22 February 2012

An Island Garden

Celia Laighton Thaxter was born in New England in June 1835. When she was four years old, her father and his brother bought three of the islands in the Isles of Shoals off the New England coast: Hog Island, Smutty-nose Island and Malaga Island. Her father was, for a time, a lighthouse keeper on White Island.  In 1841, the family moved to Smutty-nose Island where Celia’s mother turned their home (Haley House) into an Inn. Over the years the family divided its time between the islands, renaming Hog Island “Appledore” and building a summer hotel there in 1848.  When she was 16, Celia married Levi Thaxter and they divided their time between the mainland and the Isles of Shoals. From that time until her death, Celia looked after her family, wrote volumes of poetry, and tended her beloved garden on Appledore.  Her book “An Island Garden”, beautifully illustrated by American artist Childe Hassam, is a treasure and I recommend it to anyone who loves gardens.

“AT the Isles of Shoals, among the ledges of the largest island, Appledore, lies the small garden which in the following pages I have endeavored to describe. Ever since I could remember anything, flowers have been like dear friends to me, comforters, inspirers, powers to uplift and to cheer. A lonely child, living on the lighthouse island ten miles away from the mainland, every blade of grass that sprang out of the ground, every humblest weed, was precious in my sight, and I began a little garden when not more than five years old. From this, year after year, the larger one, which has given so much pleasure to so many people, has grown.”

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