Donovan - A Gift from a Flower to a Garden

A Gift from a Flower to a Garden


Formats Tracks Price Buy
12" Vinyl Boxed Set (2LP limited edition mono box set) 22 tracks £180.00


Donovan - A Gift from a Flower to a Garden

A Gift from a Flower to a Garden 2 LP Deluxe Box Set Announced

- Limited edition of 500 numbered, handmade vinyl box sets individually hand-signed by Donovan

- Vinyl and digital release only

- Donovan’s music, his poetry - including two mono LPs, one for parents or grandparents and one for the children, with beautiful art illustrated lyrics, all approved by Donovan, with exclusive liner notes by Will Hodgkinson, chief rock and pop critic for The Times


About the release

A Gift from a Flower to a Garden made for a few firsts: the first double LP of Donovan’s career, the first box set in pop and, most importantly for Donovan himself; the first pop album for the children of tomorrow.

He resolved to make A Gift From a Flower to a Garden an album of two halves. The first, Wear Your Love Like Heaven, was intended for his own generation as they started to think about the kind of world they wanted to leave behind. The second, For Little Ones, was for the children they had or would have in the years to come. The result was a kaleidoscopic folk-jazz suite on the power of love, imbued with all the romance and mystery of an Arthur Rackham illustration for an ancient English fairy tale. The songs, remarkably adventurous given Donovan was a globally famous singer at his commercial height, combined the influences he had amassed so far.

Wear Your Love Like Heaven sets the tone. A lullaby about being unafraid to express your love is driven along by a churchy organ and Donovan’s precise intonation on gnomic words about scarlet fleeces and crimson balls. It is a wistful vision of a benign looking-glass world.

Mad John’s Escape throws us back into reality, with a tale of a friend of Donovan’s who escaped borstal in Birmingham to hot-foot it down to Torquay and hide out in an allotment shed. The plangent Sun, with its echoes of Pete Seeger’s Turn! Turn! Turn!, sounds on first listen like a hippie fantasia but turns out to be an acceptance of the inescapable fact that the only stability in life is instability.

None of this is entirely straightforward and therein lies its magic. Donovan’s reading of Shakespeare’s Under The Greenwood Tree, from As You Like It, borrows a line from Lewis Carroll, as if belonging to a time-jumping literary nether-world of the imagination. Even the nursery rhyme-like Little Boy In Corduroy, with its singalong chorus, has a touch of sadness sewn into its brightly coloured fabric.

Above all else, A Gift From a Flower to a Garden is hopeful. The second part, For Little Ones, has not a trace of cynicism in its poetic tales of enchanted gypsies and omen-bringing magpies. A baby’s cry opens the album, aligning it with the birth of new life, before songs backed by birdsong, congas and the gentlest of acoustic guitars create a new genre: folk for children.

From the pastoral flute trilling through The Tinker and the Crab to the waves crashing on the delightful Epistle to Derroll — a tribute to the American banjo player Derroll Adams, a major influence on Donovan and something of a mentor — For Little Ones points toward a back-to-the-land movement that in 1967 was in its infancy. Before long health food shops across the globe would be filled with men in patched dungarees and women in Laura Ashley smock dresses, stocking up on soya beans while dreaming of rustic idylls.

Donovan’s fuzzy-felt-folk approach would help inspire the most enduring children’s television classics of 70s Britain: Bagpuss, Fingerbobs, Trumpton. Even Toni Arthur, a pagan folkie whom Donovan might well have bumped into at Soho’s mid-60s boho mecca Les Cousins, ended up as a presenter on the toddlers’ favourite Play School.

There is something about A Gift From a Flower to a Garden that could never be repeated, though. It is such an innocent evocation of the childlike imagination, so redolent of its time, yet set apart from it too. All these years later, the peaceful qualities of this pioneering, enchanting, deeply unusual album feel more valuable than ever.

Will Hodgkinson
August 2023


12" Vinyl Boxed Set (2LP limited edition mono box set) (CON234LP)
    1. Wear Your Love Like Heaven
    2. Mad John's Escape
    3. Skip-A-Long Sam
    4. Sun
    5. There Was a Time
    1. Oh Gosh
    2. Little Boy in Corduroy
    3. Under the Greenwood Tree
    4. The Land of Doesn't Have to Be
    5. Someone Singing
    1. Song of the Naturalists Wife
    2. The Enchanted Gypsy
    3. Voyage Into the Golden Screen
    4. Isle of Islay
    5. The Mandolin Man and His Secret
    6. Lay of the Last Tinker
    1. The Tinker and the Crab
    2. Widow With Shawl (A Portrait)
    3. The Lullaby of Spring
    4. The Magpie
    5. Starfish-On-The-Toast
    6. Epistle to Derroll