As the festive season approaches we asked BGHG committee members to recommend a garden-related book: one they think you might enjoy reading or will maybe provide inspiration for a present you wish to give. Here are their recommendations
The Secret Life of the Georgian Garden by Kate Felus (2016, I.B.Taurus & Co. Ltd)
Kate brings the gardens to life by showing what really went on in them at morning, afternoon and night – throwing light on to the attitudes of the owners and users of them. The past times and day-to-day activities are fascinating and sometimes surprising. The book is well researched, with copious end notes; well-illustrated and beautifully written.
The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys (2003, Bloomsbury)
A novel set in 1941 about a woman gardener and a neglected garden on a large estate. It’s 1941 and London is being destroyed by the Blitz. A shy young woman gardener leaves the city for Devon, to rebuild the grounds of a country estate to grow food for the Home Front. The people she meets and a beautiful lost garden change her for ever (of course!)
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen & other Austen novels
I would urge people to re-read some Jane Austen, in particular Mansfield Park where she actually mentions Repton by name and whole paragraphs are devoted to the improvement of Mr Rushworth’s estate á la Mr Repton (can Fanny Price’s name really be a coincidence or is it also a subtle reference to Repton’s quarrel with Uvedale Price)?
Once you have got your teeth into Mansfield Park, why not go on to read Northanger Abbey where Blaise Castle (Repton worked here), in reality an 18th century folly, is a private joke between Austen and her readers who can relish the ignorance of Catherine Morland.
With the bit firmly between one’s teeth, Repton’s Red book description of Heathfield: ‘the road should be so conducted out of the valley that the house may be concealed by the trees at D till at length it presents itself under their branches’ is pretty similar to the description of Elizabeth’s arrival at Pemberley: ‘They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley….’
Finally, fully in Austen mode, Emma will take us back to Bristol: ‘When people come into a beautiful country of this sort, you know, Miss Woodhouse, one naturally wishes them to see as much as possible; and Mr. Suckling is extremely fond of exploring. We explored to King’s-Weston (next door to Blaise) twice last summer, in that way, most delightfully …’.
The Lotus Quest by Mark Griffiths (2009, Chatto and Windus, republished 2010 Vintage…)
Not hot off the press but a marvellous read……….
DVD: Turn End: The Home and Garden of Architect Peter Aldington (2017, Director, Murray Grigor; Director of Photography, Hamid Shams)
The third public screening of a new beautifully crafted film, Turn End, took place at The Garden Museum in November. Turn End is a group of three houses and a garden in the village of Haddenham in Buckinghamshire, created by Peter Aldington OBE, architect, 50 years ago. Mid twentieth century architecture at its best is on view – the combination of the vernacular with modern building materials to create a house and garden that link seamlessly with each other.
This film may be of particular interest to BGHG members as we will be visiting Turn End garden in June 2019.
The DVD is available from Turn End shop https://www.turnend.org.uk/shop/
You Should Have Been Here Last Week: Sharp Cuttings of a Garden Writer by Tim Richardson (2016, Pimpernel Press Ltd).
‘You should have been here last week….’ is probably a phrase we’ve all heard at some point when visiting a garden. Often provocative, frequently amusing, and always interesting, Tim Richardson has a refreshing approach to his diverse subject matter. This attractive little book brings together some of his best articles as a columnist as well as articles and essays on specific gardens, places and landscape themes.
The Land Where Lemons Grow by Helena Attlee (Particular Books, 2014)
The book’s subtitle is ‘The story of Italy and its citrus fruit’ and I found it unusual and fascinating, and the friends I’ve given copies to have really enjoyed it too. The book combines travel, history, art and food and in researching it the author talked to citrus farmers, nurserymen and gardeners in various areas of Italy and Sicily. It’s very wide-ranging and includes chapters on citrus collectors in Renaissance Tuscany, marmalade-making in Sicily, and the importance for certain Orthodox Jews of a citron grown only in Calabria. The author’s passion for her subject and her love of Italy shine throughout the book.
A Shakespearean Botanical by Margaret Willes (The Bodleian Library 2015)Beautifully produced, written and illustrated, this will appeal to lovers of Shakespeare, plants and garden history. The scene is set with a concise but scholarly survey of plant references in the context of contemporary developments. Lively essays follow on individual passages, from Henry IV’s aconites to Lucrece’s wormwood, each entry accompanied by an image from Gerard’s Herbal. Excursions into folklore, cookery and medicine contribute to the pleasure: Shakespeare’s world in fifty plants.
Around the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori, illustrated by Lucille Clere (Laurence King Publishing Ltd., 2018)
In this book Jonathan Drori journeys through time and across cultures, using up-to-date plant science to demonstrate how trees play a role in every part of human life. Each of the strange, quirky and true tales is beautifully illustrated. The book is a delightful gift for anyone who loves trees I recently heard the author give an excellent talk at Kew.
Illustrations from Around the World in 80 Trees
And, while you’re here…..
If you haven’t already got your copy of Repton in London (London Parks & Gardens Trust, 2018), the collective effort of LPGT members and volunteer researchers – including chapters written by BGHG President, Michael Symes, and seven BGHG members, it is still available at http://www.londongardenstrust.org. The book was reviewed in the Historic Gardens Review newsletter in July ‘The London Parks and Gardens Trust has carried out an impressive piece of research into Repton’s contributions to the Greater London area……………a readable and scholarly book, as one would expect from the largest of the County Gardens Trusts’