When I’m asked what I do for a living, I’m tempted to cop out and refer to my previous career or give my professional title, which I still consider valid. Then, the inquisitive enquirer will want to know where I work, how I spend my day and, in a moment of awkwardness, I would have […]

Today is the last day of the A to Z challenge and the final instalment of my series on the history of gardens. I’m starting this post by looking at menageries. Now hang on as I guide you to the reason why it’s my Z post. ‘Menagerie’ was used in 17th century France to refer […]

In St Cynog churchyard in Wales there is an old yew tree. It’s reckoned to be 5000 years old. Yews feature greatly in gardens and their longetivy is well known. But they are especially found in churchyards amongst the flowers, keeping the company of graves. Why? The yew is a coniferous tree from the family […]

For anyone who’s done the A to Z Challenge before will know that X requires considerable thought and creativity. Thankfully, the world of botany provides some useful Xs.  Today I introduce Xylobium, a genus of the orchidaceae family. There are 35 species and it is native to the tropical Americas. Here’s a picture. Orchideceae, or […]

These days we call in at the grocers or supermarket to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables. Few of us are self-sufficient in producing food, unless you’ve a generous garden or access to an allotment. How did those big country houses of old cope with feeding dozens of people when they’d nowhere to shop? […]

In 1970 Rosemary Verey (1918-2001) opened her garden at Barnsley House to the public through the National Gardens Scheme. The scheme began in 1927 to support district nurses. For a small fee (and a cake and a cup of tea), visitors are given access to private gardens, usually a few days in the summer, and […]

Was the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in Mesopotamia (3500BC) the world’s first urban garden? Since its location is unknown, then its purpose is purely speculation. But there is evidence that Mesopotamian citadels had small farms, gardens and irrigation systems within their walls. The cultivation of gardens within cities and urban areas is ancient and well […]

Sissinghurst is probably one of the most famous gardens in England and forever linked with the prolific writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson. How did it all begin? Sissinghurst in Kent started out life as a Saxon pig farm – Saxonhurst. Hurst means woodland in Saxon. During Tudor times a fine manor house […]

We’re accustomed to seeing art in the form of sculptured stone or clay, even ice, but there is another, which is cheaper, and offers longevity if maintained correctly, and often forgotten – topiary – the art of shaping shrubs and hedges. Topiary dates back to classical antiquity, and supposedly invented by a friend of Emperor […]

London is littered with royal societies – about thirty of them. The oldest is the Royal Society founded in 1663. The full name is the Royal Society of London for Improving Nature Knowledge. It’s royal because Charles II gave the society a royal charter written on vellum. (Charters and patronage are administered by the Privy […]

Let’s start in the south of the UK on the Isle of Wight where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert bought Osborne House in 1845 as a country retreat. They demolished the original property and built one in brick but rendered the house and terraces in concrete to make it look like stone. The concrete weathered […]

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