I don't know what smell of wet earth or rotting leaves brought back my childhood with a rush and all the happy days I had spent in a garden. Shall I ever forget that day? It was the beginning of my real life, my coming of age as it were, and entering into my kingdom. Early March, gray, quiet skies, and brown, quiet earth; leafless and sad and lonely enough out there in the damp and silence, yet there I stood feeling the same rapture of pure delight in the first breath of spring that I used to as a child, and the five wasted years fell from me like a cloak, and the world was full of hope, and I vowed myself then and there to nature and have been happy ever since.

Elizabeth von Arnim, Elizabeth & her German Garden (1898)

One of the things I enjoy about digging (and there are lots of things I enjoy about it) is the smell of the earth that is released by the spade cutting in and lifting clods that have been buried for a year. Not only does the soil itself have a real scent, but the roots of the crop or plant - even weed - that has been growing there will also contribute to the mix, creating something new out of the vague remnants of last season's garden.

Monty Don - The Sensuous Garden, 1997

All clays are pretty well unworkable with ordinary implements. For the melted toffee consistency of winter, you might prefer a large soup-ladle; for light working over summer, a hammer and cold chisel. Is the soil always too wet or too dry? No, there's a period - usually a day or two in May - when you can actually use a fork.

John Lucas - Backs to the Garden Wall (1966)

My friend Throstle favours the dual-purpose long-term remedy of mixing in sand and stones and ashes, at the same time slowly disposing of some of the clay by putting a few pieces, wrapped in newspaper, in the dustbin each week. Other lumps he parcels up and posts unstamped to people he doesn't like.

John Lucas - Backs to the Garden Wall

Digging ashes in is supposed to break clay down. But instead of lumps of clay glued to your spade, fork or soup-ladle you get lumps of clay and ashes, which is several times worse.

John Lucas - Backs to the Garden Wall

Soil . . . scoop up a handful of the magic stuff. Look at it closely. What wonders it holds as it lies there in your palm. Tiny sharp grains of sand, little faggots of wood and leaf fibre, infinitely small round pieces of marble, fragments of shell, specks of black carbon, a section of vertebrae from some minute creature. And mingling with it all the dust of countless generations of plants and flowers, trees, animals and - yes - our own, age-long forgotten forebears, gardeners of long ago. Can this incredible composition be the common soil ?

Stuart Maddox Masters, The Seasons Through (1948)

However small your garden, you must provide for two of the serious gardener's necessities, a tool shed and a compost heap. A wire bin takes up negligible space and can be concealed by shrubs, or you can make a small pit into which you sweep leaves and clippings, but try not to fall into it.

Anne Scott-James, Down to Earth (1981)

The longer I live the greater is my respect and affection for manure in all its forms.

Elizabeth von Arnim

Should it not be remembered that in setting a garden we are painting - a picture of hundreds of feet or yards instead of so many inches, painted with living flowers and seen by open daylight - so that to paint it rightly is a debt that we owe to the beauty of flowers and to the light of the sun.

William Robinson - The English Flower Garden and Home Grounds (1883)

Surely green is the colour of Pan, god of Life . . .
It is all around, so omnipotent that it is no longer recognized as a colour in its own right. One day when I was working in our long double hosta border, surrounded by its golds, emeralds and dusty greys, a garden visitor remarked: "I am glad they are having you do some planting. It needs a little colour." (I was planting Nicotiana langsdorfii, the green tobacco plant.) She could not see the colour she was knee deep in.

Nori and Sandra Pope - Colour by Design (1998)

Don't underestimate the therapeutic value of gardening. It's the one area where we can all use our nascent creative talents to make a truly satisfying work of art. Every individual, with thought, patience and a large portion of help from nature, has it in them to create their own private paradise: truly a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.

Geoff Hamilton, Paradise Gardens (1997)

Geranium tuberosum: detail
Iris petal - detail

Photo above: Iris laevigata. Left: Geranium tuberosum