All My Books Go Well With a Glass of Wine, But Especially THIS One.

Ta-Da: This past Tuesday, March 1, was the official Pub Date of my garden book:


I got an email from my publisher that already this book has been tagged as an Amazon Best Seller — it’s #1 in Gardening and Horticultural Essays. And that’s all because of YOU, Dear Readers; all because of your advance orders (and a glowing Kirkus Review). Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. How can I thank you? Check out the bottom of this post (surprise ending!)…but for now I’d like to go behind the scenes, if you don’t mind.

I think the cover of the DGB is a beaut because it’s the view from a friend’s London balcony — an enchanting view that I photographed in three seasons (you can read all about it in the chapter about the Chelsea Physic Garden).

London is a city that I, like any English-speaking Anglo-child of the suburbs, have had lodged in my brain since the first time I heard of Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, Pickwick and the orphan Pip, etc etc etc. When I was 20 years old I finally got to see London with my very own eyes and it lived up to every fairy tale…London is a trip.

However, London was not the first foreign city I set foot in. When I was 19 years old I lit out for the place that was truly my heart and mind crush: Paris. So that’s why I made Paris the first chapter/garden in Gardens of Awe and Folly. Specifically, I headed into the lovely little garden called The Square du Vert-Galant:

awesome map of Square du Vert-Galant

The one thing that makes my garden book different is that I insist on mapping every garden I write about. I’m the kind of person that needs to see a map in garden situations. Also, when I’m reading a book I just can not stand to read descriptions of landscape, except for the ones I’ve been reading lately about climbing Mt. Everest. But in all other circumstances, I skip the paragraphs about the color and light and mood and topographical features of the land. Bores me to tears.

So I give my Dear Readers a map so that in less than five seconds you get it. Like this bit of Parisian real estate (map, above) in the middle of the River Seine — here’s a picture of that same garden spot from my most recent visit, in December of last year:


The other thing that I’m fussy about, garden-wise, is making note of the garden entrance:


To me, the entrance is a crucial component of the entire garden experience — especially for this garden of the Vert-Glanat, as the threshold is so dramatic (even in lovely Winter, as seen below):


The Vase Gate

I like to visit gardens in Winter because I like to see the “bones” of a garden on display, and hoo boy are they ever “on display” in Winter. And I was thrilled to see this, my No. 1 Paris garden, revealed thusly when I was there last December.

But OMG, May I digress here? Because we here on Long Island just got our first taste of Spring this past weekend with a 60 degree day! In February! So Top Cat and I took our usual 5-mile walk through the neighborhood and my oh my, how we gloated over the fact that Winter is vanquished in our neck of the woods. Ha! Take that, yon filthy piles of left-over snow:


And just think, a mere five weeks ago we were ravaged by Winter Storm Jonas — Ha! Now all that’s left is hardly enough make a ski jump for squirrels!


Hard to believe that this is all that is left of a 20-inch, knee-deep, white-out blizzard :


There’s not even a snowball’s worth of sow left here!

If I lived here (below) I would have shoveled that little pile out of my driveway weeks ago just to be rid of it once and for all for cripe’s sake:


By chance we crossed paths with this little guy …


…who, according to his collar goes by the name of Rusty. He flopped down onto the road there and started rolling from side to side in what looked like a fit of Spring Fever. Our squeals of delight regarding this cuteness attracted the attention of Rusty’s pal, who also came by to say “Hi”:


It was when we ambled to the local Whole Foods that Top Cat and I came across this:


Top Cat and I have a bet about whether or not this mound will be gone by St. Patrick’s Day. If I win, I get to go back to Paris in June.

Oh, right. I think we better get back to Paris tout de suite, nest-ce pas?

So back to my No. 1 fave Paris garden: The next thing that I want to show you about the Square de Vert-Galant is this view, which you can gander by walking to the far end of this garden and turning around and looking back towards the Pont Neuf —  this is the view in Summer:


And in Winter:


Picasso painted this same exact view:


Yeah, I agree with you: Picasso’s picture stinks.  (You can see his tableau in the Musee Carnavalet, a darling museum about a ten minute walk away which covers the history of Paris.)  And that white pointy thing in the bushes on the right hand side…what the hell is that?? Could that be the kiosk of the garden guardians?


Oh, how I love this little, one-third-of-a-third-room building:


The architect was probably Gabriel David, the same Second Empire artist responsible for many of the distinct and lovely street furnishings of Paris, such as its newspaper and magazine kiosks:


I even see a similarity to the famous Morris Columns all over the city:

Morris Column

Have you ever wondered how they load up a Morris Column??? Now you know!

I know!! I was on a bus (last December) when I saw this, a sight I have never seen in all of my 40 years of visiting and living in Paris and I jumped out of my seat and ran to the front of the bus to get a good photo of it, and thank DoG the bus was stopped at a red light so I could get a photo, and I am sooooo chuffed that I am able to show this to you!!

Back to the guardian’s kiosk in the Square du Vert-Galant: of course I had go peeping. I had to know what this wondrous space looked like on the inside:


BTW, it still looked the same last December:


I could do so much with this space. I desperately want to own this little place, or at least get a 99-year lease on it. I want to spiff it up and spend my days lounging in front of a little fire, with my notebooks and my radio and my books, whilst quaffing a culturally appropriate beverage:


I can definitely see it. I belong here. (Inside joke: That’s Monet’s water lilies on the carpet.)

And so, in keeping with this wintery theme of Fantasy Garden Spots Where I (and You) Belong, today I am painting for you Dear Readers a Pub Date Celebration Triscuit of that same theme:



But first. . .another digression. If you read last week’s Comments you’ll see that last week’s Triscuit winner, Deborah Hatt, dedicated her win to her two dearly departed Cats of the Heart. Well, what else could I do but put those sweet kitties into her Monet’s Giverny  Garden Triscuit? My darling Readers, please say Hi to Percy and Buster:


Long may they stroll the perfumed paths in that beautiful flower garden in the sky.

OK, now we can back to painting this week’s  Pub Date Celebration Triscuit.

As always, I work wet-in-wet to make some interesting grassy textures:


Oh, yeah — this Triscuit’s going to have a tea cup and a cat . . .


. . . and a wicker chair with a golden cushion:


White is the only acceptable color for wicker furniture, don’t you agree?


When I saw that the detail of the wicker was too washed out by the pale background, I decided to go back and paint in some dark stuff in between the wicker-weave. I am probably one of the few people on Earth who find this kind of fuss-budget work to be very relaxing:


Now for lots and lots of fleurs:


And done:


This is the kind of place where you, and I, and cats belong on any old Spring Fever day, right?

I am giving away this special Pub Date Celebration Triscuit to my Dear Readers in honor of, well, my new book and all, and how it’s the perfect gift for everybody you know, maybe even two or three times each. I’ve heard that it only takes one bulk sale of 8,000 copies to get on the New York times Bestseller list so if anyone out there has 8,000 friends please buy this book for them all and make them (and me) happy. Thank you.

All you have to do to claim this Pub Date Celebration Triscuit for your own is leave a Comment below, with your guess of a number between 123 and 8,071…no, wait. That’s too complicated.

Guess a number between 100 and 175. When the Comments close after 5 days (I have to shut it down to reduce the number of days that I get 1,000 spam comments per hour) I will have Top Cat pick a number at random and hope that one of you Dears had mental telepathy. Or is it pre-cognition?

Every one who Commented last week or the week before is eligible!

And now, because Thea wrote a Comment last week that “Taffy beats any sports mascot”, here’s your weekly dose of our favorite beige cat:


This is me and Taffy and that’s our feral pal Bibs, at my ankle, in front of the tomato patch in August of last year. I don’t know why I didn’t use this as my author photo for the DGB.

Speaking of which, next week we’ll have to talk about all those 5-star reviews that you, my Dear Readers, will be posting to Amazon for Gardens of Awe and Folly, n’est-ce pas? ( 5-star reviews = another V. Swift book in the future for you. . .  publishers take sales and reviews very seriously). For all you Dear Readers who take the time to vote in favor of me keeping my job, I’ll have a special thank you for you. Stay tuned.

Have a great weekend, everyone, curling up with a good book. You know which one I mean.

P.S. in response to Comments last week that I did not get to answer in the roll: Leslie you’re right! I am contemplating a new embroidery project, and when it’s stitched I’ll be sure to show it here.

Patricia: I wonder if there is some kind of Myers Briggs test that would match up personalities to most likely crafts, altho I’m pretty sure that if left to science I would never have been pegged as an embroiderer. I’m too easily bored, except by things I’m obsessed with, which seem pretty random. I think it’s hit or miss, like love. Or maybe it’s fate, like love. I can’t decide.


32 Comments, RSS

  1. Megan

    Great post, full of cats! Love the wicker chair, and I guess it is zen to just paint the small details in, lowers your blood pressure. Sadly I don’t have 8,000 friends but you never know some one might… Oh and btw my guess is 143.

  2. Kirra

    Congratulations on the release of DGB! Mine is in the post and I hope to get it very soon!!!

    What a wonderful garden in Paris, it was also the first city I visited when I was 17 on a school trip. I have never been to this garden, will need to go there and peak through the window of this tiny garden building.

    I love this triscuit, it has my favourite things of tea, flowers and a cat. It was very nice of you to paint in Deborah’s cats to her triscuit, it looks great. My guess for this week is 142.

    I will of course post a 5 star review of Gardens of Awe and Folly when I get it 🙂

  3. Loving your blog as I’ve come to do, I decided that I needed to start somewhere with your books, so I ordered the one about France. I’ve been there numerous times, but I think I’ll learn from it and also love it.

    best… mae at

  4. My copy of your new garden book arrived at my house and I love it. I had to look at each page the day it arrived and now I’m going back and reading every word. Tis wonderful! A kitty and a cup of tea sounds just like my house. I’m picking 151 and keeping my fingers crossed.

  5. janet b.

    super sweet that you added dears PERCY and BUSTER to the winning triscuit. i just got the notice that my DGB has been shipped, and am so excited to get my hands on it! another vivian swift treasure!
    i select number 111.

  6. janet b.

    super sweet that you added dears PERCY and BUSTER to the winning triscuit. i, too, could spend some comfy time at the guardian’s kiosk ~ what is it about teeny spaces that is so endearing? can’t believe that garden eluded me on my trips to paris ~ now it is on the “must be seen” list. OH – i just got the notice from AMAZON that my DGB has been shipped, and am so excited to get my hands on it! another vivian swift treasure!
    i select number 111.

  7. Nancy S

    I understand how you really get into painting small details. It is so rewarding. I love anything with a teacup so I pick number 122 and will keep hoping.

  8. Just as I read that you loved that certain watercolor..I was thinking oh I love that one….and then you added the kitties for Deborah and it made me so happy she won and not me.
    I love everything you have shown us re your book and this dear latest Triscuit.
    it’s 18 F.And we still have lots of snow..
    Jacques picked 168..he has no idea why I asked him to pick a number..but then said :”What do I win”?
    I let him pick because obviously I am a loser.:)

  9. I bought your book on publication day from the great bookshop I ordered it from (Left Bank in Belfast, Maine!) and saw that they’d put another copy face out on display above the gardening section. It won’t be there long, your cover is just beautiful! I’ve read through once and am about to re-read, more slowly. Particularly love the section on Dunbar’s Close and winter trees. Love the whole thing, though! I commented a while back so I will toss a number in, if you consider me eligible to participate – 136.

  10. Upon viewing my very own triscuit for the first time just now (which is on its way to my Michigan farmhouse – hooray!) my eyes immediately pooled, seeing Percy and Buster memorialized so aptly. They both loved my flower beds and would slink themselves through the foliage, and curl themselves beneath the blossoms into shadowed puddles of peace, as only a cat can manage. Putting them down into Monet’s Garden … nothing could be more perfect. I am nothing but tremendously delighted and overwhelmed. Thanks again, dear Vivian!
    I am enraptured with the little river garden in Paris! How wonderfully and marvelously wrought! If I lived in Paris, I would not be able to stay away! And, I MUST say, I recoiled when I saw Picasso’s rendition of this beautiful garden – ugh! It’s like someone dared him to render it in as ugly a way as he could manage! I don’t despise everything he ever painted, but this one? Horrid, in my opinion. Your paintings of the same garden, on the other hand, dear Vivian, are a delight. They carry the heart of the place. I fell in love with the place when seeing it as you present it. Simply perfect (again!).
    One of my outside kitties is named Lucy. I rescued her from a drainage culvert, where someone dumped her. She was miles from the nearest home, and only about 8 weeks old. A paper plate of kitten chow was placed nearby (oh how kind … grrrr). She is now (drumroll) 18 years old! Nearly unheard of for an outside kitty. Anyway, she is a rare mix of tabby and calico. She falls to the ground and wriggles about whenever she sees me, just like Rusty in today’s blog. She has always done this, since becoming my little darling. I call this action the “caterpillar kitty” move. You can always tell a cat who is trusting and sweet, simply by the caterpillar kitty move.
    Congratulations on the release of your DGB, and all the many kudos its already received! May it end up paying for several more trips to all your favorite places, my friend. Fresh delights at every bend in the path – or should I say, at every garden gate.
    I just won my Monet triscuit, so no number from me. I am already blessed, for sure!

  11. Patricia

    I like wicker chairs to be white, but I’m also partial to Charleston green (that dark black/green shade they use everywhere in Charleston SC). I so loved the multitude of cats in your post. We’re not getting nearly enough cat visitors to our garden. Maybe in warmer weather? I suspect our yard has been claimed by Jack, the across-the-alley cat who nabs our guest room bed for long naps.
    i’m guessing 149 for my chance at the special triscuit. Tea and a cat!
    And still looking for my craft skill. Maybe needle felting? Bring on the Myers-Briggs test please.

  12. Cheryl

    Vivian, I received my copy two days ago and it could not have come at a better time. I am enjoying it leisurely, with the culturally appropriate beverage. It is just lovely. Not sure what I like more: the paintings or the writings. They blend together well, so I will say it is a draw. I am also enjoying your continued narrative about the paintings and seasonal sights in the blog. Please keep it up.

  13. Linda June

    So thrilled each week to read your blogs–and to see your watercolors! The wicker chair in the garden is so inviting. Keep up your wonderful blogs!

  14. Very exciting book news!!
    It’s embarrassing but I’ve never been to the Vert Galant and it’s a 10 minute walk from me. I’m inspired now to check it out toute suite…well as soon as I get my visa stuff together for next week’s rendes-vous. I could go after to commune with nature and check out the guardian’s kiosk! A must-do.

  15. KR

    So excited to have the book in hand and can’t wait to curl up with a lovely cup of tea and enjoy it at leisure. Perhaps, if it’s a warn cusp of Spring day, and I am outside our very friendly neighbor cats will join me.
    Oh my guess is 139

  16. kim

    Congratulations to you on your book being released! I have had it in my cart at Indego for ever and it is still not available… Canada! I can’t wait for it to join my copies of your other books on my night table!
    Your triscuit painting is so pretty..would look great above my books! ❤❤❤
    My number is 86!

  17. bunny

    Haha, love that bet, I would think top cat is praying for cold weather for the next couple weeks! I have 4 books on order as we speak, and cant wait to read, and admire your basket of triscuits, and then the gift giving begins. I gave my mom a copy of Le Road Trip, and she loved it, and will she ever be surpised when we get together for her Birthday March 15th,and I hand over the DGB, and she gets to hold your newest masterpiece.
    Love the blogs, keep up the good work!

    My lucky number is 155.

  18. I’ve been waiting and waiting for my books (I ordered two!) to arrive — Maryanne got hers a couple of days ago. Mine arrived today and I’ve been pouring over every luscious painting (and thinking of all our lessons we learned), remembering the missing London chapter (I’m so glad you found it!), remembering Paris and planning all the other wonderful spots I must see in person, though truth be told, I think I will like your versions better than most!

    It’s a treasure and more on that off-blog but Bravo and Congratulations! Just touching it made me smile!

    I don’t see it listed yet, so put me in for 123 (as in 123 Sesame Street!) Sunny day! (Loved your walk, Taffy and the neighborhood fur balls!)

  19. Claude Marie

    Bonjour Vivian,
    Quel plaisir de lire votre blog tous les vendredis! J’ai toujours hâte de connaître le sujet du jour et c’est encore plus intéressant lorsque nous avons aussi droit à une démo. S’il vous plaît, dites à Top Cat que vos textes ne sont pas trop longs; en tout cas, moi j’en prendrais encore plus.

    Je viens juste de commander votre livre (j’ai évidemment les deux autres) et je suis déjà à la fenêtre à attendre le facteur. Vous aurez vos 5 étoiles, n’ayez crainte. Si je pouvais, je les mettrais tout de suite. Ayant suivi, jours après jours son évolution, je n’ai aucun doute que vous les méritez. Un prochain livre sur les chats, ça vous tente? C’est une suggestion de ma chatte Tennessee. Il y a plus d’un an, vous aviez écrit, il me semble, que vous nous donneriez des trucs pour peindre les chats. Est-ce que j’ai manqué une parution? Ou si c’est à venir…j’aimerais bien.

    J’espère être chanceuse: mon numéro est le 160.

  20. PS — I’ve been trying to channel my inner-Vivian and you have a shout-out for your book, blog and teaching at the Marmelade Gypsy! Thank you for forcing me to practice. It does help! (I figured “If Vivian has to do a picture over and over and she’s VIVIAN, who am I to hit and run!). Honestly, it’s making a huge difference! Thanks!

  21. Patricia

    Assuming you’re betting the pile will be gone, start sneaking out and spreading that pile around so it will melt faster. Black plastic works great on sunny days.
    Would that be cheating? Surely Top Cat wants to go back to France too.

  22. My book came, and in a rare attempt at delayed gratification, I am saving it for this weekend. A cup of tea, a bit of chocolate and I’ll settle in for a relaxed viewing. My daughter got hers, too- happiness all around.

    I LOVE that wicker chair. Your attention to detail is just astounding . As usual, I didn’t see anything wrong with the light space beyond the chair, but your dark green tiny fill-in makes it just pop.

    How sweet of you to add Deborah’s kitties to her Triscuit – so thoughtful.

  23. There is never a blog post of yours that is too long, and I am so appreciative of your step-by-steps and confessions of all your self doubts and do-overs. We are all plagued by these!

    I shall choose 152 and keep my digits crossed that I might actually hold in my hand a painting done by my favorite artist/writer/blogger.

    Here’s to spring and cats, two other favorites of mine!

  24. Michelle

    My book arrived on March first, and I promptly repaired to the garden to enjoy your words and paintings under the flowering lemon tree with my cup of tea and two cats. What a delight! A book to savor again and again. Could not help but notice that the author photo is by Woody Robinson…..I did not know dear Woody was so adept with a camera! My lucky number is 119.

  25. Janet

    DGB makes me want to visit all of the gardens, but especially the tiny one in Paris. Not far from there is a little restaurant that makes the most delicious crepes ever and close to that is a pretty yummy ice cream store (or at least it used to be there the last time I was in Paris, which was just a few years ago). What a perfect day it would be to hang out in that little garden and then grab some thing delicious to eat. For now, I must be happy with letting you transport us all to some of your favorite places. There isn’t a single one I’d decline to experience.

    I choose 148 for the next Vivian lottery.

  26. Dana

    Congratulations Vivian!!! My copy of the DGB is on the way! Now all that’s left is to mentally communicate my number to Mr. Top Cat….. 137. Oh please, oh please!

  27. SusanA

    I love that you included Percy and Buster in Deborah Hatt’s Triscuit. What a sweet way to honor her beloved cats. I can’t wait to get my copy of your new book. And I hope one day to have my own Triscuit too! My number is 108.

  28. Marg-o

    My new rule of life: never get so busy that you can’t check in on Vivian’s blog ASAP on Friday. I missed you all!!! I’m with SusanA, it is such a nice tribute to Percy and Buster, who I did not know but who I know very well in the love that I have for my own Jinx and Louie.

    I loved taking this trip to the Vert Galant in the heart of Paris.

    My guess is that 150 is my lucky number.

  29. Laura

    With number 171

    I read DGB from start to finish on Sunday. What an adventure. It was exciting to see how the works shared in your blog appeared in the final new and exciting layouts. I learned to appreciate curated natural spaces with new eyes. Congratulations!

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