War is the normal occupation of man - war and gardening', said Winston Churchill, Britain's great wartime Prime Minister. And so it was that during the Second World War these two strands of national life - war and gardening - became tightly intertwined.
In A Green and Pleasant Land, Ursula Buchan tells the intriguing and inspiring story of how the British government encouraged and cajoled its citizens to contribute to the war effort by growing their own fruit and vegetables. As a whole nation listened to wireless broadcasts, dug holes for Anderson shelters, counted their coupons and made do and mended, so too were they instructed to 'Dig for Victory'. Ordinary people, as well as gardening experts, rose to the challenge: gardens, scrubland, allotments and even public parks were soon helping to feed a nation deprived of fresh produce.
As Ursula Buchan reveals, the British people tackled wartime gardening and its practical contribution to the Home Front with thrifty ingenuity, grumbling humour and extraordinary fortitude. However, this simple act of turning over soil and tending new plants was potentially just as important in mitigating the psychological and physical shocks endured by a population under threat of bombing and even invasion. Gardening reminded Britons that their country, and its more innocent and insular pursuits, were worth fighting for. Gardening in wartime Britain was a part of the fight for freedom.