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A Visit To Wordsworth's Garden

The house at Rydal Mount
The house at Rydal Mount

Photos by Richard Buchanan

Listen to Ketzel talk about Wordsworth's garden Talk about the magic of radio! Ketzel visits Rydal Mount, the last garden of 19th century English poet, William Wordsworth, without ever leaving home.

May 10, 2001 -- I admit it was incredibly strange to tour Rydal Mount by phone, and it's certainly no substitute for being there, but seen through the eyes of its head gardener Tony Braithewaite, and its curator, Peter Elkington, the garden really did come alive.

A scene from the Rydal Mount garden
A scene from the Rydal Mount garden

I never did get to tell you this: Wordsworth's hands-off approach to landscape design was extremely unfashionable. He worked his garden with "the invisible hand of art", used primarily native plants, and did his best to stay out of the way. All this put him at odds with the prevailing school of mid- to late-18th century landscape design, which set out to "improve" nature at all costs -- trim out the unsavory bits and create perfect, picturesque views.

A view of the paths that Wordsworth walked
A view of the paths that Wordsworth walked

Although you won't find much more than picturesque, tarted-up tourist copy if you research Wordsworth's gardens on-line (they're inextricably linked to Lake District tourism), these links may get you thinking about a visit should you be heading to the U.K.:

From the Visit Cumbria Web site you can visit Rydal Mount, Dove Cottage (his first garden), and other Wordsworthian attractions.

Wordworth's Lake District offers a similar, if shallow, overview.

William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth© Wordsworth Trust

The Wordsworth Trust goes a little more deeply into the poet's life and work.

If you don't have any Wordsworth handy, check out The Complete Poetical Works.

Finally, here's the info on the book that inspired our radio feature and provided us with these pictures:

Wordsworth's Gardens by Carol Buchanan
Texas Tech University Press
You'll find the title in their Spring/Summer Catalog
Or call 1-800-832-4042

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Copyright © 2003 National Public Radio, Washington, D.C.