THE VICTORIAN GARDENER: The Growth of Gardening and the Floral World

by Anne Wilkinson

Publisher:  Sutton Publishing (2006)
ISBN  0750940433

Hardback £20

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Oh no!  – not another book on the Victorian Kitchen Garden I groaned when I first glanced at this book there is already a number of very good detailed books on this subject but I soon discovered that this one is most interesting and very different.

The book is not about the professional gardener in the traditional walled-in garden of the large estate but more about the amateur gardeners the ordinary householders of the day, whose gardens ranged from cottage to rectory that were to be found behind terraced houses in town.

Throughout the book, with its 13 coloured plates and 71 black and white illustrations we are given, in graphic detail, all aspects of gardening in Victorian times. In Section 1 we learn of the gardeners and their various private grounds whereas Section 2 studies the quest for information and looks at the nurserymen, seedsmen and florists together with the horticultural societies with their shows and competitions. Section 3 is a fascinating study of 10 distinct types of garden in Victorian times.

We are introduced to the books and magazines of the day which gave advice to these gardeners remember there were no ‘Which’ reports on composts, pesticides, equipment and the suchlike all of which were developed by trial and error. The Gardeners’ Chronicle was introduced in 1841 and, although articles were mainly written by professionals and head gardeners, amateurs were invited to contribute. In 1848 the weekly Cottage Gardener was launched costing 3d.  It advised middle and working classes of the operations to be attended to in the small garden and included a popular ‘queries and answers’ in which gardeners could see their letters in print. An appendix lists all the magazines and, helpfully, gives contacts where they may be studied.

David Pearce