Friday 31 August 2012

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

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