Tag Archives: Edwardian Horticulture

Edwardian (Horticulture) 12: Dream Gardens

‘Nude in a Garden’ by Frederick Cayley Robinson, c.1895 (National Museums, Liverpool)

‘One of the most exquisite of Mrs. Browning’s poems is The Lost Bower; it is endeared to me because it expresses so fully a childish bereavement of my own, for I have lost a garden. I saw this beautiful garden, filled with radiant blossoms, rich with fruits and berries, set with beehives, rabbit hutches, and a dovecote, and enclosed about with hedges; and through it ran a purling brook – a thing I ever longer for in my home garden. All one happy summer afternoon I played in it, and gathered from its beds and borders at will – and I have never seen it since. When I was still a child I used to ask to return to it, but no one seemed to understand; and when I was grown I asked where it was, describing it in every detail, and the only answer was that it was a dream, I had never seen and played in such a garden’ (Mrs Alice Morse Earle, Old-Time Gardens, 1901).

Edwardian (Horti)culture 10: Malignent Magentas

'The Blue Butterflies' by William Nicholson, 1913 (The National Trust)

‘The Blue Butterflies’ by William Nicholson, 1913 (The National Trust)

‘I am always surprised at the vague, not to say reckless, fashion in which garden folk set to work to describe the colours of flowers, and at the way in which quite wrong colours are attributed to them. […] Nothing is more frequent in plant catalogues than ‘bright golden yellow’, when bright yellow is meant. Gold is not bring yellow. […] Another example of the same slip-slop is the term flame coloured, and it is often preceded by the word gorgeous. This contradictory mixture of terms is generally used to mean bright scarlet. When I look at a flame, whether of fire or candle, I see that the colour is a rather pale yellow, with a reddish tinge about its upper forks, and side wings often a bluish white – no scarlet anywhere. […] crimson is a word to beware of; it covers such a wide extent of ground, and is used to carelessly in plant catalogues, that one cannot know whether it stands for a rich blood colour or for a malignant magenta’ (Gertrude Jekyll, Wood and Garden, 1899).

Edwardian (Horti)culture 9: The Dahlia’s Duty

Adrian Allinson, 'Dahlias' (Salford)

Adrian Allinson, ‘Dahlias’ (Salford)

‘The Dahlia’s first duty in life is to flaunt and to swagger and to carry gorgeous blooms well above its leaves, and on no account to hang its head’ (Gertrude Jekyll, Wood and Garden, 1899).

Edwardian (Horti)culture 8: The Rebellious Gardener

'The Gardener's Daughter' by Charles Conder, 1902-3 (Manchester City Galleries)

‘The Gardener’s Daughter’ by Charles Conder, 1902-3 (Manchester City Galleries)

‘How I loathe being ill! How I fight it, rebel against it, garden up to the very last moment and get up tottering to go out and replant the violet bed’ (Mrs Leslie Williams, A Garden in the Suburbs, 1901).

Edwardian (Horti)culture 7: Exercising the Imagination and Assessing the Competition

'Bar House Garden, Beverley' by Frederick William Elwell, 1914 (Beverley Art Gallery)

‘Bar House Garden, Beverley’ by Frederick William Elwell, 1914 (Beverley Art Gallery)

‘Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination. You are always living three, or indeed six, months hence. I believe that people entirely devoid of imagination never can be really good gardeners. To be content with the present, and not striving about the future, is fatal’

‘When looking through old books or modern catalogues, one feels one has nothing in one’s garden, but I must confess that visiting other people’s gardens makes me feel I really have a very fair collection’ (Mrs C. W. Earle, Pot-Pourri From a Surrey Garden, 1897).

Edwardian (Horti)culture 6: Depression and Disappointment

'A View from the Window at 6 Cambrian Road, Richmond' by Spencer Gore (The Fitzwilliam Museum)

‘A View from the Window at 6 Cambrian Road, Richmond’ by Spencer Gore (The Fitzwilliam Museum)

‘You must not, any of you, be surprised if you have moments in your gardening life of such profound depression and disappointment that you will almost wish you had been content to leave everything alone and have no garden at all’ (Mrs C. W. Earle, Pot-Pourri From a Surrey Garden, 1897).

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).