Friday 31 August 2012

Garden History Course

Just a reminder that there is still time to enroll for my my new on-line Garden History course, which begins on September 1st.  Do hope you will consider attending.

A brief guide to researching a garden

I have to confess that I love researching the history of a garden.  It is detective work and wholly engrossing.  Sometimes, or more accurately, occasionally, there are a lot of leads which lead to hard evidence of how the garden once looked.  

But most often there is a dearth of obvious information which requires some lateral thinking, burrowing in archives, following hunches - and with this comes the risk of distraction.  One of my great weaknesses is old copies of Country Life - I spend hours reading the non-gardening content.

Then there is the excitement of finding something, especially if it is a n unknown clue or piece of information. And once all the evidence is gathered there is the fun of piecing it all together to make your case.

There are numerous sources that can be explored for evidence about specific gardens. Oxford University Library offers a guide to finding published information on garden and landscape history.  But just a word of caution, some of the databases and e-journals will require authorised access.

Also worth checking are the Garden History Society's Bibliography which is available to download and search.  Also their Cumulative Index which covers the contents of the GHS’s publications from 1966 to summer 2000.  For those who have access to JSTOR, the Garden History Society journal Garden History (1972-2008) is available there.

For a specific garden, a good start is Ray Desmond's Bibliography of British Gardens - it is out-of-print but available on AbeBooks 

And if you are really looking to burrow into the history of a specific garden then essential reading is  Parks and Gardens: A Researcher's Guide to Sources for Designed Landscapes (2006) by David Lambert, Peter Goodchild and Judith Roberts.  Its quite hard to get hold of but there are a few copies for sale HERE

Thursday 30 August 2012

A Lost Garden in Jersey - and Samuel Curtis

Image from Samuel Curtis Garden Project

A post on the Garden History Society Forum tells that sadly the garden of Chateau la Chaire (now is Chateau La Chaire hotel and restaurant) is 'destined to remain lost since the failure to kick start the renaissance of this once sublime sub-tropical plants mans paradise at Rozel Bay, on the Sunshine Island of Jersey.'

The garden was designed in from 1841 by the English nurseryman, publisher and botanist Samuel Curtis. Curtis who designed Victoria Park in Bethnal Green from 1845.  The park is being used as part of the 2012 London Olympics to host BT London Live Victoria Park.

1845 Plan for Victoria Park
Curtis eventually moved into the chateau in 1852There is a goodly correspond between Curtis and  Sir William Hooker (who was Director) at Kew, and  Outbooks reveal that Curtis received many new, exotic and slightly tender plants which had arrived at Kew through the endeavours of the plant hunters and which Kew dispatched in order to trial them in Curtis's new garden.  There is more about the garden and hoped-for restoration at the Samuel Curtis Garden Project.

You may also recognise Samuel's surname from Curtis's Botanical Magazine, which was founded by Samuel's first cousin and father-in-law, William Curtis in 1787.  Samuel  succeeded to the editorship of the magazine in 1927 selling his rights in 1846. Curtis's Botanical Magazine (1801-1920) is downloadable for free from our good friends at the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Samuel died at la Chaire in 1860 - and surely there must be a philanthropist or two amongst Jersey's millionaires who would like to help restore Curtis's wonderful creation?

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Ernest Wilson plant hunting in Yunnan

Just discovered an interesting article in the Global Times while searching for some specifics about the plant hunter Ernest Wilson.  Its worth a read as it flags up the MAJOR problems of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss in Yunnan, the most florally rich and diverse of China's provinces.  And to think, just a century ago the whole area of western China was a pre-industrialized paradise...

A taster of my new Garden History course

I posted yesterday that I am starting tutoring a new on-line garden history course at My Garden School.  And here is a taster for your delectation...hope you enjoy and are tempted to sign up.

Giardini Botanici Villa Taranto devastated by freak strom

The Daily Telegraph reports that the famous botanic garden of Villa Taranto on the shores of Lake Maggiore was hit by freak, 70 miles per hour winds last weekend.  Not least of the damage is the loss of a third of the trees and shrubs.

Image from Villa Taranto
The botanic garden, which as a result of the damage is now closed indefinitely, was the work of a Scot, Captain Neil Boyd McEacharn (1884-1964.)  A passionate botanist who fell in love with Italy at the tender age of eight, McEacharn was the scion of a wealthy shipping family.  

In 1930 after a two years search to find the perfect spot where he could establish his garden and plant collection, McEacharn saw an advertisment in The Times purchased the La Crocetta estate and set about his transformation.

Interrupted by the second world war McEacharn (who in 1952 opened the gates to the public) continued to develop the garden until his death, and until last weekend the 40-acre botanic garden which is considered on of Europe's finest contained about 20,000 taxa of plants from around the world, from the Amazon to the Himalaya.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

My New Garden History Course

I am delighted to announce that I am launching a new on-line course entitled Garden History.  Under the auspices of My Garden School, the course is a four-part introduction to global garden history.

Below I've briefly set out my stall in terms of my view on garden history, my approach to the course and how it is structured.

I would be delighted to see you on the course and should you know anyone who may be interested in it, please do pass on this post or the course link.  Thank you.

I believe that ornamental gardens are complex, three-dimensional, and overlooked works of art.  Ever since the first garden was made in Ancient Egypt some 4,300 ago gardens have acted as cultural barometers.  Down the millennia and across continents every civilization and nation has developed its own garden styles which evolved in tune with the cultural, artistic, social, economic, technological and political landscapes.  Thus, garden art and culture have always been profoundly interactive – at one and the same each shapes the other.  As a result of this unique relationship garden art is an intrinsic, integral and influential component of the zeitgeist.  

The course therefore takes an interdisciplinary approach.  Artistic analysis of individual garden styles will reveal design principles and aesthetics, and the garden form will be deconstructed to display the style’s constituent elements, their configuration and the planting.  Simultaneous cultural analysis of the garden style will identify and interpret its interactions with the zeitgeist, provide insight into the garden’s role and purpose, and explain how the garden style impacted the cultural spectrum, both nationally and on a global level.

 The four lectures are:

1:  Of the Ancients and the East.   
2:  Man, God and the Garden.
3:  Turning the Wheel of Fashion.
4:  Art, Craft, Nature and Modernism.

Please visit Garden History for information about the course and how to join.

Monday 27 August 2012

The Northern Ireland Heritage Gardens Committee 2012 Conference

Another date for the diary.  The Northern Ireland Heritage Gardens Committee will hold its 2012 Conference between 5th and 7th October. The Theme will be Royal Parks & Gardens “Back to the Future" and the location will be in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin.  The cost is £200.

For more information and to book, please visit here.

Friday 24 August 2012

Fulham Palace

Do take a read of the great post 'Digging into Garden History' put up by Deb's blog Got Soil? in which she talks about the history of Fulham Palace (the former residence of the Bishop of London) and her participation in the arch├Žological dig undertaken there this summer.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Yorkshire Sculpture Park Study Day

A work by Antony Carro at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park
The Yorkshire Gardens Trust and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park are organising a Study Day on September 21.

The day will 'trace the history of the Bretton Hall gardens and park, focusing on major landscaping in the second half of the eighteenth century, and further developments in the early decades of the 1800s. Extensive new research has been conducted over the last year and exciting new material, documentary and visual, will reveal how Bretton was ornamented, and introduce the personalities behind the projects. The Sculpture Park, established in the 1970s, and now with an international reputation, has recently assumed responsibility for the historic designed landscape as a whole. Restoration, conservation, and managing greater public access bring new challenges, as well as additional opportunities for the display of contemporary sculpture and new possibilities for artists’ projects.'

The cost for the day is £50 (includes tea, coffee and a sandwich lunch) and to book a place either email or call  020 7251 2610.

Aberdeen's City Garden Project snubbed

The BBC news website reports that the proposed City Garden Project in Aberdeen (reported here earlier in the year) has been rejected by the council despite a 'yes' vote in a referendum held amongst the local constituency.

Monday 20 August 2012

An Empire of Plants

Now available for Kindle
I am proud to announce that my book, An Empire of Plants has just been published as a Kindle (text only) edition.  The book tells the stories of how seven 'plants of power' have, individually and together, had a huge but overlooked impact on global history.

When you get up in the morning you have a cup of tea with a spoonful of sugar before putting on your cotton shirt and driving to work - if you're late you may have to "burn some rubber". During the day you feel like a break and have a sneaky cigarette. If you have a headache maybe you take a painkiller containing codeine After a hard day's work you look forward to a relaxing gin and tonic.

All these activities are only possible because of plant and, today, most of us simply take these plants for granted.

Yet these seven seminal plants - tea, tobacco, sugar, opium, cotton, quinine and rubber -  have, in many and significant ways, shaped the modern world. For instance they have caused wars and the collapse of Governments, instigated the slave trade and the Industrial Revolution, enabled the birth to the United States and powered colonial expansion, and much more. 

Saturday 18 August 2012

Bad News. And shame on Pilkington Glass

The gates are now permanently closed
The Ormskirk & Skelmersdale Advertiser reports that Nippon Sheet Glass, the parent company of Pilkington has sold to a developer the historic gardens of Lathom Park in West Yorkshire which are next to its European research centre.  This despite being in talks with the Lathom Park Trust to give the gardens back to the local community.

A shameful example of avarice triumphing over culture and history.   Sadly, it will no doubt not be the last.

Good News - Productive Garden Restorations

One of the decaying glasshouses in the walled garden of the Apley Estate
Good news.  There are two new proposals for the restoration of walled gardens - one in England and another in Northern Ireland.  According to the Belfast Telegraph, the 'Listed glasshouses and buildings at the deteriorating walled garden in Castlewellan Forest Park are to undergo essential repairs'.  

And an article on the BBC's website the 18th century, 4-acre walled garden of the Apley Estate in Shropshire is to be restored after 50 years of neglect.  According to Lady Hamilton (the Hamilton family inherited the estate in 1980), Apley is believed to have been the inspiration for P G Wodehouse's Blandings Castle.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Hannah Carter Japanese Garden Update

The Beverly Hills Courier, which has been following this case since it began reports that an L A Superior Court Judge has halted the pending sale of the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden and has set a date for trial, 6 May 2013.

To help support the garden, please visit the website (link above) and at the very least  sign the petition.

The Laskett to be opened to the public

The Laskett, the famous garden made by Sir Roy Strong and his late wife Julia Trevelyan Oman is to be opened to the public under the Ford Open Doors programme. Sir Roy recently wrote this piece in the Daily Telegraph musing on the garden.

Bookings for the event which takes place on September 17 (and also features a visit to Kentchurch Court gardens) open on August 17.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Gardening and Knowledge

More dates for the diary.  This time its 17-19 September and a Workshop entitled 'Gardening and Knowledge. Landscape Design and the Sciences in the Early Modern Period' (the link will download a pdf of the schedule.) 

The Workshop is being organised by the Centre of Garden Art and Landscape Architecture at  Leibniz University in Hannover, Germany.  

Monday 13 August 2012

The National Heirloom Exposition

If you want the perfect excuse to visit California in September, look no further than attending the second  annual  National Heirloom Exposition.  The dates are 11-13 September and the location is Santa Rosa.  Only wish I was attending!

And for the perfect accompaniment to the Expo don't forget to read Heirloom Fruits & Vegetables!

Garden History - informing conservation and management

The School of Heritage Gardening at the National Trust for Scotland is to run a course entitled 'Garden History - informing conservation and management'.

Beginning on 18 September 2012 the course will be run (mostly in Edinburgh) over 15 days through to June 2013, and will include talks, field visits and seminars.
There is more information here and for further details and a booking form, please email.