Monthly Archives: June 2014

Edwardian (Horti)culture 5: Beware the Iron Bench

Queen Victoria in the Garden, c.1898

Queen Victoria in the Garden, c.1898

‘It is with real sorrow that we see so many survivals of an era of not particularly good taste, in the shape of iron benches. It is their undoubted durability which has preserved them, and we who try to rest upon them are the sufferers, not only for their unpleasing appearance, but from the ill-chosen formation of the back. […] They are shaped so that neither by stooping forward nor by reclining absolutely at full length can comfort be obtained. Let us stretch our limbs again in freedom […]’ (Viscountess Frances Wolseley, Gardens, Their Form and Design, 1919).

Edwardian (Horti)culture 4: The Italian Garden

'At Torre Galli' by John Singer Sargent, 1910 (Royal Academy of Arts)

‘At Torre Galli’ by John Singer Sargent, 1910 (Royal Academy of Arts)

‘The cult of the Italian garden has spread from England to America, and there is a general feeling that, by placing a marble bench here and a sun-dial there, Italian ‘effects’ may be achieved. The results produced, even where much money and thought have been expended, are not altogether satisfactory; and some critics have thence inferred that the Italian garden is, so to speak, untranslatable, that it cannot be adequately rendered in another landscape and another age.
Certain effects, those of which depend on architectural grandeur as well as those due to colouring and age, are no doubt unobtainable; but there is, none the less, much to be learned from the old Italian gardens, and the first is that, if they are to be a real inspiration, they must be copied, not in the letter but in the spirit’ (Edith Wharton, Italian Villas and their Gardens, 1904)

Edwardian (Horti)culture 3: Slinking out with a Spade

'Dorelia McNeill in the Garden at Alderney manor' by Augustus John, 1911 (National Museum, Wales)

‘Dorelia McNeill in the Garden at Alderney manor’ by Augustus John, 1911 (National Museum, Wales)

‘If I could only dig and plant myself! How much easier, besides being so fascinating, to make your own holes exactly where you want them and put in your plants exactly as you choose instead of giving orders that can only be half understood from the moment you depart from the lines laid down by that long piece of string! In the first ecstasy of having a garden all my own, and in my burning impatience to make the waste places blossom like a rose, I did one warm Sunday in last year’s April during the servants’ dinner hour, doubly secure from the gardener by the day and the dinner, slink out with a spade and a rake and feverishly dig a little piece of ground and break it up and sow surreptitious ipomæa and run back very hot and guilty into the house and get into a chair and behind and book and look languid just in time to save my reputation’ (Elizabeth Von Arnim, Elizabeth and Her German Garden, 1898)

Edwardian (Horti)culture 2: Getting the Right Gloves

'Pink Aquilegia, Yellow Foxgloves, Cow Parsley' by Christiana Herringham (Royal Holloway)

‘Pink Aquilegia, Yellow Foxgloves, Cow Parsley’ by Christiana Herringham (Royal Holloway)

June 2nd. – It must be admitted that one of the great drawbacks to gardening and weeding is the state into which the hands and fingers get. Unfortunately, one’s hands belong not only to oneself, but to the family, who do not scruple to tell the gardening amateur that her appearance is ‘revolting’. Constant washing and always keeping them smooth and soft by a never-failing use of vaseline – or, still better, a mixture of glycerine and starch, kept ready on the washstand to use after washing and before drying the hands – are the best remedies I know. Old dog-skin or old kid gloves are better for weeding than the so-called gardening gloves; and for many purposes the wash-leather housemaid’s glove, sold at any village shop, is invaluable’ (Mrs C. W. Earle, Pot-Pourri From a Surrey Garden, 1897).

Edwardian (Horti)culture 1: How to Begin

'Down the Garden' by Spencer Gore, 1912 (Museum of London)

‘Down the Garden’ by Spencer Gore, 1912 (Museum of London)

‘Many people who love flowers and wish to do some practical gardening are at their wit’s end to know what to do and how to begin. Like a person who is on skates for the first time, they feel that, what with the bright steel runners, and the slippery surface, and the sense of helplessness, there are more ways of tumbling about than of progressing safely in any one direction. And in gardening the beginner must feel this kind of perplexity and helplessness, and indeed there is a great deal to learn, only it is pleasant instead of perilous, and the many tumbles on the way only teach and do not hurt.’ (Gertrude Jekyll, Wood and Garden, 1899).