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The Last Garden in England

The Last Garden in England Summary

The Last Garden in England from the author of the international bestseller The Light Over London and The Whispers of War comes a poignant and unforgettable tale of five women living across three different times whose lives are all connected by one very special place.

Present day: Emma Lovett, who has dedicated her career to breathing new life into long-neglected gardens, has just been given the opportunity of a lifetime: to restore the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero Venetia Smith. But as Emma dives deeper into the gardens’ past, she begins to uncover secrets that have long lain hidden.

1907: A talented artist with a growing reputation for her ambitious work, Venetia Smith has carved out a niche for herself as a garden designer to industrialists, solicitors, and bankers looking to show off their wealth with sumptuous country houses. When she is hired to design the gardens of Highbury House, she is determined to make them a triumph, but the gardens—and the people she meets—promise to change her life forever.

1944: When land girl Beth Pedley arrives at a farm on the outskirts of the village of Highbury, all she wants is to find a place she can call home. Cook Stella Adderton, on the other hand, is desperate to leave Highbury House to pursue her own dreams.And widow Diana Symonds, the mistress of the grand house, is anxiously trying to cling to her pre-war life now that her home has been requisitioned and transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. But when war threatens Highbury House’s treasured gardens, these three very different women are drawn together by a secret that will last for decades.

In this sweeping novel reminiscent of Kate Morton’s The Lake House and Kristin Harmel’s The Room on Rue Amélie, Julia Kelly explores the unexpected connections that cross time and the special places that bring people together forever.

About the Author

Julia Kelly is the award-winning author of books about ordinary women and their extraordinary stories. In addition to writing, she’s been an Emmy-nominated producer, journalist, marketing professional, and (for one summer) a tea waitress. Julia called Los Angeles, Iowa, and New York City home before settling in London. Readers can visit to learn more about all of her books and sign up for her newsletter so they never miss a new release.

The Last Garden in England Introduction

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


Even if Emma hadn’t been looking for the turnoff, Highbury House would have been hard to miss. Two brick pillars topped with a pair of stone lions rose up from a gap in the hedgerow, harkening to a time of carriages and riding to hounds, hunt balls and elaborate house parties.

She turned into the gravel drive, steeling herself to meet her clients. Normally she wouldn’t take a job sight unseen, but she’d been too wrapped up in the restoration project at Mallow Glen to travel down from Scotland for a site survey.

Instead, Emma’s best friend and the head of her crew at Turning Back Thyme, Charlie, had gone ahead and done the measurements, while Sydney Wilcox, Highbury House’s owner, had arranged a series of video chats to explain the project: to return the once-spectacular gardens to their former glory.

The short drive opened up into a courtyard, around which the U-shaped house was built, but its elegance was marred by piles of construction debris.

Emma parked behind a steel-gray Range Rover and climbed out, slinging her heavy canvas workbag over her shoulder. The high-pitched whine of power tools filled the air, followed by a volley of barks. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a flash of red. A pair of Irish setters bounded through the front door, straight for her.

She threw up her hands to fend off the smaller of the two dogs, who still managed to rear up on its hind legs, planting its paws on her shoulders and licking her face. The other danced around her feet, barking encouragement.

She tried to push the dogs away as Sydney burst out of the doorway, half jogging across the courtyard. “Bonnie, get down! Clyde, let Emma through!

They’re fine,” said Emma, hoping she sounded at least a little convincing as Bonnie managed another lick. “You’d be surprised how many of my jobs start like this, especially in the country. Everyone keeps dogs.”

“I really am so sorry. We spent so much time and money training them, and we still ended up with two of the most ill-behaved dogs in all of Warwickshire.” Sydney grabbed Bonnie’s collar and hauled her away while Clyde went to sit obediently at his owner’s feet.

“Don’t pretend you aren’t as bad as her,” Sydney chided Clyde, her voice reminiscent of good schools, lessons at the local riding club, and Saturday cricket on the village green.

Straightening, Sydney reached up to reclip her curly red hair.

“I’m sorry about that. These two follow the builders around all day long. Someone must have left the door open. Did you have any trouble getting up here? Was there traffic on the M40? Sometimes it’s a nightmare. Did you find the turnoff okay?”

Emma blinked, wondering which question to answer first. A cheery chaos seemed to swirl around the owner of Highbury House. Emma had noticed it on their calls, but in person, surrounded by a pair of dogs, in the shadow of a house under construction, it was an entirely different experience. Finally, she said, “I didn’t have any problems finding the house.”

“I’m so glad you arrived when you did. It rained this morning, and I told Andrew that it wouldn’t do for your first real look at the garden to be in the middle of a rainstorm. But then it cleared, and now here you are!” Sydney turned toward the house, gesturing for Emma to follow. “You’ll have to forgive the noise.”

Are you living here through the construction?” Emma raised her voice to ask as she peered around the entryway draped in drop cloths. A ladder stood next to a grand staircase bracketed by a hand-carved banister, and the scent of fresh paint hung in the air, although the walls looked as though they had only just been stripped of wallpaper.

“We are,” a man’s voice came from over Emma’s shoulder. “I’m Andrew. It’s a pleasure to meet you in person.”

Emma shook Andrew’s hand, letting her eyes slide between the husband and wife. He towered over sprightly Sydney, his Clark Kent glasses sitting on the bridge of his nose and his short brown hair combed neatly to the side. He wrapped his arm around his wife’s waist as though it was the most natural thing in the world, looking down at her with a healthy mixture of amusement and adoration.

Even standing amid the dust of a half-finished house, the Wilcoxes exuded polish, education, class. They were a golden couple, which—experience had taught her—made them all the more likely to be huge pains. However, they were paying customers who wanted a restoration project, not a brand-new garden, and they hadn’t even flinched when Emma had given them a quote.

“Andrew let me convince him that we should be on-site through the restoration work.” Sydney bit her full lower lip. “It’s been a bigger project than even we expected.”

Andrew shook his head. “Six months they said.”

“How long has it been going on now?” Emma asked.

“Eighteen months, and we’ve only done up one wing of the house. There’s so much still left,” said Sydney. “Darling, I was just going to take Emma for a tour of the garden.”

“I don’t want to bother you,” Emma said quickly. “I’ve been working off Charlie’s specs. I’m sure I can find my own way.”

“I insist,” said Sydney. “I’d love to hear your first impressions, and I have a few ideas.”

Ideas. All her clients had ideas, but so few of them were good. Like the man outside of Glasgow who insisted he wanted a tropical garden in the middle of Scotland despite her warnings that it would require intensive work to maintain.

He’d called her six months after Turning Back Thyme had packed up and moved on to another job, complaining that every single one of his banana plants had died over the winter and wanting them replaced for free. She’d politely referred him to her contract, which stated she was not responsible for neglect on the part of the owner.

At least Highbury House would be different in that regard—a respite from all of the contemporary design projects she took on to keep the business afloat. A historic garden of some importance that had lain virtually abandoned for years, the Wilcoxes wanted to see it bloom again just as it had when it had been created in 1907.

Although they took up time and research well beyond her modern projects, Emma loved nothing more than sinking her spade into a restoration. She’d done battle against poured-concrete patios and cursed stretches of lawn previous owners had laid down because it was “easier” than doing any real gardening.

In one particularly egregious instance, she’d ripped out a half acre of artificial lawn installed in the 1970s and re-created the eighteenth-century French knot garden through which ladies in powdered wigs had once strolled. She could make long-forgotten gardens bloom out of pastures and paddocks. She could rewind the clock. Make things right again.

Still, she couldn’t live on challenge alone, and since Sydney would be paying her bills for nearly a year, she would humor Sydney’s ideas. Within reason.

“I’d be glad of the company,” she said, putting as much enthusiasm as she could into her voice.

“Are you coming, darling?” Sydney asked Andrew.

“I would, but Greg said something about floor joists earlier,” he said.

“What about them?” Sydney asked.

Andrew gave a half laugh and pushed his glasses up. “Apparently we don’t have any in the music room. They’ve rotted straight through.”

Emma’s brows rose as Sydney’s mouth formed an O.

Andrew waved a goodbye, darted around the ladder, and disappeared through one of the doors off the entryway.

“I’m afraid that’s been happening a lot recently.” Sydney pointed to a pair of French doors that had been stripped of their paint and looked like they were waiting for a good sanding. “The easiest access to the garden is just through here.”

Emma followed her employer out onto a wide veranda. Some of the huge slabs of slate were cracked underfoot and weeds pushed up through the gaps, but there was no denying the view’s beauty. A long lawn rolled down a gentle hill to trees lining a calm lake. She squinted, conjuring up the old photograph she’d found in the Warwick Archives showing the garden during a party in the 1920s.

There had once been a short set of stairs down to a reflecting pool surrounded by two quarter circles of box as well as a long border that ran the eastern length of the property. Now there was nothing but a stretch of uninterrupted lawn that held none of the charm that surely would have imbued Venetia Smith’s original design.

Excitement pricked the back of her neck. Emma was going to restore a Venetia Smith garden. Long before she’d become famous in America, the Edwardian garden designer had designed a handful of gardens here in Britain. Emma owed her career to a BBC program about the restoration of Venetia’s garden at Longmarsh House.

At seventeen, she’d insisted that her parents take her there on holiday. While most of her friends were thinking about where they might go to university, she stood in that restored garden and realized what she wanted to do with her life.

As they descended the veranda steps, Sydney gestured to the western edge of the lawn. “There isn’t much of the shade border left.”

Emma walked to one of the gnarled trunks that made up the long straight path that ran the length of the great lawn. The cold, rough bark felt comfortingly familiar under her hand. “The trees along the lime walk look as though they’ve been well maintained.”

“That would be the garden service. Dad kept on the same company that Granddad employed. They do what they can to keep things tidy,” said Sydney.

Tidy but nothing more.

“This whole stretch would have been much more vibrant when it was first created,” said Emma.

“Even in the shade?”

Emma smiled. “It’s a common misconception that shade gardens are dull. I haven’t found an archival photograph of how it looked when Venetia planted it, but she loved color, so we can assume she used it.”

“I bought a couple of collections of her books and diaries after our last call,” Sydney said. “She wrote so much, I almost didn’t know where to start.”

“Her diaries are my favorite. She published a few between the wars, but about twenty years ago someone bought her old house in Wimbledon and found two from her very first projects,” said Emma.

“But not Highbury.”

Emma shook her head. “If they had, we’d have a built-in project plan. The tea garden is through there?” she asked, nodding to a gated passageway between the lime trees.

Yes,” said Sydney.

The neatness of the lime walk dropped away as soon as they crossed into the tea garden. An enclosed room with walls of brick and yew, it would have been created as a sanctuary for ladies to gossip among soft pastels of whimsical flowers. Now it was chaos.

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The Last Garden in England

The Last Garden in England PDF

Product details:

EditionInternational Edition
ISBN1982107820, 978-1982107826
Posted onJanuary 12, 2021
Page Count368 pages
AuthorJulia Kelly

The Last Garden in England By Julia Kelly PDF Free Download - Epicpdf

The Last Garden in England from the author of the international bestseller The Light Over London and The Whispers of War comes a poignant and unforgettable tale of five women living across three different times whose lives are all connected by one very special place.


Author: Julia Kelly

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