Monday 28 September 2020

My Newest Book

Exciting news. Herewith a few days advanced notice of my latest book The Garden: Elements and Styles to be published on 1 October by Phaidon. However, pre-publication orders are available via the link.

Do take a look at the snippets I will be posting on Instagram: @toby_musgrave

From Allée to Zeitgeist The Garden is an A-to-Z compendium, exploring the creative art of garden-making through more than 200 elements, styles and features. 

The text for each entry explores and describes the subject and is accompanied by beautiful exemplar illustrations drawn from historic and contemporary gardens around the world. 


From Windcliff, Indianola, overlooking Puget Sound to Mount Rainier. 

Designed by Dan Hinkley. 

Picture credit: © Claire Takacs

Sunday 27 September 2020

One of Two New Books - The Multifarious Mr. Banks

It has been a very long time since I last posted posted. In part because I have been busy writing, with the result I have two books published this year.  Yale University Press published The Multifarious Mr. Banks back in May. The biography is my contribution to the rehabilitation of Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), an overlooked yet fascinating and pivotal Enlightenment figure. 

Photo Credit

If, at all, he seems to be remembered by the Brits as the natural historian who sailed with James Cook on his first circumnavigation in the Endeavour. But there is so much more to the man, not least establishing the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew on a scientific footing and being the driving force behind the establishment of the penal colony at Sydney Cove. As such is is much better remembered in Down Under  where he is often called the Father of Australia.

Photo Credit

But there is much, much more to the man. Just a few of his achievements are: President of the Royal Society for an unequalled 42 years; co-founder of the (what is now called the) Royal Horticultural Society and the African Association that sent out Mungo Park to search for the source of the River Niger; agricultural pioneer; the man who arranged the theft from Portugual of Merino sheep and thus secured their into the British flock; the founding father of scientific plant hunting; pioneer of ensuring scientific studies were included as a core component to voyages of discovery (Vancouver, Flinders and Scorsbey to name but three); and driving force behind the establishment of the Ordnance Survey mapping of Britain. And of course he was the organiser of the voyage of economic plant transfer that ended with the Mutiny on the Bounty. 

Photo Credit

At his London home, 32 Soho Square, Banks established what may be described as his own private research institute which housed his collections of specimens (now held by the Natural History Museum - the link gives a good summary of Banks and his work) and what was then the greatest natural history library in Europe (now in the British Library). Here he welcomed in scientists from across Europe, irrespective if whether the two countries were at war, and corresponded globally. 


So I welcome you to dive into The Multifarious Mr. Banks and discover that while Sir Joseph had no single scientific discovery on which to hang his reputation, he was not only a fascinating character but also instrumental in forging history in a number of ways, the repercussions of which are still felt today.

Friday 11 March 2016

Meet Thomas Ruddy, the blogging Victorian head gardener.

Its the stuff novels are written about - inheriting a trunk and opening it to discover it filled with a treasure trove of documents that tell fascinating story. 

In this case the treasure is a collection of journals written by Thomas Ruddy (1842-1912) who was head gardener at Palé Hall in North Wales. The journals are not day-to-day accounts of gardening but rather a record of a remarkable life.

And thanks to the hard labours of their current owner Thomas' life and works are being published on his fascinating eponymously-named blog. This truly is a remarkable record, not only because of its contents but perhaps more so because of the paucity of surviving accounts written by head gardeners.

With a big thank you to Wendy who has done so much hard work to make Thomas' accounts available to all of us, do visit Thomas' blog and immerse yourself in his fascinating yet lost world.

Thursday 25 February 2016

Heirloom Plants... called in the USA and Australia, or as we in Britain call them...Heritage Plants.  A few years back I wrote a book entitled Heirloom Fruits and Vegetables (in the US) and Heritage Fruits and Vegetables (in the UK) which explored the stories behind our popular fruits and vegetables and offered examples of  old-fashioned cultivars that remain available to grow.

A fascinating book to research and write, but with one frustration - there was insufficient space detail as many of those splendid surviving cultivars as I would have liked.
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Thankfully ‘Thomas Etty’ (in the guise of his great, great grandson Ray Warner who like his illustrious ancestor is also a seed merchant) has come to the rescue with Heirloom Plants.
Based on the seed catalogues of Thomas Etty (the company) - click here for their website - and arranged by vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers and looking most Victorian, this illustrious tome is a directory that offers the reader names and descriptions of a wide range of heritage / heirloom cultivars which we SHOULD ALL BE GROWING in our gardens. The book concludes with short section of Cultivation Tips and a very helpful ‘Seed Suppliers & Useful Organisations check-list.

There are many good and justified reasons why we gardeners should grow these wonderful old-fashioned cultivars and now there is no excuse.

Thursday 10 September 2015

Hidden Gardens & Urban Oasis

Vegetable Garden of Monastery of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome. Photo credit
Not a specifically garden history post this time but rather a plea for help with a project I am working on. That is to identify the world's best small urban gardens - the quirkier and more unusual the better

The main criteria are that the gardens must be a) hidden gems, that is to say so not well known about - although well know suggestions such as New York's Payley Park are most welcome. And b) the gardens must be open to the public - with or without an entrance fee.

Fay Park, photo credit.
The gardens can be historic or contemporary, for example Fay Park in San Fransisco - a rare example of a Thomas Church garden, or the delightful Wendy's Secret Garden in Sydney whose future is under threat.

Wendy's Secret Garden. Photo credit: Time Out
If you can help out with any suggestions, please do email me. I have also started a Pinterest page.

Thank you!

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Garden Restoration at the Museum in the Park, Stroud

Photo credit: Kites over Stroud

According to the Stroud News construction work begins to open up ‘hidden’ garden behind the Museum in the Park. The restoration of this walled garden is not only to return the garden to its original quadripartite form and to develop the four quarters, but also to open the garden up to the community and offer new learning and public programming opportunities.

The project is being run by the  the Friends of the Museum in the Park and there is more information here on how to become involved and support this worthy project.