Virginia Woolf was one of the worst gardeners in history, we discover in Caroline Zoob’s new book devoted to the garden she and Leonard made at Rodmell in Sussex in the 1920s. ‘All Leonard’s doing’, she confided: Leonard loved roses and zinnias, fishponds and topiary, and pruning apple trees after a week in London as publisher and editor. In twenty years of letters between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West there is just one horticultural reference: Vita won’t trust her with plants to take back to Leonard, as they will surely die in her hands.
Zoob’s Virginia Woolf’s Garden is a thoughtful, intelligent account of restoring the garden at Rodmell as the tenant of the National Trust. The lease instructs her to garden ‘in the style of Bloomsbury’ and lists appropriate plants: ‘With one exception these were orange.’ The challenge becomes a discovery of the