by Susan Campbell

Publisher: Frances Lincoln Ltd (2005)
ISBN 0-7112-2565-6

Paperback £14.99

A History of Kitchen Gardening takes the form of a conducted tour around the old walled kitchen garden at Pyewell Park close to the New Forest and is a detailed, evocative record of the activities within the walls.  It will be of use to the serious student of garden history as well as being a valuable vade mecum for Gardens Trust members involved in recording walled gardens.

The book traces the history of this 3-acre garden from when it was built in 1814 to its present day use as a nursery. It paints an amazingly detailed picture of life in the kitchen garden and the dedicated team of gardeners who practised their horticultural skills to supply the big house year round with fruit, vegetables and flowers.  Many of the techniques for producing out of season vegetables and fruit together with storage methods could well be adapted to present day conditions such as producing potatoes and salads for Christmas, as currently shown at Heligan.

The detail from text and line diagrams is quite remarkable.  Each of the nineteen chapters deals meticulously with a different topic. Chapter 15, for instance, is a comprehensive history of pest and disease control methods and recalls the times when arsenic, strychnine and mercury were routinely used pesticides.  Until reading Chapter 3 on walls, I never realised the different range of constructions used to create the walled garden and the various cappings used atop.  I learned that the charmingly named Crinkle Crankle wall used a third less brick than straight walls, no doubt encouraged by reduced payments of the Brick Tax of 1784.  A further chapter details methods used to heat the walls and the different ways to attach plants and goes on to illustrate various forms of fruit trees trained on the wall.

The book contains a useful source of references and notes to enable further study of each topic as well as a comprehensive bibliography.  Eight pages of glossary and biography add to the detail contained in the text.  This really is a comprehensive authoritative work on the walled in kitchen garden, which I thoroughly recommend.

David Pearce