I wrote recently about the gardens and the greenhouse that Josephine, the wife of Napoleon, created at Malmaison near Paris. Employing some of the leading botanists and gardeners in France, and never short of a franc or two, the empress was able to give rein to all her wildest horticultural desires. However she knew that gardens are ephemeral and she was equally determined that her collection would not be forgotten.
Talleyrand, the cynical French diplomat who acted, amongst other things, as Napoleon’s foreign minister was asked whether Josephine had intelligence. He replied that no-one managed as brilliantly without it as she did. However her way of ensuring that the garden at Malmaison lives on eternally gives the lie to that.
These days her way of capturing her garden and its rare plant collection would be endless photographs, video clips on YouTube and probably a TV programme or two hosted by a prominent TV celeb gardener.
These were not choices open to Josephine. Instead she had to make do with choosing the best botanical artist then alive to paint them and publish the result. By choosing Pierre-Joseph Redouté the job was done, and Malmaison and its plant collection [not just its roses] are still remembered , even though the gardens really only lasted about 25 years.
If that’s not intelligence I’m not sure what is!
If I told you that there were about 500 late 16thc maps and views showing landscapes and gardens from across four continents collected together in one place you’d probably be a bit surprised. The reason you probably don’t know about them because they’re not detailed measurable drawings and they don’t have elaborate planting plans BUT they do exist and can be found in the first atlas of towns published in 6 volumes between 1572 and 1617
I was originally going to use the name of the atlas for the title of this post but I suspect if you’d seen Braun & Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum in the subject line the post would have gone straight into the trash unread. So I hope you’ll read on when I tell you that although the title maybe a bit of an unpronounceable mouthful the content of this collection of maps of European cities was ground-breaking when it was published and still staggering in its conception, utility and aesthetic appeal.
The cover of the first RHS guide 1994
A couple of weeks ago, as the lockdown started to lift and gardens began tentatively to re-open, I was taken to Hyde Hall, the Essex garden of the Royal Horticultural Society. I’ve been several times before and have always come away slightly disappointed but this time things felt different. Partly obviously because it was good to be back outside after so long being confined to the house but also because Hyde Hall is developing into a much more interesting garden. That’s quite strange since according to Matthew Wilson, the former curator “There probably shouldn’t be a garden at Hyde Hall, given the challenges and complexities of the site, soil and climate. The fact that there is gives hope that even the least promising site can be gardened.” [FT 25th May 2018] Continue reading
You don’t have to be the slightest bit interested in fishing to be attracted to some of the buildings associated with it. Because of their settings, many are delightful places to spend time in: after all what’s nicer than sitting by water and watching the world go by.
Way back in 2016 I wrote a couple of posts about fishing lodges and temples. The first was on the earliest surviving ones, from the mediaeval and early modern periods, then a second about early 18thc ones. But I kept finding more so today’s post is a brief look at 3 more historic sites, associated with angling and dating from the later 18thc.
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Tagged Boats, Chinoiserie, conservation, cottage ornee, Fishing, grotto, james wyatt, John Constable, John Plaw, Mrs Lybbe Powys, temple
Last week’s post about Josephine and the landscape at Malmaison left out any discussion of the plants grown there, so today’s post is going to make up for that, because it was plants that really captured her imagination. That meant, of course, they had to be housed properly. Her dream came true in 1805 with the opening of what was to become the centrepiece of the plant collection. But it was more than that. The new building is thought to have been the largest area of glass yet erected, and it became the ancestor of the grand conservatories of 19thc Europe.
Josephine’s passion went way beyond new and tender exotics that needed hot house conditions. The rest of the gardens were also filled with rarities from every corner of the globe. She became the French equivalent of Joseph Banks and Malmaison the French equivalent of Kew.
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Tagged Aimee Bonpland, amaryllis, australia, bulbs, Cedar of Lebanon, conservation, conservatory, Empress Josephine, greenhouse, hothouse, James Lee, Jardin des Plantes, Joseph Banks, Kennedy & Lee, Napoleon, nurseryman, Patrick Neill, redoute, South Africa, Ventenat