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Gardening Women: Their Stories From 1600 to the Present Hardcover – 6 May 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (6 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844084639
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844084630
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 3.8 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 351,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

** 'An authoritative writer . . . it is about time that women gardeners received the generous tribute awarded to them by Horwood's splendid book . . . lively, superbly researched and highly enjoyable (LITERARY REVIEW)

** 'Women, like weeds, are everywhere in gardening history. In gathering their stories and describing their influences and achievements Horwood has done a terrific, pioneering job. Beautifully structured and cogently written, GARDENING WOMEN is as rich, f (THE TIMES)

** 'For anyone interested in the long and fascinating history of women and their gardens, Horwood's book, with its cast scope . . . and plethora of fascinating detail, is an admirable starting point (DAILY MAIL)

** 'An interesting, well-told story (FINANCIAL TIMES)

Book Description

* An inspirational social history of women's involvement with plants and gardening over the centuries

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This should more accurately be titled Women and gardens, I feel. A vast amount of research went into this book judging by the bibliography and notes at the end but, unfortunately, weren't really reflected in the book. The books started with women making simples and stocking the store cupboard and then moved on to how they used flowers and plants in embroidery and tapestries. The history of women illustrators of botanical books was dealt with a some length but actual women gardeners were not written about in depth. Present day gardeners and television presenters who are gardeners were lumped together in a very short space and while they have obviously been written about more elsewhere I felt I would like to have known more about them.

Altogether I was disappointed in this book and also feel that far more illustrations could have been used.
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Format: Hardcover
As a professional gardener, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the trials and triumphs of my predecessors. Horwood writes well, blending facts into an interesting narrative, but I felt the books structure let it down slightly. Instead of dealing with the subject chronologically, enabling us to fit writers, plant breeders, botanical illustrators and 'hands on' gardeners etc into one big picture, the author devotes separate chapters to each topic. This means we jump forwards and backwards through history, so that some women are mentioned several times in passing before we get to the chapter which actually deals with their achievements. I also found it frustrating that some very interesting but little-known gardeners were lumped together in a 'list', while so much attention was given to those who have had much written about them already.

I was also disappointed by Horwood's snobbish attitude to agriculture. On page 329, referring to those women who worked on farms during the war, she says 'this type of agricultural work was quite different from horticulture. It was dirty and exhausting, and could be done by 'townies' with the minimum of training.' Agriculture and horticulture both have tasks which may be done by the untrained; they also both have tasks which require great skill and understanding. I would like to see a 'townie' (or Horwood herself!) plough a field with 'the minimum of training'! Horwood is obviously annoyed by the lack of respect given to women gardeners through history, so it is sad to see her handing out the same patronising comments to female farmworkers.

In spite of these minor annoyances, this is a good book and well-worth reading. I would just like to see one that covers the topic in more depth...a 'double digging' job instead of a 'forking over' one!
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By Marand TOP 500 REVIEWER on 10 Nov. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I have to say that I was rather disappointed with this book. It is quite clear that a significant amount of research has been conducted (the bibliography runs to 19 pages and there are extensive notes), but ultimately all that research hasn't produced an enthralling read. I found the first half of the book very dull although the pace picked up later and I quite enjoyed the latter parts which included an interesting exposition of horticultural training for women. Certain elements of the book were unexpected in a tome stated to be about gardening. For example, I thought there was far too much space devoted to botanical painting, floristry & floral embroidery, none of which in my view are encompassed by the idea of gardening and this at the expense of information about gardeners, designers and plant collectors. For me it would have been better to incorporate information about painting, etc. into the narrative rather than have plant collecting, drawing, and so forth, in separate chapters.

I also felt the book was too superficial. There was too little depth. Often I found myself starting to get interested only to find that the subject petered out and was never returned to. At times it seemed to me to be almost a race to rattle off as many names as possible with little background information. In addition I thought there were far too few photographs or descriptions of the gardens mentioned, there was very little information about planting or design styles. For example, at the very beginning of the book there is a reference to the recent recreation of Eleanor of Aquitaine's garden at Winchester but there is neither a photograph nor drawing to provide elucidation.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a very readable book, full of interesting facts but not so many as to make it dull. I was however very disappointed to see how many mistakes there were in the four pages dealing with Ellen Willmott.
No, her god-mother did not make her the sole beneficiary of her vast fortune. Her sister Rose got an equal amount, and there were many other lesser beneficiaries. Ellen Willmott's share was considerable, but not vast.
No, Warley Place was not the one-time home of John Evelyn, although Ellen Willmott herself liked to say it was.
No, her parents did not both die in 1891. Her father died in 1892 and her mother in 1898.
No, her faithful butler was not the only one who stayed with her to the end. Her very talented alpine gardener Jacob Maurer was with her for forty years and stayed after her death supervising the transport of plants to Spetchley Park.
No, Warley Place was not a vast estate. It was only 33 acres when the family bought it and 75 when it was sold.
No, she did not have a vast collection of horticultural books. Her collection, mostly single books, was auctioned in 575 lots and less than half were horticultural. Most were musical or historical. Most were very rare and accordingly valuable though.
These errors, for me, cast doubt on the facts contained elsewhere in the book. However having said that, it still seems to me to be a book well worth reading.
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