Xiao Wang + Alistair Craik

The Gift of a Garden

The Gift of a Garden

It was Spring and the Princess Amelia was about to celebrate her sixteenth birthday. In the kingdom where she lived it was a tradition that on this special birthday—when princesses left the schoolroom—she could ask for whatever gift the kingdom could provide. She thought carefully about what she might like. There was no gold in the kingdom, and neither was there silver so she could not ask for jewellery. There were beautiful pearls that could be gathered from mussels in the mountain streams, but Amelia was not a dressy Princess and she did not choose to ask for pearls. She loved animals and would have asked for an elephant, but no elephants lived in the kingdom. After pondering a long time she decided that she would ask for a garden, her very own special garden.
A week or two later, in fact only a few days before the Princesses’ birthday the Queen said to the King, ‘My dear, do you remember that Princess Amelia asked for a garden for her gift, and you said you would think about it; have you decided where our gift to her shall be?’
‘But of course,’ answered the King.
‘Have you decided what sort of garden it shall be?’
‘But of course,’ the King said again.
‘Shall it be a rose garden?’ asked the Queen, ‘with red and white roses of beautiful scents to tempt the bees?
‘No.’
‘Shall it be a fruit garden’ asked the Queen, ‘with luscious pears and purple plums, and red, red raspberries to eat with cream?’
‘No.’
‘Shall it be a vegetable garden’ asked the Queen, ‘with neat raised beds growing everything to feed the palace servants?’
‘No.’
Shall it be a pleasure garden’ asked the Queen, ‘with willows drooping, a silver lake with black swans gliding, and a pavilion in which to take tea?’
‘No.’
‘Shall it be a knot garden,’ asked the Queen, ‘which leads into a maze to puzzle us all.’
‘No.’
‘Shall it be a landscape garden en style anglais,’ asked the Queen, ‘with long vistas over green pastures dotted with white sheep, and shaded carriageways to drive along to divert an afternoon?’
‘No.’
‘Well,’ said the Queen, ‘I cannot think of any more gardens at all. Now don’t be a tease and tell me.’
‘With pleasure, my dear, ‘said the King, and took her hand (for he loved her very much), ‘come with me and I will show you.’ He led her inside the Palace to a small room on the ground floor. In it there was a bookcase both tall and wide made from many different coloured woods, and on the shelves were rows of the most beautifully bound books. ‘There,’ said the King, pointing to the bookcase, ‘there is our gift to dear little Amelia—a garden of ideas.’