Tuesday 5 April 2011


Review: The Garden in the Clouds by Antony Woodward

My edition: Paperback, published in 2011 by HarperPress, 294 pages

Description: What do you do when you fall so in love with a place you can't think about anything else? And what if it happens to be five rocky acres so high up a Welsh mountain it's routinely lost in cloud?

To Antony Woodward it was obvious. You move there with your family and make it a garden - one which, naturally, must get into the hallowed Yellow Book of outstanding gardens.

Moving, through-provoking and brilliantly funny, this memoir of landscape, childhood and wily mountain sheep grapples with that fundamental question: what is gardening really about?


The Garden in the Clouds is not an encyclopaedia with gardening tips and facts but rather an autobiographical tale of an, as the subtitle indicates, hopeless romantic. It's the story of Antony Woodward and his ideal to make a garden in the clouds. Or high up on the mountains as the case may be. From the move to Wales to all the various parts that make up his unique garden the author uses each chapter to dive into a different aspect of the transformation and manages to not only make the story consistently engaging but also surprisingly humorous. Some of the choices he has made along the line were hardly thought through properly and he knows it. Yet Woodward did not choose to rewrite those parts or ignore them, instead he uses a healthy dose of self-deprecation which makes him much more likeable and relatable and prompts the reader to root for him despite the very unlikely goal of converting the unappealing waste land into something worthy to be included in the Yellow Book of the National Garden Scheme.

There were a few points to the story that the realist in me despite getting lost in the hopelessly romantic musings and actions of the author questioned however. Such as the details of the relocation from London to Wales and how the author managed to get by without a steady job and income. I am assuming at least that both he himself and his wife left their jobs in London and did not instantly start working again in Wales. The story indicates that since the move they spent most if not all of their time on the garden and especially when reading about some of Woodward's more expensive impulse buys it left me wondering how he was still able to support his family (and on that note, his wife must be an absolute saint for putting up with his splurges and his more often than not rather unrealistic ideas such as the sudden urge to obtain a railway carriage to decorate part of their land).

Having said that, the descriptions of the area the story is set in are wonderfully lush and transports the reader to the rugged Welsh country side. And despite all the hiccups author Anthony Woodward encounters during his various antics (from bees invading the house to inventive sheep getting into his vegetable patch) after finishing the book I wanted to do nothing more than to pick apples in an orchard, mow a field with an antique tractor and make my own award winning honey - sticky mess and all.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this review! This looks like a nice read.


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