The Golden Age of the Garden by Claire Cock-Starkey – book review


The relationship between England and its gardens might be described as a love affair; gardening is one of our national passions, rooted in history. The eighteenth century is often called the Golden Age of English gardening; as the fashion for formal pleasure grounds for the wealthy faded, a new era began, filled with picturesque vistas inspired by nature.

Charting the transformation in our landscapes through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, The Golden Age of the Garden brings the voices of the past alive in newspaper reports, letters, diaries, books, essays and travelogues, offering contemporary gardening advice, principles of design, reflections on nature, landscape and plants, and a unique perspective on the origins of our fascination with gardens.

Exploring the different styles, techniques and innovations, and the creation of many of the stunning spaces that visitors still flock to see today, this is an evocative and rewarding collection for all gardeners and garden-lovers seeking insight, ideas and surprises.

Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 4th 2017 by Elliott & Thompson
Amazon UK £12.99 hardback


As a keen amateur gardener, I am always interested to learn more of the history of how gardening has evolved in England over the past couple of centuries, and this collection of thoughts, essays, poems, art, letters and diary entries really captures the essence of what makes gardening a way of life for those that fall under its’ spell!

I loved reading the thoughts of various historical figures and what gardening meant to them, and what they thought of various gardens they visited! From Catherine the Great, Daniel Defoe, Horace Wallpole to Thomas Jefferson and John Adams it is a fascinating insight into the grandeur of certain gardens throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

I found the collection of viewpoints were cleverly chosen and well put together as well to share the other side of gardening from jobs to do throughout the year in 1751 – very similar to how we still garden now! – and lists of flowers that bloom for each month, to how design was used in all gardens from small to large over the years.

It also features many great names from the world of gardening such as Capability Brown, Humphrey Repton and William Gilpin and I loved reading that not every gardener was a big fan of Brown at the time!

Another big revelation for me was that certain thoughts about gardening are still so relevant today such as how good it is for the health of a person – both body and mind – but thankfully some thought processes of how women and their involvement in gardening is not advised as they are unsure of how to design a garden are a thing of the past!  It also made me laugh to read that slugs and snails were also a beast to deal with in the garden back in 1795!! There just is no stopping them!

I found this to be a really insightful look at so much to do with the world of horticulture and how the designs of gardens have evolved over time but the basics are still as timely now as they were back then!  A real treat of a read for all those with green fingers!