Nature, wilderness, “wilderness,” the great outdoors – from painting to literature to photography, the Canadian landscape and human’s (or man’s, more accurately) relationship to it has been an ingrained theme in “Canadian” identity since the country’s birth. But there is a far more private and immediate “natural” space that has never quite received the same exploration or even attention, let alone the same romantic treatment: the home garden.
Shelley Boyd aims to tip that scale with Garden Plots: Canadian Women Writers and Their Literary Gardens. Each of the five works in this collection focuses on the more domestic, private domain that is the garden and its significance in the history of Canadian literature and identity. Spanning from the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries, the works by Susanna Moodie, Catherine Parr Traill, Gabrielle Roy, Carol Shields and Lorna Crozier show the extents to which perceptions of the garden and its significance to Canadian literature and identity have changed over time – and how they have stayed the same.
Boyd shows that the home garden is as fertile for inspiration, rumination and creation in general as the great green yonders that have overwhelmingly been claimed as “male-dominated,” “bushwhackers’” spaces.
As more focus turns to ecological repair and preserving natural spaces, the need to understand our environment in as many of its variations as possible and our relations to them (in this case, in literary terms) becomes increasingly important.