acquired through trial and error, is nurtured by the unbelievable pleasure that I have discovered in simply digging the earth. Where does that satisfaction come from? Maybe buried deep in each of us is the secret need to cultivate the soil. Digging the earth breathes life back into us,’ said Alice, who also spoke of her delight when people came for a fund raising open day in her own garden which continued to heal and sustain her and brought her so much joy.

25th anniversary

Alice also stated that 2013 marked the 25th anniversary of her first book ‘To School Through the Fields’, an international best seller, which has been reprinted with illustrations in a new look hardback edition by O’Brien Press.

Guests were welcomed on behalf of O’Brien Press by Michael O’Brien who described Alice as a philosopher, spiritual leader and a patriot in the true sense of the word articulating the real values of our ways of life and after 16 books, still buzzing with new ideas.

He thanked James O’Donovan of Private Collector Gallery, Jerome O’Leary and Margaret O’Leary (with daughter Kate) of Carrigaline Bookshop, busy selling a selection of her books. He also paid tribute to editor Ide ni Laoghaoire, designer and photographer Emma Byrne and Brenda Boyne of O’Brien Press and paid tribute to the late Steve McDonagh of Brandon Books (an imprint of O’Brien Press) and Alice’s family who included sons Micheal, Gearoid and Sean; daughter Lena and the author’s sister Theresa in the gallery full of her friends and admirers at the launch and book signing.

‘The Gift of a Garden’ by Alice Taylor is now on sale in bookshops, priced €16.99.

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