Did the Romans have rakes? Did the monks get muddy? Did the potato seem really, really weird when it arrived on our shores?
This lively 'potted' history of gardening in Britain takes us on a garden tour from the thorn hedges around prehistoric settlements to the rage for ornamental grasses and 'outdoor rooms' today. It tracks down the ordinary folk who worked the earth – the apprentice boys and weeding women, the florists and nursery gardeners – as well as aristocrats and grand designers and famous plant hunters.
Coloured by Jenny Uglow's own love for plants, and brought to life in the many vivid illustrations, it deals not only with flowery meads, grottoes and vistas, landscapes and ha-has, parks and allotments, but tells you, for example, how the Tudors made their curious knots; how housewives used herbs to stop freckles; how the suburbs dug for victory in World War II.
With a brief guide to particular historic or evocative gardens open to the public, this is a book to put in your pocket when planning a summer day out – but also to read in your deckchair with a glass of cold wine, when dead-heading is simply too much.
For the 2017 hardback reissue the author has added new books to the 'Further Reading' section, inserted new gardens into the list of places to visit, and wrote a short postscript to see if she could work out what aspects of British gardening in the early twenty-first century have flowered, or changed, or intrigued us or made us argue.
Jenny Uglow writes on literature, art, and social history. Her books include award-winning biographies of Elizabeth Gaskell, William Hogarth and Thomas Bewick, as well as a study of Sarah Losh, a surprising Victorian architect and visionary, and group studies including The Lunar Men and the panoramic In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon's Wars, 1793-1815. She is now writing on Edward Lear. Jenny lives in Canterbury, and has four grown-up children and seven grandchildren. She was created an OBE in 2008, and was Chair of the Royal Society of Literature 2014-2016.
'Curious and lively scholarship for all unpompous gardeners.', Jane Gardam, The Spectator .'An addictive book', The Economist .'Guaranteed to brighten the dullest winter day', Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times .'Lively', Caroline Donald, The Sunday Times .'Marvellous Fast-paced and packed with illuminating details.', Daily Telegraph .'"informative and entertaining"', Pam Barrett, Sunday Times