I read alot about gardening; usually, the British masters — Rosemary Verey (Barnsley House), Gertrude Jekyll (Munstead Wood), and Christopher Lloyd (Great Dixter) to name a few. I learned much from each of them. But when it comes to gardening style, I return every time to an American gardener, Tasha Tudor.
Children’s book author and illustrator by trade – and a wonderfully eccentric person – she was also an avid, cold-climate gardener who worked her magic in the challenging mountains of Vermont.
I first learned of Tasha while reading English Cottage Gardening: For American Gardeners, by Margaret Hensel, a book that featured Tasha’s gardens at Corgi Cottage, her home in Vermont. The brief bits in this book about Tasha and her gardening intrigued me, and after reading more about her online, I became even more interested.
Although raised in the 20th century, she chose – quite deliberately – to live her life as though she were living in the 1830s. She raised 4 children in a rambling, old farmhouse in New Hampshire without power and running water until her youngest was 5 years old. She spent the last quarter of her life living in a hand-hewn house, an exact replica of an 18th century farmhouse she loved in New Hampshire, on a mountaintop in Vermont. She owned 250 acres, at least 10-acres of which were flower and vegetable gardens. She grew her own food, raised her own goats and chickens, made her own dairy products and was reputedly an excellent cook (all of the recipes that I have tried from her cookbook have, indeed, been wonderful). She loved afternoon teas and dressed in homespun linen dresses. She walked and gardened barefoot when weather permitted. She was passionate about flowers and corgis, of which she usually had 3 or 4. She also spun her own yarn, wove her own cloth, made her own quilts and clothing, designed and constructed fabulous doll houses, and made marionettes. Her friends say her hands were never idle.
As you may imagine from the description above, she was quite stubborn, intelligent and opinionated, as many eccentrics tend to be. She knew how she wanted to live her life, and she made it happen. I admire that. But mostly I remain obsessed with her gardens.
I return time after time to mull over any article or book that mentions her gardens, and will Google search “Tasha Tudor garden” just to get my visual fix (especially during the dismal winter months). I admit it; I’m a Tasha Tudor junkie. I even drove to her home outside of Marlborough, Vermont (she passed away in 2008 at the age of 92 – still gardening until the end) with a friend to tour her homestead and gardens a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, between the estate battle among her children which kept everyone off the property for 2 years, and her heirs’ less ambitious and less talented gardening skills, the gardens were a mere shadow of what they once were — but you could still see the bones and catch glimpses of Tasha’s vision. She reportedly told her son, just months before her death, that if the gardens were left unattended for more than 6 months, they would be unrecoverable. Sadly, she was right. But I digress…below are some glimpses of Tasha’s gardens, many of these photos taken while Tasha was in her 70s and 80s by photographer, Richard Brown (Tasha Tudor’s Garden).