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Down the Garden Path (Allways trilogy #1)

4.27  ·  Rating Details  ·  471 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
Down the Garden Path has stood the test of time as one of the world’s best-loved and most-quoted gardening books. From a disaster building a rock garden, to further adventures with greenhouses, woodland gardens, not to mention cats and treacle, Nichols has left us a true gardening classic.
Hardcover, 290 pages
Published December 13th 2004 by Timber Press (first published November 30th 1931)
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Feb 08, 2013 Hannah rated it really liked it
Recommended to Hannah by: Leslie
Rating Clarification: 4.5 Stars

This is one of those books that would have forever remained hidden from my reading world without the auspices of Goodreads in general and my GR buddy Leslie in particular (to Leslie - thanks for your squee-worthy review which led me to read this).

Written in the early 30's by a witty, jazz-age playwright (a man with the unfortunate first name of "Beverley"), Down the Garden Path chronicles Nichols' attempts to cultivate the garden of his dreams in the rural midlands
Matthew Gatheringwater
Nov 06, 2008 Matthew Gatheringwater rated it really liked it
Shelves: bedside-books
If Noel Coward wrote gardening books instead of musicals, they might have been something like Down the Garden Path: campy, sentimental, and wise. Short chapters and pleasant associations make this a classic in my bedside book genre.
So this is my review of Beverley Nichols’ Down The Garden Path. The reader already knows I really, really liked it because of the rare 5 star rating. I haven’t tossed one out there in ages. I haven’t even considered it. This book, for me, is the beginning of a friendship, even though the other guy is long gone. I can say this because I’ve already searched Amazon and Goodreads and learned there is much more of this comical, curmudgeonly garden enthusiast’s work out there just waiting for me. Sigh ...more
Dec 30, 2008 Patricia rated it really liked it
Sarcastic, self indulgent and beautiful. As a semi-autobiographical gardening book from an American in England back in the 1830's, Nichols takes an interest in gardening. Through transforming his newly purchased property into an admired landscape, he tells us of his misadventures, visitors, and nosy neighbors in such a way to have the reader feel very much in the confidence of an entertaining and close friend.

His account is a down to earth journal, where he opts to write articles for publicatio
May 21, 2008 Angel rated it it was amazing
made me laugh out loud alone in bed, quite late at night. seriously gleeful laughter. the only problem was how he'd refer, at times, to being poor: he was an aristocrat with servants and multiple properties. sigh. oh, and his 1930's era elegantly closeted homosexual brand of misogyny. enormously charming, nonetheless! highly recommended for plant lovers, eddie izzard lovers and those who believe they should have been born in london, paris or berlin in 1920.
A charming book - the author obviously had a true and deep love of plants. Also interesting to see how society and attitudes have changed since the early thirties.
You have to like flower gardening to read this book. Nothing happens in it, really. There's the partially-told story of Nichols purchase of a country house with wrecked garden, and his work at transforming it, but more than this the book is a collection of observations about plants, women gardeners, neighbor gardeners, greenhouses, cats, the enjoyment of winter plants, etc. Beverley Nichols loves flowers and gardens - that is the thing that makes this book fly.

A sample:
"For city gardens have a m
Julia Tourianski
Jul 12, 2013 Julia Tourianski rated it it was amazing
Shelves: garden
It's pure poetry! Full of wit, charm and british frankness. His attitudes towards all things are justifiable and deserved. His anecdotes are touching and full of giddy circumstance. Every line is beautifully crafted, yet no one else could replicate writing in such a peculiarly effortless manner. Here's the first page to get you interested:

"I believe in doing things too soon. In striking before the iron is hot, in leaping before one has looked, in loving before one has been introduced. Nearly all
Nov 16, 2011 Nicole rated it it was amazing
This book was on our new shelf at the library and I pulled it off and read a random page... and instantly fell in love. It's the auto-biography of a new gardener and his adventures are hilarious, random, and actually fairly informative. I have a new stash of mental notes on winter flowering plants that I can hardly wait to try out. I think it would lend itself to having portions of it read out loud, though it is written by an early twentieth century bachelor so the material reflects a certain vi ...more
Nov 17, 2013 Sarah rated it really liked it
Just the gardening book I was looking for. Nichols is snotty and charming, which makes for delightful narrating of just about anything. A terrible book to read if you're trying to exorcise adjectives, adverbs and superfluousness from your own writing ("Pools and cupids and cats, and very crazy pavements, and seats that are scrubbed, on rare summer evenings, by sulky butlers"). A perfect book to read before bed, because there isn't a compulsion to stay up late to see what happens to his rock gard ...more
Aug 07, 2012 Odoublegood rated it liked it
This book makes a great leisurely read; there's no narrative suspense here to keep anybody awake (which is good). It's a facsimile (with index and introduction added) of the original edition with original illustrations, so it's a very handsome physical object.
Lori Simcik
Oct 13, 2007 Lori Simcik rated it it was amazing
Nichols is a delightful and witty read. He possesses a keen eye for observation, and a deep appreciation of beauty. His enthusiasm will inspire gardeners - I dare anyone to read this book and then not start planting a winter garden.
Heather Obeda
Jul 08, 2013 Heather Obeda rated it it was amazing
My mother introduced me to this book and author. Reading him (Beverley is a him) is traveling back 75 years and a continent away. His writing style charmed me like a cyclamen in winter--a jewel amongst paste!
Feb 27, 2014 Annette rated it it was amazing
Witty, fun, beautifully written with characters that leap off the page. I giggled out loud several times throughout. It also made me very excited to seek out some winter flowers for my own garden.
Apr 29, 2012 Hyacinth rated it it was amazing
This book was a delightful surprise. Mr. Nichols' charming garden memoir is full of anecdotes that are laugh-out-loud funny. Wholeheartedly recommended!
Jul 12, 2012 Wendy rated it it was amazing
This book is such a funny and delightful read whether you enjoy gardening or not but if you do it is definitely inspirational!
Apr 09, 2008 Ann rated it it was amazing
This was a delightful read--inspiring for a gardener and fun for anyone who likes a glimpse of life from another time and place.
Jenny Young
Jan 07, 2016 Jenny Young rated it it was amazing
I grew up in postwar England and remember being aware of the presence of Beverley Nichols in the media of the time. As an adult I read this book and absolutely fell in love. I went on to buy up almost a complete collection of his books and thought at the time I must be the only person left in the world who had made the amazing discovery of this talented author and his enchanting gardening, books. Some of his other books have a darker shade to them which balances the pure delight of the books he ...more
Sep 17, 2013 Lillian rated it it was amazing
makes me laugh every half page.. and also wonder about his brilliant style and choice of words..
Dec 03, 2008 Natalie rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up from the library on a whim, not knowing at all what it was about. Who knew that a gardening book could be so enjoyable?!

- - - -

Favourite bits, from the Timber Press, 2005 Edition:

pg 63-4
You cannot have too many aconites. They cost, as I said before, about fifty shillings a thousand. A thousand will make a brave splash of colour, which lasts a month. If you can afford ten thousand, you are mad not to buy them. There are so many exciting places you can put them. . . in the ho
Ellen Bell
Feb 25, 2014 Ellen Bell rated it did not like it
How it's possible that this book has merited an average rating of 4+ stars is completely beyond me. I didn't just dislike this book; I utterly loathed it. Where do I begin...

Many other reviews have mentioned the author's self-deprecating humor. What I interpreted, however, was an upper-crust, turn-of-the-century (20th century, that is), bachelor who whines incessantly about his various misfortunes and misadventures in gardening his small plot of land. While I could look past that minor annoyance
Lise Petrauskas
Feb 24, 2012 Lise Petrauskas rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-garden
Witty, opinionated, comic, rambling, rhapsodic, self deprecating, honest and above all entirely passionate about gardens, Nichols tells the story of the first year—with many digressions, asides, flash-backs and flash-forwards— he owned and transformed a garden in the midlands of England. The enthusiasm with which any gardener greets even the smallest most battered flower in the bleakest muddiest month of the year is described with accuracy and hilarity. I found myself in almost every line and wa ...more
Aug 11, 2015 Judy rated it it was amazing
This British author/former correspondent continues to make me laugh-out-loud with his descriptions, sometimes caustic, of his neighbors and their foibles. Although his novels center around his penchant for gardening and restoring older homes, his humorous escapades and ultimate ability to remain unscathed will keep you smiling.(sorry for the run-on sentence!) I have enjoyed all of his novels even though there is some repetition--the characters remain believable throughout.
Mar 21, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jennifer by: Alicia
First published in 1932, this book has had a lot of staying power. The version I read was printed in 2005. A charming period piece, even the font looks old-fashioned. While some of the sentiments in the book seem a bit dated (Nichols would never be able to write about women the way he does today!), it is entertaining and much of his gardening observations are sound. And his descriptions of creating a pond, a rock garden, and even a "wood" make you laugh. Somehow he makes it all sound so amazingl ...more
Sep 19, 2015 Ann rated it liked it
Very enjoyable look at some things about gardening that never change despite this book having been written more than 70 years ago. Witty and self deprecating, Beverley Nichols shares his naiveté in starting a garden. Although some of his thinking is dated, especially about women and social classes, in other ways he seems fresh and contemporary.
Apr 02, 2015 Sharon added it
Imagine if David Sedaris were a devoted gardener in 1932. Witty, charming, sneering, entertaining. Down the Garden Path is a delightful read, while at the same time leaving me glad I didn't know the author. A conversation with him would carry the risk of being pilloried in his writing. His neighbors are mocked while his garden is praised.

Side note: Beverley is one of those androgynous names that has become so feminine in the US that I forgot it could be a man's name. I read the first 100 pages
May 29, 2011 Sallie rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Yes, Melody, I'm finally getting around to reading this book from our book swap in 2010 or was it 2008, oh, well, better later than never!
5/24/11 - Yes, I'm still reading this book, but I took a break to read those two mysteries from the library. Beverley has just planted his woods. Gad Zooks, but he bought a whole mess of trees for that wood!
5/29/11 - Finished this last night. I enjoyed it, but I do have a bone or two to pick about his comments on women gardeners - NOT like that these days, at
Susan Grimshaw
May 01, 2016 Susan Grimshaw rated it really liked it
A fascinating insight into upper class life between the wars, social attitudes & conventions, gardening methods and costs of plants, very entertainingly written. However the Rex Whistler illustrations are what made me buy the book, 1 from a charity book stall and worth far more. ...more
Sandra Helen
Jan 05, 2016 Sandra Helen rated it really liked it
My second time to read this book. I loved the entire series by this fastidious and quirky English gardener. His writing is humorous, his recommendations for gardens and gardening top notch.
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John Beverley Nichols was an author, playwright, journalist, composer, and public speaker.
More about Beverley Nichols...

Other Books in the Series

Allways trilogy (3 books)
  • A Thatched Roof (Beverley Nichols's Allways Trilogy)
  • Village in a Valley

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