THE GREAT EDWARDIAN GARDENS OF HAROLD PETO

From the archives of ‘Country Life’
by Robin Whaley

Publisher:  Aurum Press (2007)
ISBN 184513 2351

Hardback £40

519SFu0u5VL

For those of us who are fortunate enough to know the lovely gardens of Southern Ireland and who have visited Iford Manor in Wiltshire, the name Harold Peto conjures up pillars and porticoes, cloisters and colonnades, all very grand and classical, redeemed by exotic lushness of growth and cascades of climbers.  This heavy, expensive coffee-table volume fleshes out the bearded Edwardian in spats and panama with quotations from his travel journals written as a young man travelling in Italy, Spain, Greece and also in America and Japan.  Although a partner in an architectural firm and therefore influenced by form and structure, Peto was a ‘flower man’ and revelled in roses and wisteria, with their sensual delights.  His travels alerted him to water – so even in England his gardens are filled with cascades, reflective pools and delicate fountains.  All this is handsomely illustrated for us by the lavish quantity of black and white photographs, surely the most revealing and descriptive, from the archives of Country Life magazine.

The author, Robin Whalley, is an authority and lecturer on Victorian and Edwardian gardens and has done much research into the life and work of Peto.  He supplies an index and a wide-ranging bibliography.  The chapter headings, e.g. Rotundas and Pergolas, Canals and Bridges, Villas and Gardens of the Riviera, Ilnacullin, Iford Manor, are helpful for those sourcing specific items but it is a pleasure to just dip into these views of lavish, beautifully planted acres, each project individual and aware of the sense of place.

Margaret Burford