Community Read 2024

Two books (The Last Garden in England, and The Secret Garden) are propped up against a bed of yellow flowers and purple foliage, along a curved brick path.

An Exploration of Our Powerful Connections with Gardens

In 2024, we’re excited to share our first historical fiction Community Read book all about the meaning, beauty, and solace we can find in gardens. Join our online Community Conversation with The Last Garden in England author Julia Kelly!

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.

Get the Books ...

Available for purchase at major booksellers and at The Garden Shop at Longwood Gardens—in-person and online.

... and Start Reading!

Titles also available for borrowing at most public libraries in:

New Castle County, DE

Cecil County, MD

Gloucester County, NJ

Berks County, PA

Chester County, PA

Cumberland County, PA

Delaware County, PA

Lancaster County, PA

Montgomery County, PA


Select titles available as ebooks for Members:


Resources

The Last Garden in England

Author Bio

Author Image

Book Cover

Discussion Questions

PowerPoint

PowerPoint Narration

Recommended Reading

Simon & Schuster The Last Garden in England Discussion Guide
Expand your group discussion of the 2024 Community Read pick, The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly, by using the topics & questions for discussion from the publisher Simon & Schuster. Enhance your book club by exploring additional activities and group trips related to the story.

The Secret Garden

Book Cover

Toolkit

Recommended Reading

Other Resources

Event Listing

Event Poster

Partner Programs

Social Media and Marketing Communications

Community Read Logo

Further Reading: The Longwood Gardens Blog

eBook Link for Members

Members, sign in and access this title as an ebook from our library.