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The Home of Horticultural Heroines

...in gardens, plants and books                                                                                                                                                            


Tickets now on Sale for my Garden Museum Lives and Legacies Talk on Beth Chatto with Matthew Wilson and Tim Richardson, Tues 14 November


BC with wild flowers

Beth Chatto has devoted her life to being a pioneer of species plants and ecological planting. Across the world, the idea of 'right plant, right place' can be traced back to her Gold-medal winning stands at Chelsea during the 1970s and '80s, her books, her nursery and, most particularly, her famous damp and dry gardens at Elmstead Market in Essex, created out of farmland from the 1960s. 'Her breathtaking garden ... should be a place of pilgrimage for all of us', believes Fergus Garrett. Fellow Garden Museum Archive donor John Brookes feels 'Beth's plants, her plantings and her writing have captivated not only me but the whole horticultural world.'


Catherine Horwood, Beth Chatto’s authorised biographer, will discuss different aspects of Chatto’s career, including her early influences from Sir Cedric Morris to flower arranging, her Chelsea years, her travels and long-lasting friendships including most famously with Christopher Lloyd, and the worldwide legacy of her gravel garden with its ecological heritage. She, along with Matthew Wilson, writer, horticulturist and designer, who was greatly influenced by Beth Chatto during his time as curator at RHS Hyde Hall in Essex, and Tim Richardson, garden historian and landscape critic, will pull out photographs and other ephemera from her collection which has been donated to the Archive to discuss the enduring legacy of Chatto's work.


For full details, timings and ticket prices, follow this link:


My new favourite website - 'Women Who Farm'


Here is a website and blog that's really fun, beautiful to look at and full of imaginative advice - take a look at www.womenwhofarm.com

This is what they say about themselves:

Strong women of sustainable agriculture.

Imagine an organic farming revolution. One that builds soil rather than depletes it and saves seed rather than destroys it. Right now, millions of women are behind this work. They believe in tomorrow. And their work is changing the world.

Women Who Farm supports and celebrates those who do this necessary work. We bring resources, community, and shared story.


But they do more than that and I look forward to hearing how they plan to fund raise for farming in Syria and other war-torn countries. And it's about gardening as well: here's a link to a recent blog:


All well worth a read. 

Heroines of Horticultural talk on Kensington Rooftop Gardens Sunday 16 July 2017


This looks like a terrific event and a great opportunity to visit the beautiful Roof Gardens in Kensington as well: 

An all-female line-up of names from the forefront of the gardening world will discuss some of the challenges and opportunities for women in the industry. Just how tough is it to be a female Head Gardener of some of the country's most iconic gardens?

The talk will be followed by an open discussion and a chance for audience members to ask questions. Tickets cost £10 for members and £15 for non-members with all ticket proceeds going to The Roof Gardens’ nominated charity, Starlight Children’s Foundation*.

Follow this link to buy tickets for this event on Sunday 16 July 2017 from 9 am to 12 noon.

The panel will be chaired by Clare Foggett, Editor of The English Garden magazine, who will be joined by leading female figures including Andrea Brunsendorf, Beatrice Krehl and Pilar Medrano-Dell.

Andrea (below) was the first female Head Gardener appointed at London's Inner Temple Garden, and knows first-hand what it means to break the mould in a male-dominated industry. She trained in horticulture with a traditional German apprenticeship before working at botanic and ornamental gardens across the world including Kirstenbosch (South Africa), Longwood (USA) and Kew Gardens (UK).

Andrea Brusendorf

Beatrice Krehl (below) was former Head Gardener at Waltham Place and is a self-employed gardening consultant. After working closely with iconic ‘Dutch Wave’ gardener Henk Gerritsen, she also has a long trajectory working in iconic gardens in Germany, Holland and the UK. 

Beatrice Krehl

Pilar Medrano-Dell (below) is The Roof Gardens' very own Head Gardener. Pilar joined the team after holding positions at Wrest Park, Moggerhanger Park, and The Barcelona Botanic Garden. Her passion for sustainability and promoting the gardening industry amongst young people has contributed to various award successes for The Roof Gardens since she joined the team in 2015.

Pilar Medrano-Dell

 *Starlight grants once-in-a-lifetime wishes for seriously and terminally ill children.







The re-birth of Ellen Willmott's Italian garden


The pavilion at Villa Boccanegra © Felice Piacenza

Fascinating article by Robin Lane Fox in the Financial Times this week - Italy's Villa Boccanegra and the ghost of Miss Willmott. Lots of stories about Ellen Willmott's extravagances - she filled it with plants and flowers but only spent a month a year there. We also hear about the saviour of the garden - Miss Willmott's third - Ursula Piacenza. On the Italian/French border just near Ventimiglia, it sounds as though Miss Willmott's ghost must be very happy.


East terrace with Agathis robusta © Felice Piacenza

Going potty about houseplant pots

Blowing my own trumpet this week because I've had great fun talking to Guardian gardening editor's Jane Perrone's weekly podcast On the Ledge on everything you've always wanted to know about houseplants. We're chatting about the history of houseplants in the home and especially the pots used. When did that start? You'll have to listen! Or for more historical background to plants in the home, see my book, Potted History

Find us at On the Ledge Episode Six


Top award for Xa Tollemache

Enormous congratulations to Xa Tollemache whose fabulous gardens at Helmingham Hall, Suffolk, are just about to be named 'Garden of the Year 2017' by the Historic Houses Association. This is a prestigious award, voted for by visitors, that goes to the very best garden open to the public by owners of some of the most beautiful house in Britain.

I visit Helmingham regularly as it is also home to one of the best plant fairs in East Anglia in aid of Plant Heritage. Run twice a year, the first in 2017 will be on 28 May from 10am to 4pm. Loads of specialist nurseries - it's impossible to come away empty-handed!


For more details on the award, follow this link: 

Mulch admired: garden of the year award goes to Helmingham Hall


Photographs © Catherine Horwood

How much can you grow in a small city garden?

I'm in the process of downsizing my garden from a third of an acre country plot to a roof terrace five floors up in central London. So needless to say, I leapt to read Carolyn Dunster's new book Urban Flowers. Creating abundance in a small city garden (Frances Lincoln)

Urban Flowers copy

Carolyn's both a florist and a designer of small gardens and her sense of style comes through on every page photographed by the brilliant Jason Ingram. I particularly loved her chapter 'Experimenting with colour' with inspiration suggestions from sulky purples and blues to zingy red and orange planting schemes.

I think this is a brilliant book for someone fairly new to gardening - an upsizer perhaps going from a flat to a garden rather than a downsizer like me who has years of plant-loving to cut down on. It's packed with loads of ideas for evaluating what space you've got and choosing a style to suit your surroundings and your lifestyle. There's even a final chapter on cutting, drying and harvesting flowers from your garden as one would expect given the popularity for 'growing your own' these days. Carolyn shows that it can be done even in the small city patch. Maybe, just maybe, I'll learned to see a small garden as a blessing after all!



Jinny Blom new book offer March 2017 only

To celebrate our new look website, I am delighted to offer readers of the Gardening Women blog a very special discount on the latest book by brilliant garden designer, Jinny Blom - The Thoughtful Gardener.

Jinny is one of my favourite designers. Her no-nonsense attitude belies the fact that she is incredibly sensitive to the surroundings she is working in. To me, her gardens never looked 'designed', they just look right in their place. Lots to learn from this long anticipated book.

Scroll down to find out how to get your discount!


TTG p50-51 (c) Charlie Hopkinson

'The most romantic, creative person in garden design I know,' Piet Oudolf.

In this book, Jinny shares her insight into the creative process she has developed while designing more than 250 gardens around the world. 

 Until 31 March 2017, you can order this book with a fabulous discount of 20 per cent. Go over to www.quartoknows.com and enter the code BLOM20 at checkout. Enjoy!

A bumper stocking-full of books for Christmas

It's great to hear that our biggest bookshop chain is actually making a profit again. Part of the reason must be because there are just so many gorgeous books coming out that can't be read on a machine - and so many have been written by women who really know their gardens. Here's my choice for this year's Christmas lists.

First up is Victoria Summerley's beautiful Great Gardens of London (Frances Lincoln) with photography by Hugo Rittson Thomas and Marianne Majerus.

Great Gardens of London

Victoria has gone behind locked gates and found some gems most of us will never get the opportunity to see. Building on the success of her previous book, Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds (Frances Lincoln), Victoria explores the great and the good, gardens such as Winfield House, the US ambassador's brilliant space gardened by Stephen Crisp, the garden behind the black door of 10 Downing Street, as well as the quirky - the Downings Roads Floating Gardens, Bermondsey, and St Regis Close, Muswell Hill. 

Next on my list is Caroline Holmes's Water Lilies and Bory Latour-Marliac (Garden Art Press).


You may never have heard of this lily nurseryman but you will certainly know of his most famous client, Monet, and seen the result of his purchases whether in real life or in print. And it's thanks to Latour-Marliac that all of us are able to grow a wide variety of water lilies in our gardens in the United Kingdom thanks to his amazing breeding programme. Coincidentally I visited this nursery for the first time this summer and came away determined to add more water to my garden just so I can grow some of these exotic-looking treasures. Part history, part garden joy, Caroline's book is a love letter to this beautiful family of water plants.

These days when it's so easy to get practical advice from the web, it's hard for writers to come up with fresh and creative ideas for garden books. But I loved Louise Curley's The Crafted Garden (Frances Lincoln) with photographs by the brilliant award-winning Jason Ingram.

The Crafted Garden HI RES

You know that feeling when you're in a garden or craft shop and see something and say, 'Why didn't I think of doing that?' Well, Louise has done it for you. And not only that, tells you simply how to do it. So many fab creative projects to do all the year round. Most of the materials can come from your garden - seedheads, cones, twigs, but Louise also includes a really comprehensive list of suppliers at the back for all those finishing touches. Perhaps a book to get for yourself before Christmas to help inspire with everything from wrappings to presents themselves.

The next book is written by one of my absolute favourite gardening writers, Mary Keen. Her latest book (and they are rare events) is very special: Paradise and Plenty. A Rothschild Family Garden (Pimpernel Press), about Eythrope, is, of course, about a world outside most of our imaginations. And yet it is also full of practical information on the running of a garden, any garden. You may never ever have a big garden or indeed a head gardener - but I defy you not to learn something from Sue Dickinson's perfectionism. Hopefully, I'll be curling up under the duvet with this inspirational book on Christmas morning.



Finally, a real luxury item, and not written by a gardening woman at all, but so what? It's present-buying time. Prolific author and mastermind behind the 'Chelsea Fringe' festival, Tim Richardson has produced the ultimate gift for any gardener with Oxonian connections - a lavish guide to Oxford College Gardens (Frances Lincoln) with photographs by Andrew Lawson. One can dream ...

Oxford College Gardens LR

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