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 […]

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 […]

One thing you need to view a parterre garden is a high vantage point, possibly a drone. But back in 15th Century France, there were no drones or hot air balloons. What you probably had to go with your parterre garden was a nice big house with storeys and lots of acres of land. Parterre […]

The Versailles Orangerie was built between 1684 and 1686, before the palace was even begun. It housed a thousand trees in boxes, mostly citrus trees, but also olives, oleanders and palms. From May to October the plants were moved out into Parterre Bas to bask in the sunshine. (Imagine the effort carrying those trees in […]

Liverpool cotton merchant, Arthur Kilpin Bulley was one of fourteen children. Born in 1861, like many of his day, he followed the family business, which enabled him to travel and with a keen interest in unusual plants, he purchased 60 acres of land overlooking the Dee Estuary on the Wirral peninsula. There he established a […]

“You keep taking the first turning on the right. We’ll just walk around for ten minutes and then go and get some lunch.” These are the words of Harris in Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat as he leads a group of tourists into Hampton Court Maze and promptly gets them lost for […]

I touched on Landscape gardens with my post on Capability Brown. He wasn’t the only designer who had a habit of obliterating existing formal gardens and replacing them with picturesque landscapes. During the 18th century, the era of neoclassical architecture, estates were symbols of wealth and status. The grander, the better. The scale required new […]

In 2003 Kew Gardens, located in the borough of Richmond-on-Thames, was designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Better late than never, is all I can say. Once called Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, there has been gardens on the site since the 16th Century. That plural is due to the merging of two main gardens – […]

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