Much has been written on Edna Walling’s gardens, first by herself, later by garden historians, although no detailed account of her early career has been attempted, and less still is generally known of her private life. With a play on Walling to her credit (1987), Sara Hardy presents an account of her private life (1895–1973) and of her early career.
Of her childhood in Plymouth, Walling wrote that her father brought her up as a boy, fostering masculine skills; although a poor student, she demonstrated an aptitude for geometry. (Her elder sister seems to have garnered all the conventional feminine accomplishments.) While convalescing after pneumonia, Walling went with her father for long walks on Dartmoor; there he encouraged a sense of perspective. She began to appreciate the colours of nature, the shapes of stones, and the mystery that a landscape could emanate.