When we were thinking about a selection for the 2024 Longwood Gardens Community Read, we were inspired by Longwood Reimagined / A New Garden Experience, our most expansive project in more than 100 years, which includes a stunning new conservatory, beautiful new indoor and outdoor gardens, and preservation of our historic Cascade Garden by acclaimed Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, among other features. This project, opening in fall 2024, was borne out of love for gardens, the inspiration and meaning we can all find in the beauty of gardens, and as a continuation of what our visionary founder Pierre S. du Pont achieved beginning in 1906.
The Last Garden in England
By Julia Kelly
The Last Garden in England exemplifies the meaning that we can all find in gardens. Just as Longwood Gardens has brought beauty to the lives of generations, so too does Highbury House—whose lovely gardens are at the center of this historical fiction spanning three generations. Taking place in 1907, 1944, and present day, this novel connects five women—from the gardens’ original designer through to the modern-day designer charged with restoring their beauty—all of whom find true meaning and solace in the gardens.
Author Julia Kelly took inspiration for the book from a visit to Upton House in Warwickshire, England. Upton’s gardens were designed by Kitty Lloyd Jones, hired by wealthy homeowners to “lend a sense of good taste” to their grand homes’ gardens. Lloyd Jones and famous British garden designer Gertrude Jekyll gave inspiration to the character of Venetia Smith, hired to design Highbury’s garden in the novel. Venetia visits the real-life Hidcote Manor in the novel, whose garden rooms designed by owner Lawrence Johnston inspired Kelly to create garden rooms at Highbury House.
The Secret Garden
Based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, adapted by Calista Brill, illustrated by Adelina Lirius
In this picture book adaptation of the classic novel, our younger readers will follow Mary Lennox as she moves into a confusing new home and only finds comfort from exploring the grounds and gardens surrounding the imposing manor house. Through unexpected friendships, good fresh air, connecting to nature, and a mystery surrounding a secret garden, Mary is transformed.