International Women’s Day

“Garden Design…takes many years of serious study”

As it is International Women’s Day today, I thought I would spend the week celebrating the early Women gardeners whose work we know of. Of course, women have been gardening as long as there have been gardens, but their contributions have not usually been recognised, and it isn’t until the late 19th Century that women started to publish work under their own names.

One of these earl pioneers was Frances Garnet Wolseley, Founded the Glynde College for Lady Gardeners. It offered 2 year courses, and the graduates were soon sought after for employment. I feel a faint connection to this inspiring lady, as my married name is Wolseley-Charles, and it’s not a common surname. She wrote several books, some of which are still in print to this day.

PIC: Alicia Amherst (30 July 1865 – 14 September 1941) – Picture taken from the cover of The Well-Connected Gardener by Sue Minter

“Perhaps the chiefest attraction of a garden is that occupation can always be found there”

Alicia Amherst was one of the earliest credited women horticulturists and botanists. She was the author of the seminal account of English gardening history – The History of Gardening in England (1895) It was a huge hit, and has been reprinted multiple times, and you can buy a copy today if you like.

PIC: Jane Loudon (19 August 1807 – 13 July 1858) – Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“The first point…is to provide a suitable spade”

Jane Loudon, despite living more than a hundred years before me, manages to combine two of my great loves – gardening and science fiction. She was an author before she was a gardening writer, a career which was prompted by the necessity of making a living for herself – and very good at it she was too.

PIC: Elizabeth von Arnim (31 August 1866 – 9 February 1941) (Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Elizabeth von Arnim

“If only I could dig and plant myself!”

Elizabeth von Arnim expresses the frustration of a wealthy lady unable to take part in activities which she wanted to, in case her ‘reputation’ should be ruined. Thank goodness that due to the efforts of the women who came before us, that we have more freedom now.

PIC: Theresa Earle (Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

“On first going into a garden one knows by instinct…if it is going to be interesting or not”

Theresa Earle, according to Wikipedia, refused to serve at Queen Victoria’s court and was thereafter known by her family as ‘Radical Theresa’. Honestly, that’s an inspiration just by itself, but this amazing lady also wrote some stunningly successful gardening books, including one on vegetable growing for vegetarians. She herself was a vegetarian, which at the time was also somewhat radical. I wish I could have met her!

All of these amazing and inspiring women feature in a treasured book of mine ‘The Virago Book of Women Gardeners’, By Deborah Kellaway. If you have been intrigued by this very short introduction to early women gardeners and writers, I recommend reading it – it’s fascinating.

Thanks for reading,

Kate

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