A FLORAL DIVERSION

18 June, 2020

We are all a little freer now after the easing of restrictions and are able to get out and about more.  We were grateful to be able to book up and visit Kew Gardens, not much of a history link other than the ties to some of the West London Nurserymen and some structures from the Japanese Exhibition, but it was good to walk in some pleasant open space and see the outside of the Palace and other buildings. 

Maya Donelan has provided the following link about Emery Walker’s Emery Walkers Gardengarden. Many of you will be familiar with the inside of the house and its contents and may even have wandered in the garden down to the river bank as we did on the Society’s visit but few will have picked up this wealth of information. Emery Walker’s Garden. We should acknowledge this comes from the London Gardens Trust Blog which you can explore on a rainy day.

Surprised to come across what appears to be Fulham Palace as the centrepiece of a map of gardens in London. Excuse the advert but it may be of interest to the many FP volunteers as well as gardeners.

A London Floral by Natasha Goodfellow (Finch Publishing)

Finally even more off-piste but maintaining the theme – Derek Jarman’s Book published by the Garden Museum brings a different perspective to gardening and his view of the world from his last home on the beach at Dungeness.

ISBN 9781527259164

Back to local history in the next post I promise, stay safe.


WEST LONDON NURSERY GARDENS

14 April, 2020

Having taken the advice offered in the latest Newsletter to consider our publications I selected at random West London Nursery Gardens.  I must be frank up front I have little interest in gardening and tended to render what I touched brown!  This is especially true now we only have a balcony and my limited skills of mowing, digging and harvesting apples are no longer required!

I got stuck into this 163 pages plus illustrations volume and was pleasently surprised.  The names of flowers leapt out to prompt my memories of my Northern Grandfather banging on about his successes on the allotment.  In fact the book is as much a social history as a botanical one.  The histories start in the 1660s through to the start of the 20th century.  Information gleaned from rate books, directories, private papers and gardening magazines and catalogues has been used to set out not only the bare facts but a little about the owners of each enterprise.

These men, and sometimes their widows, created a new line of business initially centred on London and botanical trophies of the age of discovery.  A fashion for ornate gardens and unusual plants amongst the landed gentry fed the businesses.  This grew eventually to the classless hobby of many but by then nurseries were more widespread and the land in London was more valuable for housing.

These were often men of humble origin from all over the country gardeners to the rich who grasped an opportunity.  The work and fresh air clearly had its rewards as several lived into their 80’s and 90’s.  The opposite is also true – at least 2 careers were ruined by falls from horseback. In the 19th century more

West London Nursery Gardens

middleclass businessmen tried their hand in this world of plants often driven by an interst in botany or exploring for species to cultivate.

Families are also featured heavily with sons following fathers into the business or associated areas.  Many had 2 or more wives and very many children with many dying young.  Whilst I know my grandparents were from large families the levels of child mortality and deaths in childbirth have slipped beyond living memory.

It also relates much about the geography of our streets today as land was given up for building the pockets of land often recognisable.

This book is definitely worth a read; gardener or not!

John H

II – Post Script

Anyone thinking about reading this book or just curious will find this map from the excellent National Library of Scotland’s website very helpful.  Although later than most of the activity it does show many of the remaining nurseries surviving as development crept westwards.

It also shows the scattering of large houses amongst the market gardens that may feature in Keith’s talk post lockdown!