Saturday 29 December 2012

Garden Restoration Success Stories

Victoria Park restored for the London Olympics.  Photo Credit: The Telegraph
It is always uplifting to be able to report success stories, just as it is depressing to tell of gardens that are under threat or which have suffered loss.

Into the former is this story in The Telegraph which features nine gardens to visit that have recently been restored thanks to a variety of funding sources, including the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Restored Wrest Park.  Photo Credit: The Telegraph
One thing, though, the links on The Telegraph pages do not all take you direct to the page relating to the garden, the ones below, however, do.

The gardens nine are:
  1. Wrest Park in Bedfordshire.
  2. Lowther Castle and Gardens in Penrith.
  3. Victoria Park in London E2.  Which I also mentioned earlier in the year.
  4. Springhill in Moneymore, Co. Londonderry.
  5. Festival Gardens in Liverpool.
  6. Hackfall in North Yorkshire.
  7. Botanic Garden in Oxford,.
  8. Myddleton House in Enfield.
  9. Battersea Park Old English Garden London (and Friends of Battersea Park).

Friday 21 December 2012

The New Arcadian Journal

I am sure many of you will be aware of the New Arcadian Journal, published by the New Arcadian Press under the direction of Dr Patrick Eyres. For those of you who are not there a brief outline below and of course, more on the press website.

This annual and unique publication is a 'combination of artist-illustrations and scholarly texts' and to quote the Press website:

~ The New Arcadian Journal investigates the cultural politics of historical landscapes by scrutinising their architecture, gardens, monuments, sculpture and inscriptions.

~ By championing the study of political gardening and by promoting restoration of place and meaning, the New Arcadian Journal has shed new light on historical landscapes and has also been the catalyst to contemporary re-interpretation and conservation.

~ The New Arcadian Journal also explores the resonance of garden works by contemporary artists, especially Ian Hamilton Finlay at Little Sparta and elsewhere.

The 2011 volume explores the relationship between slave trade, in particular the wealth generated by it and the construction of country house and garden.  For more information read David Lambert's review in Garden History. 

The Journal is a wonderful publication - erudite, original and fascinating, and is a 'must have' for anyone interested in garden history and the relationships between gardens and the wider zeitgeist.


For 2012, instead of the 'regular' volume, Patrick has edited a book entitled Wentworth Castle and Georgian Political Gardening, which:

'set against the backdrop of political instability generated by Jacobite attempts to restore the exiled Stuart kings to the British throne, the book explores the symbolic meanings embedded within the country estates of the Tory, Jacobite and dissident Whig landowners who formed the parliamentary opposition to the mainstream Whig governments that managed Britain on behalf of the Hanoverian Kings George I and George II. The cult of celebrity explored by Jane Austen is also discussed as well as the post-war culture of education and heritage'.

To purchase this splendid book for the great price of £25 contact the Press.

Friday 14 December 2012

Biodiversity Heritage Library Images Follow-up

Thanks for your comment Anonymous, and I have been Tweeting with the folks at the Biodiversity Heritage Library  () on exactly that.  The topic of plant names that correspond with the images in their photostream.

In some cases there is no problem, the plant is named on the plate, for example Hooker's rhododendrons. 

But in the case of Curtis's Botanical Magazine, for instance each plate has a number and each volume an Index that links plate  numbers to plant names

I suggested to the BHL that they put the plant name in the image file name, but can see that this would be too labour intensive.

The BHL replied asking that we users help by 'machine tagging' the images. 
The link is in blue
In the bottom left corner of every image there is a link that takes you to the image in its volume on the BHL website, and the next page in the text has the plant name/description.

I then asked the BHL, for the Curtis's volumes at least, to include in each photoset an image of the Index which would make it far easier and quicker for volunteers to help machine tag the plants.  We will wait and see what happens.

North Stoneham Park in Danger - Please Help

Whether you like 'Capability' Brown or not, the fact you know his name and are reading this signifies you have an interest in garden history.

Now, a campaign requires your support to help preserve an historic landscape from 'development'.  I would rather use the word 'vandalism'.

North Stoneham Park in Hampshire is, yes, a Capability Brown landscape - a fine one, and ond one that  Eastleigh Borough Council wishes to concrete over in the name of 1,300 commuter homes. 

Friends of North Stoneham Park are fighting the proposals and need your support.  Get in touch by email and offer you help / support / comments, write to your MP and vociferously complain against such destruction of our national heritage, and please sign the petition and encourage others to do so too.  

Thank you.

More on good old Capability Brown

View over Ampthill.  Photo Credit: The Landscape Institute.
A big thank you to those of you who have joined in the discussion on Brown and posted comments on previous posts here and here.

And thank you also to @Brown2016 who has also flagged up the following video from the launch of the tercentenary planning this past June at Ampthill Park.

There is also further comment on the concept on the Landscape Institute website and the Association of Garden Trusts has produced its first Capability Brown 300 Newsletter, available to download as a pdf.

Please do keep the comments coming and the discussion going...

Thursday 13 December 2012

The Biodiversity Heritage Library does it again

I am a huge fan of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.  It is simply a fantastic resource for accessing old monographs and periodicals for free and without the hassle of having to travel to libraries.  You simply download the required tome / volume as a pdf - and to top it all, its FREE.

Now the BHL is offering another wonderful resource - the BioDivLibrary photostream of scanned plates of, for the purposes of this blog, flowering plants. The collection of images is ever increasing, but already there is a folder of plates from Curtis's Botanical Magazine and Walter Fitch's lovely rhododendrons from Joseph Hooker's The rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya. 

But, of course, the site holds much more than just flowering plants.  So do take a look and make use of this superb resource.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

The Brown Debate / Controversy begins...

A earlier today I posted my admiration for 'Capability' Brown and informed of a blog dedicated to him.

Now I see that there is already comment and discussions about Brown, his legacy and his forthcoming tercentenary.

Informed debate is a good thing, so please use this arena or the GHS Comments page to pass on your educated opinions and thoughts....

Lancelot Brown is Blogging!

Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716-1783)
Now then.  Lancelot 'Capability' Brown is one of the most contentious designers  in British garden history, and its often a case of love him or hate him.  He is often accused of destroying so many of the English Renaissance gardens of the 17th century.  Considering that the Civil War had taken a hefty toll of gardens and that Brown was the third in a line of great landscapists and oftentimes worked on landscapes they had, I am not sure how far this accusation sticks.  

And he is occasionally accused of designs that resulted in the displacement of villages and villagers.  This is certainly true, but the Enclosure Acts were far more pernicious than the mild-mannered Brown.

Brown's landscape at Montacute: more natural than nature!
I am sure you can see by now that I fall into the former category and think that Brown's work was genius.  To be able to envisage how a mature landscape should look at its peak - 200 years into the future - takes vision; and there is also something humbling about Brown and his work for he must have know that he would never live to see one of his designs reach maturity.

Brown's landscape at Blenheim - perhaps his finest.
And for my money he was also the first Modernist.  For if we apply the maxim 'form follows function' then that is exactly what his designs achieved.  They were the 'natural' English landscape perfected, and thus performed their artistic function, whilst simultaneously demonstrating that the owner was at the cutting edge of fashion.  Yet they were also productive and yielded an income and also met the requirements of countryside recreations.

Chatsworth set within Brown's landscape 
So, may I introduce you to the new blog Lancelot Capability Brown which is dedicated to proselyting about the man, his work and celebrating the forthcoming tercentenary of his birth.

You can also follow Lancelot on Twitter: @Brown2016

Tuesday 11 December 2012


James Pulham & Son. Photo Credit: Alan Bishop & Associates
Pulhamite is one of those great Victorian and Edwardian garden obsessions that  I mentioned earlier in the yearThere has now appeared a new book dedicated to the subject: Rock Landscapes: The Pulham Legacy by Claude Hitching (with photography by Jenny Lilly) and and a review by the esteemed garden historian Dr Brent Elliott is printed in the Winter 2012 issue of Garden History (the Journal of the Garden History Society).
Rock Garden at Madresfield Court.  Photo Credit: The Pulham Legacy
The review is available to read on the fascinating website entitled The Pulham Legacy which is run by the author and dedicated to the product and its inventors.

Rock Garden & Boathouse at Sandringham.  Photo Credit: The Pulham Legacy
But in briefPulhamite was a patented anthropic rock 'material' invented by James Pulham (1820-98).  James was a skilled stone-modeller but also developed a new material, a cement concoction which looks like a gritty sandstone. 

He also developed the technique of using his concoction - which became know as Pulhamite - to created very natural-looking, but artificial rocks from heaps of old bricks and rubble covered in Pulhamite, and ‘sculpted’ to imitate the colour and texture of natural stone. 

The Waterfall, Madeira Road in Ramsgate.  Photo Credit: Michael's Bookshop 

The biggest use of these artificial rocks was in the construction of ornamental rockeries and rock gardens, which became a huge fashion in the last quarter of the 19th century and up until the First World War.  
The Western Chine in Ramsgate.  Photo Credit:
Other features constructed from Pulhamite included ferneries, caves and grottoes as well as fountains and other garden ornaments.

And if you have Pulhamite in need of repair, Alan Bishop & Associates is one of the UK's leading experts on the repair and renovation of Pulham rockwork.

Monday 10 December 2012

The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden
I know this blog is predominantly concerned with garden history, but history has to start somewhere and it is always nice to report on contemporary projects that are going to have a long term legacy.

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden
One such is the  Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, which founded in 1988 'is transforming 460 acres just 20 minutes outside the city into a world-class botanic garden, including 18 distinct gardens, five diverse woodland experiences, an enhanced visitor’s center, an amphitheater for outdoor concerts and performances, a celebration center to accommodate large outdoor or indoor weddings and corporate events, and a center for botanic research.' The vision of the garden is stated in the masterplan.
The Vision of the FuturePhoto Credit: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden
It should be noted that the botanic garden is NOT OPEN for general admission at this time but there are scheduled 'Peek and Preview' events and tours which can be booked via the Botanic Garden's website, where you can also find a full history of the story so far.

Flying Gardener

Just a quick post about another garden history blog, this time from Japan and penned by Akemi Yoko.

Check out Flying Gardener (its is both English and Japanese!)

The Garden History Society Winter Lectures

The Garden History Society has announced its series of Winter Lectures, which take place on Wednesdays at 6.30 pm at The Gallery, 70 Cowcross Street, London (unless otherwise stated). Herewith the schedule:

30 January 2013
Gardens of court and country: English design 1640-1730
Dr David Jacques

20 February 2013
The 11th Annual GHS Lecture
Led by the land
Kim Wilkie

27 February 2013
Royal Horticultural Halls & Conference Centre
‘Harmony Compleat’ – music in the garden from Renaissance Italy to Georgian England
Judy Tarling

6 March 2013
A little bit of surrey in the sun?  A hundred years of the national botanic gardens of Burma
Dr David Marsh

20 March 2013
Passion, plants and patronage: three hundred years of the Bute family landscapes
Robert Peel and Kristina Taylor

For more information about tickets contact the Garden History Society by email or via the website.

Saturday 8 December 2012

The Plant Hunters for Kindle

Joseph Banks, the father of modern plant hunting by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1773)
 "Good God.  When I consider the melancholy fate of so many of botany's votaries, I am tempted to ask whether men are in their right mind who so desperately risk life and everything else through the love of collecting plants."

So said the famous Carl Linnæus in 1737.  

And in many way I think he was right, but also very glad that these men undertook the challenges, for gardens would be far duller places had they not.

The cover featuring Ernest Wilson's beautiful Lilium regale in the Min valley, Sichuan
Back in the 1990s I spent a year researching the history of the Lost Garden of Heligan.  During the course of this fascinating work I got up close and personal with so many of the plants introduced by those most brave and forgotten heroes of horticulture - the plant hunters.

Ernest Wilson, one of the most successful plant hunters employed by the Veitch Nursery
Inspired by the men, the tales of their adventures and both 'their' plants and the impact that they had had on garden fashions I, together with good friend and colleague Chris Gardener and brother, Will penned a tome entitled The Plant Hunters.  It did well, but after two hardback and two paperback the publishers decided not to reprint.

Discovered by Joseph Hooker, Rhododendron hodgsonii in the Zemu valley, Sikkim
Then came the wait for the rights to return.  Now we have re-edited the text   and are delighted to announce that today The Plant Hunters is published as a Kindle version.

The Plant Hunters features 10 of the most influential of all the plant hunters:  Sir Joseph Banks, Francis Masson, David Douglas, Sir Joseph Hooker, William and Thomas Lobb, Robert Fortune, Ernest Wilson, George Forrest and Frank Kingdon-Ward. 

Sir Joseph Hooker whose arrest in Sikkim changed the map of the Empire and whose Rhododendron discoveries kick-started 'rhododendromania'
Together these men discovered and introduced literally tens of thousands of new plants that revolutionised gardens all over the world.  Yet for the most part they did not make much money, but they surely suffered hardships and ill-health, occasionally giving their lives for the love of plant hunting.

Meconopsis lancifolia on the Daxueshan mountains of Yunnan
The Plant Hunters pays tribute to these men.  It tells their stories as people, it follows them to remote parts of the globe which had often times not been visited by Westerners before and tells of their adventures in the field.  It reveals the beautiful plants they discovered and explores how 'their' plants revolutionised garden fashions.

Even if I say so myself, these are damn good stories - and the book will  make the perfect Christmas read!

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Voicing the Garden

The Winter Garden at the CUBG
Today is a certainly a day of good cheer from those folk at the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).  For Cambridge University Botanic Garden (Twitter @CUBotanicGarden) has been awarded a grant of nearly £10,000 as part of an innovative and exciting project entitled 'Voicing the Garden'.

The project at Cambridge is is one of the first to be paid from the HLF’s 'All Our Stories' fund, which was inspired by the BBC programme The Great British Story, which looks at historic events through the eyes of ordinary people.

The aim is to 'collect and share the stories of those horticulturalists who have made the Garden and the Friends and visitors who have enjoyed and influenced this this 40 acre oasis down the generations.' and as Juliet Day, development officer at the Botanic Garden, said: “We tend to always focus on the prime importance of our collection – the plants – but we have celebrated some significant birthdays this year, including 30 years of our support organisation, the Friends, and 60 years of our ‘staying in touch’ organisation for former members of staff.  This got us to thinking about the people behind the plants – those who have helped create the collections, gardens and landscapes and also our visitors, whose support and expectations have influenced its past and continue to shape its future."

There is more about the project on the CUBC Website and if you are or you know someone who would get involved in this exciting project, do contact the Botanic Garden.

Only for the Heart’s Amusement

I am absolutely delighted to be putting up a guest post from landscape architect and garden designer Julia Fogg () who also has a super blog of her own - Terrain.  Thank you Julia, and over to you...

The image on the template of this blog resurrected thoughts from a visit to Bosco Sacro at Bomarzo and Villa Lante at Bagnaia a while ago.  Both are described as  ‘Mannerist’ and have other similarities such as location – only 20 kms apart – and  their construction in mid-16C, if we believe the data. Also there is some thought that they were designed by Vignola although this is not conclusive. One, Sacro Bosco, was commissioned by a soldier Duke and, the other, by a cardinal.

Certainly, both these gardens are about exaggeration in composition. They also have many expected landscape features in common but they are poles apart in character.

 View from Villa Lante
The Sacro Bosco
Both gardens would be filled by guests enjoying music, comedy and dancing and it’s  easy to imagine the theatricality of night time revels and masques lit with flaming torches instilling intrigue, anticipation with their flickering shadows.

But the differences in treatment of these two gardens couldn’t be more obvious. 

In the Sacro Bosco, there are no visible straight lines, so no clipped hedging, no borders and no parterres. It is based on the story of a life – a journey through life of things seen and experienced, It is developed from a knowledge of the humanities creating a metamorphosis shown in the figures and sculptures struggling out from rock and earth.

The statues have an extreme physicality. They could equally be described as art but also as Disney scale tricks. They contribute to the sense of trepidation felt here, sometimes menace but the overriding atmosphere is of an earthly love formed with violence and passion. The garden was conceived as a memorial for the Duke’s wife. 

Villa Lante is an open stage. The prevailing sense is of organisation. Strict patterns of terraces and pathway network convey a measured crispness. The proportions are perfect and confident. Here there is no sense of playing with scale – all is correct – although surprises and excitement are ensured too. So a garden for promenading and for ‘la passeggiata’, for ambassadors, dukes and hostesses with grandeur and largesse but also maybe a hidden sense of secrecy and the potential for voyeurism.  

The Pegasus Fountain, Villa Lante
A view through the Pegasus Fountain building
Both these gardens could be described as playgrounds but totally contrasting in their sense of individuality and inner message. So tagging gardens – whether ‘political’, ‘gardenesque’, ‘wild’, ‘romantic’ or ‘contemporary’ to highlight just a few – and encapsulate within a known style is unhelpful. My conclusion is that it’s all about the atmosphere. And finally, a footnote to me as a designer, to learn from these examples and endeavour to create at least one part of the garden, if not the whole site, where the character is inherently sexy.