Inspiration Library: Garden People

by Amy Azzarito

This book was recommended to me by the amazing florist Amy Merrick. She and I have been friends for the past five years — I think I told her that she had to be friends with me since we shared both a first and a middle name —and like great friends usually do, she points me in the direction of the most wonderful things. One of those is this book. Garden People is a look at the photographs of Valerie Finnis, a British horticulturist and photographer. Over the course of four decades, Valerie documented the world of gardening through beautiful natural photographs. Even more stunning than her flower photos are her photographs of the people who grew them. Valerie and her husband, David (they married in 1970 when Valerie was 46 and David was 83), traveled throughout the U.K. meeting and photographing famous gardeners at their homes — Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst, Lady Birley at Charleston Manor, Roald Dahl and family at Great Missenden — as well as lesser known gardeners. For me, this is like a catalog of how I want to look when I’m older: a crazy hat with a trowel in hand. Something about this book and seeing people doing what they love and growing old doing it just makes me happy. — Amy Azzarito

Image above: Valerie frequently sold her images of flowers, many from her own garden, for cards and calendars. She particularly loved alpine plants. Above is a grouping of alpines in three-inch clay pots (drabas, dionysias, campanulas and saxifrages).

Image above: Valerie’s car, a Morris Minor, being unloaded with flower pots for an Alpine Garden Society show. Valerie and her husband, David, usually spent all daylight hours in the garden, and they regularly exhibited their work at garden shows.

Image above: One of my favorite photos in the book. Rhonda, Lady Birley, was a great Irish beauty. She and her husband were patrons of the arts. Here she is in the formal “garden room,” an idyllic garden that she created at Charleston Manor in Sussex.

Image above: Harold Hillier, known as the finest tree and shrub nurseryman of his generation, tweaks an exhibit at the Chelsea Flower show.

Image above: The back endpaper — Papaver nudicaule (Iceland Poppy)

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