Lessons from Great Gardeners
Book review by Juliet Harrison.
This 2015 RHS publication by Matthew Biggs about 'great' gardeners is arguably a truly 'great' read for anyone interested in gardens and history.
The book is cleverly divided into short chapters which are highly informative but easily digestible and often fascinating, each of which is focussed on one key person. The writer includes a potted life history of each figure, detail about their gardening interests and / or practices, and bullet points of the key 'lessons' they offer us.
The people featured do not necessarily immediately spring to mind as being 'gardeners', thus encouraging us to see the wealth of aspects which gardening has. For example, the artist Claude Monet is featured, reminding us of that gardening may be considered a art form, whilst an entry about Thomas Jefferson - who kept extensive notes regarding plants and planting - teaches us how useful the practice of keeping a gardening diary can be.
The balance of people is highly judicious, spanning the globe and including well known figures in the world of horticulture such as Beth Chatto alongside people who are perhaps less-well known, like the marvellously eccentric collector of exotics Madame Ganna Walska. Renowned historical figures such as Andre le Notre feature, as do influential modern designers, for example Piet Oudolf. Each entry comes with beautiful illustrations and many contain stunning photographs of the featured gardens.
A coffee table 'must-have', this book really is quite simply 'great'!