An S.O.S. for plant-based garden history!
Please become a patron of this study and support the protection of our vulnerable iconic plant-based garden heritage.
Hi! Let me introduce myself and my work. My name is Gavin. I am currently studying for a PhD at the University of Bath.
I am passionate about plantsmen’s and plant-based gardens of the late 19th and 20th centuries. Primarily composed of flowers and ephemeral plant material rather than permanent structures, these gardens are incompatible with traditional conservation legislation. They are left entirely vulnerable to misunderstanding, neglect and consequent loss.
Through my work at Bath I will:
- Understand what it is that makes these gardens culturally significant.
- Establish how we might protect that significance
- Learn how we can conserve the heritage while allowing the gardens to remain creative spaces
Why should we care about these particular gardens?
In the late 19th century rich new sources of plant material from international plant-hunting and improved plant breeding made the plant-based garden a dynamic and expressively unique art form. The often personal relationship between the garden and its creator meant that these gardens contain exceptional social and biographical content; they have an ability to speak to the modern visitor about the life, times, and influences of their creators. These were men and women whose intellectual and creative force remains tangible today.
Whose gardens will I study?
William Morris' garden at Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire. For Morris the garden was a central element of his art, his philosophies, his work, life and lifestyle and yet we do not currently understand these gardens as Morris would have known them. With a broader understanding, his garden at Kelmscott could reveal to us a rich and experiential view of his life that up until now we have been unable to access in this way. As a forefather of the environmental movement Morris' garden has significant educational potential.
Vanessa Bell's garden at Charleston Farmhouse in Sussex. The Bloomsbury artist Vanessa Bell was passionate about her garden at Charleston Farmhouse, it was an endless source of inspiration for her art, it functioned as both studio and subject, and was treated as a work of art in itself. As a social and cultural backdrop to the Bloomsbury group it served as inspiration to figures such as Virginia Woolf, Duncan Grant, and Maynard Keynes.
Vita Sackville-West's garden at Sissinghurst in Kent. Sissinghurst is an internationally renowned garden. It was a laboratory of ideas for Vita Sackville-West; a plantswoman who revelled in the joy of flowers and flower combinations. The gardens have become a pilgrimage for garden-lovers around the world seeking Vita's romantic vision.
My research will uncover new aspects of the cultural value of these gardens, how they can give us insight into the life and work of the people who created them, and importantly, what they mean to the modern visitor and historic garden enthusiast. I seek to understand how we can preserve and enhance the powerful relationship between the gardens and the present-day visitors who enjoy them.
By supporting my research you will become patrons of garden history. You will directly help to broaden our understanding of these historic gardens and contribute to a better knowledge of how we can conserve them. Funds will allow me to travel to widely distributed archives around the UK to create a comprehensive study that can add meaningful value to our garden history knowledge and therefore by understanding better what makes these gardens historically important we can better strategise how to protect and enhance them.