Wednesday 26 September 2012

Scotland's Lost Gardens Revealed

The product of 30 years of research, Marilyn Brown’s Scotland's Lost Gardens: From the Garden of Eden to the Stewart Palaces rediscovers the fascinating stories of the nation’s vanished historic gardens.

Drawing on varied, rare and newly available archive material (the link is to some examples shown on the BBC's website) combined with and modern aerial photography, Brown reveals Scotland's disappeared landscapes and sanctuaries.  From the monastic gardens of St Columba on the Isle of Iona in the sixth century and encompassing royal palace gardens.

What emerges is a remarkable picture of centuries of lost landscapes and a perspective of how Scotland’s garden art  and cultural heritage sits within a wider European movement of shared artistic values and literary influences. 

Friday 21 September 2012

H is for Herbaceous Border

The Red Borders at Hidcote
Think of the Edwardian country house garden, of tea on the lawn, or The Importance of Being Ernest and like as not your mind’s eye will see a manicured garden with long, double herbaceous border. The herbaceous border is the feature that epitomizes the Arts and Crafts vernacular garden of the late 19th and early 20th century English garden.  However, contrary to popular belief Gertrude Jekyll did not invent said feature - although she certainly did improve and perfect it.

In fact the history of the herbaceous border is much older, and its origins can be traced back to the beds and borders of ‘old fashioned’ of hardy herbaceous plants that made the country cottage garden such an attractive garden form.  

Credit: The Flower Garden at Nuneham Courtenay, Oxfordshire,
1777 (w/c), Sandby, Paul (1725-1809)
 Private Collection / The Bridgeman Art Library
From these humble origins, beds of herbaceous perennials were used in a number of ways down the years.  In the 18th  century William Mason predated Alan Bloom by some 180 years by creating island beds at Nuneham Courtenay in Oxfordshire.  And in in his 1200-page epic Encyclopaedia of Gardening (1822) John Claudius Loudon prescribed that plants be arranged in rows, tallest at the back, shortest at the front, with much earth showing between them.  

The Twin Herbaceous Border at Arley Hall. Credit: Nick Turner
One of the earliest (twin) herbaceous borders as we know them today was planted at Arley Hall in the 1840s, but it was the pro-naturalistic writings of William Robinson and Miss Jekyll’s innovative use of informal drifts of plants arranged according to painterly colour theory that made the herbaceous border so popular in the early 20th century.  

Munstead Wood's herbaceous border by Helen Allingham
Perhaps the most famous of all herbaceous borders was Miss Jekyll's own in her garden at Munstead Wood, which is in excess of 300 feet long. 

The Sundial Garden at the Lost Gardens of ME!
Back in 1996, I, together with Chris Gardner, had the opportunity to research and recreate an early 20th century herbaceous border in a Jekyll-esque style in the Sundial Garden at the Lost Gardens of Heligan.  It was a fascinating project and lovely to see that it is still thriving. 

Unmistakably Oudolf
Herbaceous borders remain perennially popular, but recently the ‘perennial meadow’, an idea first put forward in the 1930s by the German nurseryman nurseryman Karl Foerster and developed by designers including James van Sweden and Piet Oudolf, in which fewer species are planted in large drifts, has re-emerged.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

The White House Fall Garden Tour

White House Google+ Photowalk attendees take photos in the White House Kitchen Garden during Spring Garden Tours on the South Lawn of the White House, April 21, 2012.
(Photo credit: Google+ user Roma & The White House Blog)
Now here is an invitation you don't want to miss!  Continuing First Lady Michelle Obama's commitment to opening up the White House, this October there is an opportunity to visit the the White House gardens.

The tour will include the Jacqueline Kennedy garden, the Rose Garden and the South Lawn including the Kitchen Garden.  Herewith a taster....

To be eligible to apply for an invite you have to be a White House Social Media follower - hence the event's full name, 'The White House Social Fall Garden Tour' - and to apply, please follow this link to the White House Social.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

New Award for Garden History Matters

Many thanks indeed to My Garden School for awarding this blog a 'Top 100 Gardening Websites 2012 Award'.  It is much appreciated and valued.

The other 99 sites are here and well worth a look.  If you have any suggestions for top websites on garden history, please post a comment...

Orange Pippin - a top resource for apple & plum lovers

Image from University of Illinois Extension Tree Fruit
Autumn/fall is now upon us unfortunates in the Northern Hemisphere, but it has its pluses.  In particular the wealth of wonderful fruits.  Although as I am sure you all have read, the apple and pear harvests this year are poor due the inability of bees to have flown and pollinated during the awful weather earlier in the year.

For those of you who, like me, love the newly harvested apples as much as their fascinating history, may I suggest you take a look at Orange Pippin.  It is a fascinating, informative and useful website that not only gives the history and descriptions of a host of apple and plum cultivars, but also lists orchards where they are grown, events - oh, and just loads more. 

Take a look and enjoy....but don't forget to plant heritage/heirloom varieties!

Monday 17 September 2012

A Rare Flowering of Emmenopterys henryi

Emmenopterys henryi from the Cambridge Library Collection Blog
One of the many plants introduced by the plant hunter Ernest Wilson (who recently featured in this post) was the snappily-named Emmenopterys henryi. The species is named for Augustine Henry who discovered but did not introduce the tree.  Henry, an Irishman who was employed by The Imperial Chinese Customs Service as an Assistant Medical Officer was sent to Yunnan to study medicinal plants, where he also made a huger herbarium collection which is now at RBG, Kew.

Ernest Wilson
Arriving in Britain in 1907 at a time when Wilson was in the employ of the Veitch nursery, the tree which Wilson described as ‘one of the most strikingly beautiful...of the Chinese forests’ does not flower often. In fact, the specimen currently in bloom in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden is only the fifth to have flowered in Britain.  So if you are in the vicinity, take the once-in-a-generation opportunity to see a rare beauty.

Monday 10 September 2012

Congratulations to the Bishop's Garden in Norwich

Photo: Diocese of Norwich
Hidden in the centre of Norwich between St Martin at Palace Plain and the Cathedral is the historic Bishop's Garden of the Diocese of Norwich, and ITV News reports that the garden Open Days have raised a whopping £18,000 for charity - this in spite of an awful summer's weather.

According to the ITV website: 'There has been a garden of sorts since around 1100 AD when Bishop de Losinga began to build the cathedral and palace. The original detailing of Norman stonework on the North Transept of the cathedral which is only visible from the Bishops Garden.  In the early 14th century, Bishop John Salmon greatly increased the size of the garden by compulsory purchase of additional land. He pushed Bishopgate northwards, thereby extending the grounds to their present size. The high walls that still survive were built nearly 700 years ago. He was also responsible for the large hall that was added to a grand porch way. This ruin still stands in the garden and is known as Bishop Salmons Porch.'

Friday 7 September 2012

San Fransisco Gardens open this Weekend

The Eugene De Sabla Tea House and Garden
If you are fortunate enough to be in or near this wonderful city, then this weekend offers an extra-special opportunity to do dome serious garden visiting in San Mateo and Hillsborough.  The organised by the San Mateo Arboretum Society's this weekend's event is the 37th Annual Fall Garden Tour - tickets and more information via this link.

There are six gardens are open to the public, with the highlights being perhaps the San Mateo Arboretum itself and the Eugene J De Sabla, Jr Teahouse and Tea Garden.  The latter is a nationally recognized historic resource listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The garden is one of the only two remaining gardens designed by Makota Hagiwara, who also designed the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.

Claremont Landscape and House open this Weekend

Claremont Landscape showing the Amphitheater
Both the historic landscape gardens of Claremont (National Trust) and the Claremont Mansion (Claremont Fan Court School) are open this Sunday 8 September for 'Heritage Weekend'.  

The history of the estate begins with Sir John Vanbrugh who in 1708 built himself a small house and began work on  the gardens.  In 1714 Vanbrugh sold the house to the wealthy Whig politician Thomas Pelham-Holles, Earl of Clare, who later became Duke of Newcastle and served twice as Prime Minister. The Earl commissioned Vanbrugh to add two great wings to the house and to build a fortress-like turret on an adjoining knoll. From this so-called 'prospect-house', or Belvedere, he and his guests could admire the views of the Surrey countryside as they took refreshments and played hazard, a popular dice game.
Work on the gardens began around 1715, and by 1727 they were described as ‘the noblest of any in Europe’. Within the grounds, overlooking the lake, is an unusual turfed amphitheatre.  Today they are especially important as an early example of the English Landscape Garden and contain elements by the all the great landscapists - Charles Bridgeman, William Kent and subsequently 'Capability' Brown

Claremont Mansion in c.1860
 In 1768 Newcastle's widow sold the estate to the super-wealth Robert Clive, Baron Clive of Plassy, who is is said spent £100,000 (about £10,400,000 today) on his new mansion and the grounds.  Clive's Palladian mansion is an interesting example of 'Capability' Brown's work as an architect.  Subsequently it was occupied by Princess Charlotte (daughter of George IV) upon her marriage to Leopold of Saxe-Coburg.   It was also favourite of the young Queen Victoria, who celebrated many of her birthdays here.  In  the aftermath of the 1848 Revolution Victoria offered the mansion as a refuge to the French King Louis-Philippe and his Queen Marie-Amelie.

The gardens are open from 10am to 6pm, the mansion from 11am to 5pm with guided tours at 11.30am and 3pm

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Oldest Topiary in America

Photo by:
Garden Design has a feature on the oldest topiary in North America.  Does any one know the oldest in Europe or further afield?  Let me know! 

Monday 3 September 2012

The Plant Hunter Robert Fortune

One of Fortune's fascinating books about his plant hunting in China
A nice post by Caroline on the Cambridge Library Collection blog introducing the plant hunter, Robert Fortune.  

The post also mentions the current exhibition 'Plant Seekers' at the Garden Museum in London - well worth a visit.

And just to give a heads-up, I shall be soon publishing my book The Plant Hunters as a Kindle this space.

Saturday 1 September 2012

The historic gardens at Stanley-Whitman House, CT.

Image citation: Historic American Buildings Survey HABS CONN,2-FARM,9-1
According to their website,  the Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington, CT.,  is a 'living history center and museum that teaches through the collection, preservation, research, and dynamic interpretation of the history and culture of early Farmington. Programs, events, classes, and exhibits encourage visitors of all ages to immerse themselves in history by doing, acting, questioning, and engaging in Colonial life and the ideas that formed the foundation of that culture.'

The 'Dooryard Garden Society' is a group of volunteers and museum staff who have recreated the only example representing authentic pre-1800 gardening in Connecticut.

Part of the challenge of recreating a 'dooryard garden' as early settler gardens are known is the research - finding evidence.  Especially since the gardens changed so much.  From gardens planted with species and cultivars brought from England to a mix of native and introduced as the gardeners had to adapt to a new climate and new plants.  

The garden contains a mix of fruits and vegetables, and flowers and herbs, most of which had a medicinal value. And all of the 80 or so taxa are 'period correct'.  That is to say, were available in the Colonies in the mid- to late 18th century.