The Last Post: Rebranding the Blog

No you haven’t misread the calendar. It isn’t Saturday. And no your eyes haven’t deceived you – it is a post from P&G – although, in fact, it’s  the last one.   But before you start wailing and gnashing your teeth about what you are going to read over breakfast on Saturday mornings,  and all the fascinating bits of garden history you’re going to be missing in future don’t despair. The blog is going to continue but under a new name and address.   Let me explain why…

I’ve been writing this blog since it started in 2013 as part of my role as a trustee of Parks and Gardens UK.  As you may know the Parks and Gardens database has been transferred to the Hestercombe Gardens Trust who are undertaking a major overhaul of the site and planning to relaunch it later this year.  My official connections with P&G is about to come to an end with the winding up of the charitable company that used to run it.

However I am also a Trustee of the Gardens Trust, where I am co-chair of the Education and Events Committee, and so I’m moving the blog’s home  from P&G to the Gardens Trust.  This means that it will be hosted on, and linked to,  the Gardens Trust website.

The banner will obviously change from the current P&G one to this shiny new green one and posts should still arrive in your inbox  but from this address:

Searches and links to the old site and its URL should be automatically redirected. The only thing you might need to do is to make sure that the new address is included in your contacts so that future emails don’e end up in your junk mail folder.

The changeover will start as soon as I’ve sent this final P&G post  and so its possible there might be a slight interruption of service today or even tomorrow  but I’m hoping that everything will be sorted very quickly.  Do get in touch  via  if you have any concerns or questions.

Normal posting – from the new address – will resume on Saturday!


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Gardening in Miniature

A gardener with his barrow from               Britains Miniature Gardening, c.1930-36

Sorry to disappoint you if you thought you were going read a post about gardens in bottles, on saucers, mini-flower pots or bonsai.  Instead it’s a potential walk down Memory Lane for everyone who grew up between the wars, and had their first chance  to turn their hands to gardening.  But not the hard way. You didn’t have to get your fingers dirty, you didn’t have to any backbreaking digging or weeding. You didn’t have to deal marauding slugs and snails, your plants didn’t get munched by greedy caterpillars and you didn’t have to encounter any stinging or biting bugs or noxious  plant diseases.  Indeed you could garden on the kitchen table or your bedroom floor.

The opportunities stopped during the war when you really did have to dig for Victory, but started up again for another generation in the 1960s and 70s although once again it didn’t last that long.

How come all this gardening the easy and blisterless way was possible?  It was originally all thanks to a man named William Britain whose company created  the first mass-produced models that allowed children [and consenting adults!]  to create a miniature version of their parents back gardens and to rearrange it at will.

Britains – Floral Garden Range – Retailer Display, early 1960’s  Vectis Auctions

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Recording the Rococo : Thomas Robins

detail from A View of Bath

Sometimes one gets a real surprise from a book. I did a few weeks ago in the British Library… and I don’t mean when I started to read it, but literally when it was brought to the counter. There were two slim volumes, one large  the other enormous, in brown slip cases. Hardly a standard work. This was my first introduction to John Harris’s Gardens of Delight, his 1978 book on the landscape paintings of Thomas Robins the Elder.  The contents were even more  surprising than the outward presentation and opened my eyes to a world now largely long gone, but magically bought back to life in this lavishly produced publication.  Although a few of Robins’ paintings  of Rococo gardens mainly arround his native Gloucestershire and Bath are well-known, I wasn’t prepared for what I found either in the images or Harris’s scholarly accompanying commentary.

Self portrait of Robins from his Prospect of Bath 1757

Read on to find out more about this enigmatic and singular artist who was only “rediscovered” in the late 1960s and whose work is not just enchanting but significant. He captured a garden fashion whose exemplars have almost entirely disappeared,  together with some of the plants and wildlife you might have found in them, using techniques that are unconventional but with a liveliness and lightness of touch that is rarely matched. Continue reading

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Castles for Cows…

Detail from “Portraits of two extraordinary oxen, the property of the Earl of Powis,” by James Ward,  1814, Yale Center for British Art,  and just look at where the oxen are living!

The recent post on chickens and their houses provoked a lot interest and laughs and since many of the sites which had eccentric or extravagant buildings for poultry also had them for other domestic or farmyard beasts  I thought I’d follow it up with looking at some of the more unusual ways of housing cows.  You might have thought it was all pretty basic stuff but even the greatest architects turned their hand to the subject, especially in the late 18thc when asked to design model farms as part of an estate.

A rustic cowshed at Woolbeding, Nr Midhurst, by George Stanley Repton, 1800, RIBA Library

And if you couldn’t afford Robert Adam, John Soane, Jeffrey Wyattville or even Humphry Repton’s son, George,  to design a château for your cattle then  there were plenty of pattern books available with suitable designs  if you wanted to build your own.

And why all this fuss?  After all we’re only talking about cows.  We’re used nowadays to intensive breeding programmes to develop particular blood lines and qualities, but this had started in the 18thc as part of the Agricultural Revolution. It became almost an obsession to many landowners with several beasts becoming famous, touring the country and  having their portraits painted. And the top quality desired then was size.

The Newbus Ox, Thomas Weaver, 1812, Yale Centre for British Art

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Repton, movement and the double page spread…

I looked a few weeks ago at the techniques that Repton used in his Red Books, particularly his  trademark flap or overlay to show his proposed improvements. This week I  want to turn  to another aspect of the Red Books and his printed works which rarely attracts much comment… and that is only marginally to do with flaps and slides. It’s the way that Repton uses the double-page spread  to show the full extent of a landscape.   Is that significant? Why did he do it?

from the Red Book for Endsleigh, 1814

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