English Garden Eccentrics
Three Hundred Years of Extraordinary Groves, Burrowings, Mountains and Menageries
Imprint: Paul Mellon Centre
A highly original study of eccentric English garden-makers and their extraordinary gardens
In his new book, English Garden Eccentrics, renowned landscape architect and historian Todd Longstaffe-Gowan reveals a series of obscure and eccentric English garden-makers who, between the early seventeenth and the early twentieth centuries, created intensely personal and idiosyncratic gardens. They include such fascinating characters as the superstitious antiquary William Stukeley and the animal- and bird-loving Lady Read, as well as the celebrated master of Vauxhall Gardens, Jonathan Tyers, who created at his home at Denbies one of the gloomiest and most perverse anti-pleasure gardens in Georgian England. Others built miniature mountains, shaped topiaries, displayed exotic animals, excavated caves and assembled architectural fragments and fossils to realise their gardens in a way that was often thought to be excessive.
With quirky and compelling illustrations and chapters including ‘Lady Broughton’s “Miniature copy of the Swiss Glaciers”’, ‘Topiary on a Gargantuan Scale: The Clipped “Yew-trees” at Four Ancient London Churchyards’ and ‘The Burrowing Duke at Harcourt House’, English Garden Eccentricsbrings together garden and landscape history with cultural history and biography. The book engagingly reveals what it is about the gardener and his or her creation that can be seen as eccentric and focusses on an area of garden history that has scarcely been previously explored: gardens seen as expressions of the singular character of their makers, and therefore functioning, in effect, as a form of autobiography.
This lively and accessible book calls on gardeners today to learn from example and dare to be eccentric.
“This fine book by the garden historian and landscape architect Todd Longstaffe-Gowan raises the bar considerably on what constitutes a garden eccentric . . . What really makes this book work, though . . . is Longstaffe-Gowan’s impeccable research combined with his ability to tell a story . . . It is obvious that he cares about these people and believes their gardens function as a form of autobiography.”—Ann Treneman, The Times
“A glorious cabinet of curiosities . . . English Garden Eccentrics is a compilation of enjoyably singular case studies but if there is an overarching theme it is that in gardens we find reflections of human yearning.”—Lucy Lethbridge, Financial Times
“The book is rich in unexpected insights into cultural history that give a broader context to its theme.”—Bruce Boucher, Art Newspaper
“[Todd Longstaffe-Gowan’s] new book divulges grottoes, toy hermits and a ‘parlour of Venus’ of questionable taste . . . As most of them are unfamiliar, his detailed presentations enlarge the range of conventional histories of English gardens.”—Robin Lane Fox, Financial Times
“English Garden Eccentrics profiles about two dozen mavericks who astonished visitors with sculptured terrain. . . . Hydraulics powered thunderous waterfalls, man-made mountaintops were covered with pulverized white stone to simulate snowfall, and grottoes teemed with ceramic gnomes or pet kangaroos.”—Eve M. Kahn, New York Times