BOOK RE­VIEW: THE STORY OF THE ENGLISH GAR­DEN

Berkshire Life - - Garden Cuttings -

If Am­bra Ed­wards has a ta­lent - and she has many - it is telling a story. And, once again, she has ex­celled her­self.

One of the most read­able books on gar­den his­tory around, it be­gins with en­closed me­di­ae­val gar­dens and pro­gresses through Tu­dor, Geor­gian and Vic­to­rian to the present day. It romps through spe­cific gar­dens, plants and styles, di­verts to tell us about the (sur­pris­ingly in­ter­est­ing) ori­gins of trel­lis and then dou­bles back to dis­cuss the dif­fi­cul­ties of hir­ing a suit­ably as­cetic her­mit, who would stay in his cave and not head for the pub.

There are pot­ted bi­ogra­phies, and even if you al­ready know gar­den­ing greats such as Pax­ton, Wil­son, Banks and the rest of them, she presents a fresh view, bring­ing his­tor­i­cal char­ac­ters vividly to life. The charm­ingly ob­scure is re­searched with care and pre­ci­sion and the tales weave im­ages that are crisp and clear in the mind’s eye.

This is a book that is fas­ci­nat­ing, whim­si­cal, ar­tic­u­late and packed with facts that are a de­light to dis­cover. For ex­am­ple, Wal­ter Roth­schild liked his ze­bras to draw a car­riage, but, since he only had three, the fourth ‘ze­bra’ was a pony painted with stripes. The orig­i­nal Florists were so­ci­eties of Vic­to­rian work­ing men who would stop at noth­ing to grow the most per­fect blooms – one even died, hav­ing used the blan­kets from his bed to pro­tect flow­ers from frost. Fi­nally, Eliz­a­beth I liked to shoot deer to the ac­com­pa­ni­ment of a small or­ches­tra. Who knew? www.na­tion­al­trust­books.co.uk

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