Karen blixen

How do authors’ gardens inspire them?

When Henry James moved to Lamb House in the Sussex coastal town of Rye, he admitted that he could hardly tell a dahlia from a mignonette: ‘I am hopeless about the garden, which I don’t know what to do with and shall never, never know – I am densely ignorant.’ He sought advice from the artist and designer Alfred Parsons and fortunately Lamb House already had a gardener, George Gammon, to do all the work. When Gammon won prizes at local horticultural shows, James was delighted: he was a vicarious gardener, more comfortable at his desk in the Garden Room than with his hands in the soil. Thomas Hardy was

The healing power of sweat

Laikipia In one of Kenya farmer Karen Blixen’s short stories, a character says: ‘I know of a cure for everything: salt water… Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea’. After two months on the Indian Ocean shore since Mum left us, I set off on the two-day drive back to the farm. At dawn in Tsavo I had breakfast watching a young leopard, and passed a herd of 400 buffalo, many elephant, kudu, giraffe and buck. In four hours on the back roads I saw just one car. I reached the Nairobi highway, overtook scores of juggernauts and then diverted along the track following the Selengei river, where Ernest Hemingway