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The Making of the English Gardener

The Making of the English Gardener: Plants, Books and Inspiration, 1560-1660

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    The Making of the English Gardener
    Book Description:

    In the century between the accession of Elizabeth I and the restoration of Charles II, a horticultural revolution took place in England, making it a leading player in the European horticultural game. Ideas were exchanged across networks of gardeners, botanists, scholars, and courtiers, and the burgeoning vernacular book trade spread this new knowledge still further-reaching even the growing number of gardeners furnishing their more modest plots across the verdant nation and its young colonies in the Americas.

    Margaret Willes introduces a plethora of garden enthusiasts, from the renowned to the legions of anonymous workers who created and tended the great estates. Packed with illustrations from the herbals, design treatises, and practical manuals that inspired these men-and occasionally women-Willes's book enthrallingly charts how England's garden grew.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16533-3
    Subjects: History, Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-ix)
  4. Plates
    (pp. x-xxxiv)
  5. Introduction The Pattern in the Quilt
    (pp. 1-10)

    One of my favourite books as a child wasA Traveller in Timeby Alison Uttley, in which a twentieth-century girl experienced a simultaneous sixteenth-century life in a manor house in Derbyshire.¹ The plot hatched by Anthony Babington to rescue the captive Mary Queen of Scots takes centre stage, but it was the background of the daily life of a Tudor household that enthralled me. When Uttley described the herb garden, I could see the parterres ‘like a patterned quilt’ and smell the fragrance of the lavender and the roses. When she entered the kitchen, I could savour the herbs...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Fit for a Queen
    (pp. 11-44)

    During the summer months, to escape the heat and unhealthy conditions of London, it was the custom of Queen Elizabeth I to go on progress around her realm. Thus in late May 1583, she paid one of her many visits to Theobalds, the great house built near St Albans in Hertfordshire by William Cecil, Lord Burghley. One of those present noted: ‘She was never in any place better pleased, and sure the house, garden and walks may compare with any delicate place in Italy.’¹

    This was a great compliment, for although Elizabeth Tudor never visited Italy – indeed, never left...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Men on the Ground
    (pp. 45-70)

    The story of an overnight creation of a garden below Queen Elizabeth’s windows at Kenilworth Castle in 1575 is almost certainly apocryphal, but it shows the expectation at this period that gardeners, through their skills and ingenuity, could perform extraordinary feats.

    The gardeners of mediaeval Britain were in the main anonymous figures, but anonymous does not mean they lacked skill. As John Harvey put it in his pioneering work,Early Nurserymen, they were ‘by no means nameless serfs provided with shovels’.¹ Much gardening lore was held by the religious houses, where monks, nuns and their lay brothers grew flowers to...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Strange Encounters
    (pp. 71-92)

    By the 1570s the gardens of Western Europe, great and small, were being enriched by the introduction of exotic plants and flowers. As William Harrison exclaimed of England: ‘It is a world … to see how many strange herbs, plants and unusual fruits are daily brought unto us, from the Indies, Americas, Tabrobane [Ceylon], Canarie Iles and all parts of the world.’¹ The excitement engendered by these new arrivals is palpable and Harrison was echoed by other commentators in late Tudor England. Bulbs and seeds, easily transportable, arrived enclosed with the correspondence of merchants, noblemen and scholars. When ships from...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Spreading the Word
    (pp. 93-121)

    When Gutenberg invented the printing press in the middle of the fifteenth century, botanical books in the form of herbals at last became available to a larger public. Blanche Henrey, author of the monumental work on British botanical and horticultural books, defined a herbal as a book containing the names and descriptions of herbs, or of plants in general, with their properties and virtues. She went on to define the audience for such books as the herbalist, botanist and gardener, physician and apothecary. At a time when only the rich could afford professional medical attendance, she added the housewife, who...

  10. CHAPTER 5 House and Garden
    (pp. 122-140)

    There should be gardens full of delightful plants, and a garden portico where you can enjoy both sun and shade. There should also be truly festive space.’¹ Thus wrote Alberti in his architectural treatiseDe Re Aedificatoria, first published in 1485, and the idea of the house being integrated with the garden is repeated by architectural and gardening writers throughout the sixteenth century. The Elizabethans took this concept up not only in terms of design but also in a social context: flowers and plants were used to decorate the house, rooms were created to be like gardens, furnishings reflected a...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Court and Country
    (pp. 141-167)

    Elizabeth I’s death in March 1603 did not bring about a complete change of scene, least of all in the dynamic world of horticulture. However, it is possible to see in the passing of the Queen a watershed as far as the impetus for creating great gardens was concerned. James, King of the Scots, now also James I of England, brought down from Edinburgh his consort, Anne of Denmark, and three children; Henry, born in 1594; Elizabeth, born in 1596; and Charles, born in 1600. James was not particularly interested in gardens, but was content to let his Queen and...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Curious Gardeners
    (pp. 168-195)

    In the seventeenth century the term ‘curious’ was a mark of intellectual distinction, and in the horticultural world it indicated the collecting and growing of rare and unusual plants. New varieties were being produced from the flowers that had been introduced into Western Europe in the second half of the sixteenth century. For instance, John Gerard in hisHerballin 1597 grouped tulips into fourteen categories, protesting that to try to describe all the varieties was like trying to ‘number the sands’. Thirty years later, John Parkinson outlined sixteen major forms with forty-nine cultivars ofT. praecox(early flowering), seventy...

  13. CHAPTER 8 The Sun and the Moon
    (pp. 196-218)

    In 1621 Henry, Lord Danvers, who later became the Earl of Danby, arranged that Oxford University should lease five acres of meadow from Magdalen College to establish a botanical garden. The first botanical gardens of the Renaissance had been founded eighty years earlier at Padua and Pisa, and gradually other European cities followed suit, notably Leiden in the Netherlands in 1593. In these gardens, all attached to universities, it was hoped that the sun, the clear light of science, would not only shine upon the plants, but also enlighten the students of medicine and botany. John Gerard, who looked after...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Secrets Revealed
    (pp. 219-241)

    The landscape historian W.G. Hoskins described the seventy years between 1570 and 1640 as the great age of rebuilding in England. For two generations of yeomen, farmers, husbandmen and even prosperous cottagers in the country, and merchants and craftsmen in towns, there was the wherewithal to build new dwelling houses.¹ And with these houses came new gardens. This development is reflected in the growing demand in this period for practical books on a whole range of domestic subjects. In 1573, for example, John Partridge published the first edition of hisTreasurie of commodious conceits and hidden secrets, with its title...

  15. CHAPTER 10 The Long Winter
    (pp. 242-266)

    The florist John Rea described the Commonwealth of the 1650s as ‘our long winter’: he could equally have included the 1640s, the years of civil war that tore the country apart.¹ These turbulent decades were tragic and unproductive on both collective and personal levels, yet from a horticultural point of view they were far from fallow.

    For young men with sufficient funds, a European tour held particular attractions at this period. John Evelyn in all made three visits to Europe, the first in 1641 when he spent two and a half months in Holland and the Spanish Netherlands, and his...

  16. Epilogue Springtime
    (pp. 267-275)

    In May 1660 Charles II returned to his kingdom after nine years’ absence, and nearly a year later, on 22 April 1661, he made his way across London from the Tower of London to Westminster, where he was to be crowned the following day. As he passed through the City of London he encountered a series of triumphal arches that had been designed as a display of propaganda for the new regime. The fourth and last of these was the Garden of Plenty in Fleet Street. An engraving made to record the event shows pillars entwined with leaves, garlands of...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 276-287)
  18. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 288-292)
  19. Index
    (pp. 293-300)