A beautifully written and illustrated account of the enormous impact made by the generations of one family on some of Britain's best known (and some not so well known) gardens and estates over the course of 300 years. Some of the places included in this book are Kew, Cardiff Castle, Highcliffe in Dorest, Dumfries House.... I could go on but will leave you to discover the rest!
The Bute family's influence on landscapes and gardens across the UK - not to mention art and architecture - is astounding and the book takes the reader from Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute, off the south west coast of Scotland, on a journey of discovery from the early 1700's to the present day.
As a gardener, the insight into horticultural practices so early on was a real eye opener - to say they were adventurous was an understatement! In the early 1700's - "holly berries, hornbeam seeds, yew berries, beech mast and a peck of English Acorns to be sown in the tree nurseries " at Mount Stuart. During a visit to Kew Gardens in 1766 it was noted that there were Proteas from South Africa covered with overlapping oilcloths and a banana tree in fruit. Other mentions were made of grafted Cedars and Lime trees!
In reading through this book I discovered all sorts of interesting information - did you know that Kew as it stands today is actually an amalgamation of 2 Royal Estates in 1802 - consisting of Kew to the east and Richmond Lodge on the west bordering the River Thames? Each of the respective Royal owners had a longstanding dislike of the other - so it was ironic that these two estates be divided by Lover's Lane which was then a public road - (Holly Walk as it is know today follows roughly the same course).
The chapter on Cardiff Castle was fascinating - if you've had a chance to visit Cardiff you may have enjoyed a little visit to "Pettigrew Tea Rooms" - these are located at West Lodge near to Bute Park Aboretum, not far from Cardiff Castle. The Tea Rooms named after Andrew Pettigrew who originally came from Dumfries House to take over the care of the Castle grounds in 1873. The reputation of the grounds grew, following a series of articles written in garden journals. What Pettigrew acheived was incredible given that much of the land was nothing but marsh. In 1899, the Gardener's Magazine explained the enormous task that Pettigrew had in organising the transportation of thousands of cart-loads of soil from various building sites throughout Cardiff to bring the ground level well above the water table... without the aid of trucks or mechnical diggers of course! By 1901, two years before Pettigrew died, the network of driveways, the excavation of the Friary site, formal avenues of Lime Trees and the framework of today's tree planting had all been put in place. We have much to appreciate today when visiting some of these amazing places!
I hope this will inspire you to go out and purchase a copy - currently available at Amazon UK with free home delivery.
Hope you enjoy this as much as I did.