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.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Bishop's Palace gardens, Abergwili

Photo Credit: Trip Advisor
Another garden restoration to report on, this time in Wales. The neglected grounds of the Bishop's Palace in Abergwili, Carmarthenshire are going to receive a whopping £1.2 million facelift, according to the Camarthen Journal.  

The gardens surround the Palace which is home to the Camarthenshire Museum, and the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust (WHGT) which is leading the project  has  secured funding to commission specialist reports to explore ways in which the grounds may be rescued and revitalised.

Following this there will be a further grant application to secure the funds to enable the physical work which will, according to Judith Holland of WHGT "conserve and revitalise the Bishop's Park, the walled kitchen garden and portions of the great meadow and the Bishop's pond." 

Lets keep our fingers crossed that the funding comes through!

Victorian Garden Restoration at Woodchester Mansion

Photo Credit: Western Daily Press
Another cheering garden restoration story, this time form the Western Daily Press reporting on the most unusual property of Woodchester Mansion in Gloucestershire.

Woodchester Mansion is a 19th century Gothic masterpiece hidden in a secluded Cotswold valley and which was mysteriously abandoned mid-construction in 1873. National Trust staff and volunteers discovered the remains of the Italianate terraced garden overgrown with trees. Very little is known about it, although documents dating from 1843 record terrace walks, a temple overlooking the view of the garden below, and ornamental fountains.

More visitor information can be found from the National Trust webpage.