Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hopes, dreams and disappointments

Goodbye knot garden :(
In the last exciting episode of The Dirt Diaries, I was preparing to leave for Jolly Old England. In addition to visiting with family and friends, I was going to explore the £7.5 million renovation to the Garden Museum in London, and check out the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The show is now billed as the world’s largest so it was only natural my hopes were sky high.

Unfortunately the visit to “Jolly Old” was a bit less than jolly. Not long after arriving Chris came down with a bug (chest congestion, coughing and generally feeling crummy.) A few days later I was under the weather as well.

Still, I thought what better way to cheer us up than a trip to the Garden Museum we’d so enjoyed before it closed for renovations in 2015! One of my favorite things about the museum was the gorgeous knot garden next to the Tradescant tomb.  As we arrived, we discovered that garden was gone.

The Garden Museum originally opened in 1977 after the founder, Rosemary Nicholson, discovered the tomb of the Tradescants (engraved with skulls and crocodiles) in the graveyard of the ancient church of St. Mary’s. Some of the 20,000 bodies buried on the site date back to before the Norman Conquest. 

 
  The knot garden was planted in honor of the intrepid plant hunter John Tradescant and his son. Both men traveled the globe to find new plants (and parts of exotic animals) to bring back to England. John the elder was also gardener to Charles I.

The garden we saw was planted with species either introduced by the Tradescants, or grown in their Lambeth garden, which has long since disappeared. Most plants in the modern garden were labeled with their country of origin and year they were introduced to the UK.

The new Courtyard (Courtesy the Garden Museum)

The renovated Garden Museum features new flooring and lighting (Courtesy the Garden Museum)

Despite the demise of the old garden, the shiny new Garden Museum offers more space for exhibits that will delight all who share a love of gardening.  There are seven exhibition galleries and over a thousand objects on display reflecting all aspects of gardening from 1600 to today. I especially enjoyed the scrapbook of a lady who as a teenager had collected wildflowers growing in the rubble of the Blitz.



The London Evening Standard liked what they saw:  “There are touching mementoes and curiosities here. Some are impressive artifacts: a wonderful 17th-century terracotta watering can, for example, or a glass “cucumber straightener” invented by George Stephenson. Others earn their place through significant associations with great gardeners: William Robinson’s cloak, Gertrude Jekyll’s desk. 

A special display has been added: a gallery designed by Alec Cobbe known as The Ark, which displays 20 precious Tradescant items on loan from the Ashmolean in Oxford, a cabinet of curiosities conceived in homage to Tradescants’ own museum, one of the wonders of 17th-century London.”

A heritage fruit possibly grown by the Tradescants
One of the exhibitions that particularly interested me was Tradescant’s Orchard: A Celebration of Botanical Art. Fifty modern botanical artists painted heritage fruits that are displayed alongside ‘The Tradescants’ Orchard’, a 17th century volume of 66 watercolors depicting fruit varieties that John Tradescant and his son might have grown in their market garden at Lambeth.

That exhibition made me rethink the idea of taking a course in botanical art I’d once considered.

Take a seat inside the shed and watch short films about folks and their gardens (Courtesy the Garden Museum)

The museum also features new learning spaces, a gift shop and a large café that was doing a brisk business. In addition, the 14th century medieval tower will be open to the public for the first time. The observation platform offers a splendid view of the Thames and London skyline.

I understand new plantings related to Tradescant discoveries are slated for the courtyard. To be fair, the museum just reopened in late May and I’m sure the result will be impressive. If I hadn’t felt so lousy and I hadn’t seen the original garden, I probably would have been delighted.

I may have been a bit disappointed this trip, but if you are a mad keen gardener, you must go.

Next stop: The Hampton Court Palace Garden Show
















































1 comments :

Sunil Patel said...

Hello Lynn, sorry you and Chris weren't in the best of health for this trip. It looks like they're still finishing the Garden Museum (what with the scaffolding). The inside looks a curious mix of very old with ultra modern. I'll have to make a note and look it up when we go to London.

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