Mary Keen is an internationally known designer who has worked in the USA, France and Corfu, as well as on many English gardens of great distinction – among them the garden she describes in this book. For twenty years she was a member of the National Trust Gardens Panel, which advises on the care of important and historic gardens. She has monthly columns in the Daily Telegraph and Garden magazine and is a regular contributor to Gardens Illustrated and the Spectator. She is also a hands-on gardener, and her own garden is regularly open to the public. The author of five books, she writes from the heart rather than to order, and this is her first book after a gap of twenty years.
Mary’s recent release, “Paradise & Plenty“, opens a window on the Rothschild family’s garden, Eythrope in Buckinghamshire which has been kept intensely private – until now. This behind-the-scenes look at the Eythrope gardens is not only beautiful but practical as it shows techniques of dedicated cultivation that can be applied to your home garden. Read on for more information about this book and find out how to WIN ONE OF THREE COPIES from Pimpernel Press!
What inspired you to write a book on the Eythrope gardens?
It was something I felt was worth recording and Lord Rothschild was also anxious to publish a book that was not a vanity project
It has been said that the techniques used at Eythrope are old and tried using gardening methods that were developed over many preceding centuries. Why has Ethrope maintained these traditions and why is it important that we continue to maintain these traditions in lieu of more modern gardening techniques?
Techniques have been maintained out of respect to the very high standards set by Miss Alice, the unmarried sister of baron Ferdinand Rothschild, who built Waddesdon manor . After he died, his sister took on the management of the manor, but her own house where she gardened was the pavilion at Eythrope , a miniature version of Waddesdon . The techniques have been handed down through generations of head gardeners, but the present regime has not been afraid to try new methods as well as old.
I have read that you consider atmosphere to be a garden’s most important thing. How would you describe the atmosphere at the Eythrope gardens?
The atmosphere of high horticultural perfection has its own charm, the place feels dedicated to growing plants in the best possible way. If you are untidy as I am, a very ordered place makes for sighs of envy as well as admiration.
It is important to note that this book, while very picturesque, is not solely intended to be a “coffee table” book but also a horticultural how-to. How will this book help us to become better gardeners and grow ordinary things extraordinary well?
If nothing else, it teaches us to grow thing with meticulous care. Crop failures are rare at Eythrope, but there are so many small tips for home gardeners, that I could not begin to list them here.
You have been involved with Eythrope for a quarter of a century. Does the garden continue to teach you new things after all this time and, if so, what are some of the most surprising things you have learned from it?
I always learn something new from a visit there . Only last week I learned that the chlorine in tap water keeps seedlings from damping off . While I was writing the book, I enjoyed learning about prolonging the life of cut flowers, especially sweet peas and how to grow hyacinths in pots faultlessly.
What advice do you have to offer for those wishing to emulate the quality, standards and horticultural techniques that Eythrope is renowned for?
Most of us do not have time to take the infinite pains described in the book, but if you only take home a few of the tips in the book, your garden will be better. I know mine has improved a lot since I spent so much time at Eythrope.
To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, August 14, 2016 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:
If you could visit any garden in the world, which would it be?
Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)
UPDATE 8/22/16: Congratulations to Rae Eippert, Deborah Rosen and Lynne Giamartino!