BOOK REVIEW: THE STORY OF THE ENGLISH GARDEN
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