Book number: 93490 Product format: Hardback Author: RODERICK FLOUD

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England's gardens range from the Baroque splendour of Blenheim Palace, whose vast acres were designed by Capability Brown at enormous expense, to the low-density suburban housing of the 19th and 20th centuries which were planned specifically to allow the ordinary householder to own his or her plot of land. In the early 17th century Capability Brown was a millionaire many times over, although his work at Blenheim came to an abrupt end when his client the Duchess of Marlborough, Queen Anne's favourite, fell out of favour, as described in the 2018 film starring Olivia Colman. Brown kept overall control of his vast projects by using large numbers of sub-contractors, so that the failure of one of them was not an overall disaster. The author of this study is an economist by profession, and there are some interesting conclusions in his statistics relating to the fruit and vegetable consumption, and life expectancy, of different classes. A prominent feature of large country houses was the Kitchen Garden maintained by hundreds of staff. A cook was likely to insist on a certain size of fruit or vegetable to preserve aesthetic standards at the dining table, and the result was huge quantities of wasted produce, so that eventually most kitchen gardens were phased out in favour of a daily expedition to Covent Garden or other markets. The head gardener was a prestigious position which in earlier times required the holder to be formally dressed and also to be married. When the famous gardener Joseph Paxton was appointed to Chatsworth at the age of only 23, he proposed to the niece of the Housekeeper on his first morning. Head gardeners wielded enormous power over the 100 or so staff under them, and could require an apprentice to move hundreds of miles away to another estate. Royalty has always had the means to lead the way in garden design, and the author examines the changing goals and expectations in royal patronage, from Henry VIII's Hampton Court to Prince Charles's Highgrove House, with an interesting aside on the horticultural role played by Camilla Parker-Bowles, now the Queen. In the 20th century gardening became a respectable occupation for middle class women, and a few, most famously Gertrude Jekyll, became leaders in garden design. 422pp, colour photos.

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ISBN 9781101871034

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