Saturday, 17 January 2009

Winter Gardens

William Robinson, before he became the prophet of Wild Gardening, wrote several books influenced by his visit to Paris in 1867 that championed the use of sub-tropical plants. Robinson urged the "picturesque" arrangement of plants in conservatories, much in the way that he was later to advocate natural gardening. The Parks and Gardens of Paris is the most substantial of these works, and contains much that Robinson learnt from his acquaintance with Edouard André, gardener to the City of Paris.

"In England, where amateur gardening is so highly developed, and where more attention is concentrated upon the beauty of individual plants than upon general effect, next to nothing has been done towards a picturesque style in conservatories ... it is surprising that in planting the glass palaces of the rich, such as we find at Sion House, or spacious Palm-houses, like that of Kew, so little regard has been paid to general effect. The cause is simply this, that cultivation has alone been considered in England and in most European countries, and the knowledge of plants has hitherto been limited to experimental culture. Gardeners have ignored the teachings of plant-distribution. Information on this subject can usually only be gained by studying the narratives of travellers, and these unfortunately, are often incomplete and uninstructive on this point."

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