British Gardens in Time

jacket-cover-BGdnsIf you found the recent BBC4 series ‘British Gardens in Time’ interesting then you will certainly enjoy Katie Campbell’s book which accompanies the series. This is a thoroughly researched and well written book, devoting a section to each of the four gardens featured in the series – Stowe, Biddulph Grange, Nymans and Great Dixter.

Beautifully illustrated I found this book a joy – the author carefully delves into the background of the four gardens, not only outlining the history of their creation, but also the fascinating stories of their creators. Within its pages we find obsession, social ambition bankruptcy and even disaster. The author seeks out what makes each of these gardens interesting and why they are each a product of one moment in history. We are treated to the offer of a fascinating window into the century they were made and the people who made them.

To fully appreciate a garden you really need to know the driving influences behind it – how, in many cases they become statements of the individual who made them. Within the pages of  ‘British Gardens in Time’ we find ample illustration of those driving influences and how they impacted on the lives of each garden’s creator.

In the Foreword to the book, Chris Beardshaw points out that “Landscapes and gardens have evolved over the centuries to represent a plethora of philosophies and ideals.” In her book Katie Campbell weaves the stories of these four exemplary gardens into a history of British gardening from the earliest cultivated spaces to the present day so we can indeed fully appreciate the philosophies and ideals of each garden.

There is a wealth of fascinating historic details and storytelling which I found compelling and certainly adds to the pleasure of this book. With specially commissioned photography by Nathan Harrison and extensive archive illustrations, within each section we are treated to a visual feast.

The author sets the scene in context with a short history of British Gardens before detailing each of the four gardens. I particularly liked the section on Nymans, the Messels’ Edwardian rural retreat and how the site, an exposed hilltop garden, was finally tamed and Christopher Lloyd’s paradise at Gt Dixter.

Throughout the book there are little sections on a range of associated subjects, such as Gertude Jekyll, living sculpture, the founding of the Royal Horticultural Society and Women artists. The plants also have a starring role with liberal illustrations and details.

The book stands alone so if you haven’t seen the BBC television series it doesn’t matter, there is more than a wealth of information, stories and horticultural treats to satisfy any reader.

‘British Gardens in Time’ by Katie Campbell, is published by Frances Lincoln (www.franceslincoln.com) in hardback at £20.00.

Definitely a book for the gardening bookshelf but also one which will bring a good deal of pleasure to every reader.

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