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EDITOR'S LETTER: Come Into The Garden, Cook

By Karen England.

Photo credit: Karen England @edgehillherbfarm.
For a reasonable amount of money, including shipping, Karen England recently bought this vintage 1952 book by Constance Spry off of the UK eBay site.

During this pandemic I have been chipping away indoor and out at my home projects list, comfortingly it turns out, much as I have been doing all along through the (somewhat less, but not by much) tumultuous years past. I hope you have found an equilibrium in the uncertainty or at least will do so before the year from h-e-double hockey sticks ends. The garden certainly helps us. With the help of global shipping, even though delayed, I have, so far, in 2020, managed to plant new plants, get new research books, build new infrastructure, make new friends and plod on toward my goals, dreams and aspirations. That now seems remarkable, considering. I am grateful and want to share with you something I've found meaningful.

In the midst of the upheaval I got a vintage book off of the UK eBay site by Constance Spry who I knew nothing of previously except that "Constance Spry" is the name of one of my favorite roses that I grow. A few months back I visited the president of the ARS (American Rose Society) in his beautiful Escondido garden which I wrote about in a previous newsletter here ...

... and he knew the history of the names of his 600 roses in such a fascinating way, that I was inspired to learn more about mine. Since I was also posting, almost daily at the time, on my Instagram, a photo of a rose blooming in my garden, ...

Photo redit: Karen England @edgehillherbfarm
Constance Spry, the David Austin rose, in Karen England's Vista, California garden Spring/Summer 2020.

... I started to research each rose to put the history I was learning into the captions. I included the history, parentage and types of the 60 odd different roses that I grow and it was then that I realized I had no idea who Constance Spry or L.D. Braithwaite were/are in the way that I do know who Abraham Lincoln or Julia Child were. That is changing.

Photo credit: Karen England @edgehillherbfarm
ORIGINAL INSTAGRAM PHOTO CAPTION: "Today’s rose: the beautiful ‘Constance Spry’, bred by David Austin, 1961. According to Constance Spry is 'The original English Rose. Large, glowing pure rose pink, deeply cupped blooms. Strong myrrh fragrance.' So, who was the real life Constance Spry for which this lovely rose is named? According to she was many things; florist, author, teacher, ... 'In 1942, she published Come Into The Garden, Cookto teach and encourage people to grow their own food.' And her cooking school is responsible for an ever famous British dish. Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on 2 June 1953 & the Constance Spry Cordon Bleu School was asked to prepare the Coronation Luncheon for Queen Elizabeth II, for which Rosemary Hume created the recipe ‘Poulet Reine Elizabeth’ which is now widely known as 'Coronation Chicken'. I wonder if Rosemary Hume has a rose named after her as well? I don’t know. Something for me to google later..."

It was by googling Constance Spry that I learned she wrote a garden cookbook entitled Come Into The Garden, Cook and a quick online international shopping spree brought the book to my mailbox just a few weeks later. When I opened the book to start reading, I was stunned in the first pages by Constance Spry's preface to the 1952 Edition of the book originally written in 1942 that, although referring to war and not pandemics, holds so much meaning for today. Here is an excerpt -

"This book was written over 10 years ago, when life was noisy and hazardous and it seemed as though the war would never end. I am sure if I ever gave it a thought I presumed that a simple wartime cookbook would become so much waste paper the moment peace was declared. In point of fact this has not proved to be the case up to the moment and now my publishers tell me they have a reprint in mind.

I find myself thinking that we are a long time getting back to normal (why, we haven't yet even had that lavish post-war breakfast that we used to discuss with such fervor); then I realize that what I think of as normal isn't normal anymore and won't be, certainly in my day and no one can safely say when it may be . . .

. . . All the restrictions in the world have not been able to stop the progress of better conditions and more effective equipment, because now the mistress of the house finds out at first hand what is essential - good light, reasonable space, practical planning, and a proper batterie de cuisine - and by one means or another and within the limits of her possibility manages to acquire these things."

- Constance Spry 1952

And then there is this excerpt from Chapter 1 - Argument -

". . . I look back on the reason that made me start (gardening) some thirty years ago.

I knew nothing about gardening, disliked physical effort, was lazy, in fact, was vain of my hands, thought flowers and fruit ought to appear at necessary intervals, had never read a garden book . . .

. . . The simple and unromantic reason that my initial distaste was overcome was that I found myself in the plain position that if I wanted flowers or fruit or vegetables I had to grow them. So in my case it was personal need that carried me over the first fences, as I believe national need now might carry others, as indifferent to-day as I was then.

Once over the fence and into stride you are in thrall. Rain and sun hold new importance, and the colour of earth deeper meaning. Under your hand plants grow. You may plan a small world; know the thrill of creation. And all this if you possess even a very small garden . . .

. . . Working among plants and earth brings with it a potent and unnamable satisfaction. It is a cure for frayed nerves and restless minds, it can ease unhappiness and lighten apprehension.

No one will deny that such influence is now, and will be in an increasing degree, a sore need.

. . . You may think I have let my enthusiasm run away with me, that there's going to be something ludicrous in the swing over from the garden to kitchen. I don't find it so. Never was cooking of greater importance, and the more limited our national larder the greater the need to deal well with what we have.

. . . Of one thing I feel sure, a working knowledge of both gardening and cooking would tend to give a young person in the inevitably difficult world of tomorrow an added confidence about living, a talisman in times of stress, and a reassuring sense of independence and power." - Constance Spry, Come Into The Garden, Cook, 1942

Photo credit: Karen England @edgehillherbfarm
Constance Spry, the rose.
Photo credit: Karen England @edgehillherbfarm
Karen England and her Berries and Cream (not Constance Spry) climbing rose, May 2019

Karen England is the San Diego Horticultural Society newsletter, Let's Talk Plants! Editor-in-Chief and President. She lives and gardens on two sloping acres in Vista, California.

Want to join her on the San Diego Horticultural Society Board of Directors? There are volunteer opportunities available, even and especially in a pandemic, and you can make a big difference from the comfort of your own home. Zoom board meetings are held on the third Monday of every other month at 10am - noon. Send an email inquiry to or


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