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Old Herbaceous

Back in print after fifty years
"Old Herbaceous is a classic British novel of the garden, with a title character as outsized and unforgettable as P. G. Wodehouse's immortal butler, Jeeves. Born at the dusk of the Victorian era, Bert Pinnegar, an awkward orphan child with one leg a tad longer than the other, rises from inauspicious schoolboy days spent picking wildflowers and dodging angry farmers to become the legendary head gardener "Old Herbaceous," the most esteemed flower-show judge in the county and a famed horticultural wizard capable of producing dazzling April strawberries from the greenhouse and the exact morning glories his Lady spies on the French Riviera, "so blue, so blue it positively hurts." Sprinkled with nuggets of gardening wisdom, "Old Herbaceous is a witty comic portrait of the most archetypal--and crotchety--head gardener ever to plant a row of bulbs at a British country house.
This Modern Library edition is published with a new Introduction by
Penelope Hobhouse, a renowned garden designer and lecturer and the author of numerous gardening books.
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About the Author

Reginald Arkell (1872-1959) wrote many musical plays for the London theater, the most popular of which was 1066 and All That. He was the author of A Cottage in the Country and the Green Fingers series of garden verse. Michael Pollan is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Botany of Desire (available from Random House Trade Paperbacks) and Second Nature, named one of the best gardening books of the twentieth century by the American Horticultural Society. He is a contributing editor to Harper's magazine and a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine.


The "Modern Library Gardening Series" is an American gem of a find - reprints of gardening classics written and published long before today's flurry of overly bright garden books. These are true garden works, not just a photographic procession of perfect plants. Here, you'll find excitement, love, commitment and die-hard horticulturalists imparting their knowledge and experience in a way that makes learning enjoyable. From playwright Reginald Arkell's "Old Herbaceous" hilarious novel to Frank Kingdon Ward's diaries of daring-do in the Far East, American Eleanor Perenyi's pert comments and asides to Margery Fish's late-found desire to build a garden of her dreams in Devon. The passion and ardour with which these writers embrace the subject is sorely missed today. For anyone missing the golden years of gardening, take a journey into the world of Bert Pinnegar aka Old Herbaceous. Set in the days before World Wars reduced manpower in the gardens of the rich, it is a hilarious yet poignant journey of one mans rise from 14 year old garden boy to head gardener and ruler supreme of all things horticultural in his mistress' garden. Redolent of the years when attention to detail was uppermost, rivalry amongst gardening neighbours rife and overtime did not exist due to a gardener's simple love of his duties, this is a story far removed from today's hectic lifestyles. So settle down and transport yourself to an era of peace and tranquillity and let Arkell's gentle wit humour you into a horticultural hiatus for a couple of hours. - Lucy Watson

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