Review Written By: Kim A Fuqua
Valeria Finnis, a well-known and well-loved figure in British gardening, was also a brilliant photographer. With great skill and spirit, she photographed gardeners, gardens, and plants from the ’50s onward. The “Garden People” featured are captured with subtle humor and much warmth by the discerning lens of Finnis. Gardening writer Ursula Buchan wrote the book because Finnis was both a mentor and friend whom she had known for more than forty years.
In this charming collection, we meet famous gardeners such as Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst and Roald Dahl and his family at Great Missenden, along with some lesser-known gardeners, nurserymen, plant enthusiasts, designers, and artists. Readers, especially “Garden People,” will enjoy the photographs and get a wonderful sense of how people looked and gardened in the decades after the Second World War.
All of the characters in the book are seen at home in their gardens – weeding, inspecting, watering, and standing proudly by their plants, wearing fashions of the day, epitomizing life and society in the second half of the 20th century – evoking a world now irrevocably changed.
Author Buchan’s favorite Finnis anecdote from writing the book sums up the charm. “Someone told me when I was writing the book that when Valerie wanted to ask the grandchildren of her next [door] neighbors to tea, she would writhe the invitation on a piece of peeled birch bark, and send it round, rolled up, and put in the curled tail of her pug dog, Sophie,” recalls Buchan warmly.