Kitchen Garden inspired Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904).
Beatrix Potter, ‘Benjamin Bunny nibbling lettuce leaf’ © Frederick Warne & Co. 2006
The Real Mr. McGregor’s Garden
Written by Victoria and Albert Museum
“Before she married in 1913, Beatrix Potter would accompany her family on three-month summer holidays in the countryside. In 1903 the Potters rented Fawe Park, a large, comfortable house in the Lake District, on the edge of Lake Derwentwater. Here, Potter was able to escape outdoors, sketching the terraced gardens that sloped down towards the lake and the beautiful fells beyond. The kitchen garden, with its greenhouses, cold frames and potting shed was a favourite retreat and inspired the setting for The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904).
“When sketching backgrounds for her book illustrations Potter would often attempt to adopt the viewpoint of an animal. She drew aspects of the kitchen garden at Fawe Park that she imagined a rabbit would find appealing: a plank walk ‘under a sunny red-brick wall’, towering lettuces and broad bean plants. Potter used these as the backdrops for Peter and Benjamin’s adventures in Mr. McGregor’s garden. In an ingenious blending of reality and fantasy, she incorporated them into her narrative having made few changes. The animal characters were positioned with an expert eye, and a few recurring motifs, such as Peter’s red handkerchief, were used to add a splash of colour to the greens and browns of the garden.
Beatrix Potter, ‘Sketch of an onion bed, Fawe Park (1903)’ © Frederick Warne & Co. 2006
“Potter produced meticulous preliminary studies for even the smallest and most insignificant details in her finished book illustrations. Among her sketches of the kitchen garden at Fawe Park are several drawings of onions and carnations, and an exquisite study for a potted fuchsia that appears in The Tale of Peter Rabbit.”
Fawe Park, Keswick.
Beatrix Potter Biography