Review of Garden Open Tomorrow by Beverley Nichols (Copyright 1968; facsimile produced by Timber Press, 2002).
Garden Open Tomorrow, the sequel to Garden Open Today, is the last of Nichols' garden books, and carries with it the faint melancholy air of an author who knows this is, indeed, a "last" of anything. Nichols was no longer the springy young man who composed Down the Garden Path some thirty six years earlier. In 1968, he was 70 years old, and feeling the effects of age as he puttered about the garden of Sudbury cottage. Wind and winter are themes throughout, and Nichols gives advice on which plants to grow for winter blossoms, which will survive deep winter gales, and which plants to grow that will survive on windy heights. He also rails against the growing use of poisons in the garden, and narrates his own experiments with more earth-friendly forms of insect control.
By this time he was willing to admit, as he had not in earlier books, that most of the hard work was done by hired help. Indeed, in his chapter on gardening for the elderly, he advises hiring the heavy work done, and offers other tips for retirees who purchase a cottage in the English countryside, with the vision of turning a wilderness into a garden. Burning the ladder stands out most notably, since Nichols himself had an unfortunate habit of falling off of them. He also advises on plants that give excellent results with little care, particularly vines that will grow quickly but do not require trips up and down ladders to trim and care for them.
But all is not dark with thoughts of winter and death. There are cat ballets to enjoy, as the kittens Anthony and Trollop cavort in the heather, and an aged Five makes a cameo appearance to show them how it is done. There is an entire chapter on growing plants on alkaline soil, since chalk is the bane of many gardens in Britain. And there is a section on garden design, though Nichols' few forays into professional garden advice weren't always the sterling success one might imagine.
What is missing from this volume is the array of characters that sparkled across the pages of his earlier works. The mysterious Marius, whom we suspect of working for the secret service, drifts in and out a few times. Nichols' factotum, Gaskin, puts in a brief appearance, and the gardener, Page, is mentioned, though we know little about him. Page is not the Oldfield of the Merry Hall trilogy.
Instead, Garden Open Tomorrow is a more serious work, filled with gardening advice, as though the author wished he'd put more seriousness in his earlier garden books and so packed it all into his final gardening volume. Yet the humor that readers look forward to is still there, as well as Nichols' very decided opinions regarding plants and garden design.
For more on the author himself, see Beverley Nichols: A Life by Bryan Connon