Showing posts with label Geoff Hamilton gardening books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Geoff Hamilton gardening books. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

A Review Of Geoff Hamiltons Cottage Gardens Book

 



Here is my review of Geoff Hamilton's book "Cottage Gardens".  Geoff Hamilton was my inspiration and education where gardening was concerned and I have learned an incredible amount from his books, TV series and his gardens.

In this book at approximately 250 pages of text and photographs, he specifically concentrates on Cottage gardens. This happens to be my most loved style of gardening so I was always going to buy and treasure this book. 

In fact, I am rapidly buying up every Geoff Hamilton book I can as I am concerned his books will start to get more difficult to find. He sadly died 4th August 1996 at the age of 59 and of course now there are many other good gardeners on the scene and many other books.

However, for me, Geoff's enthusiasm, knowledge and style of gardening will never go out of fashion. I feel in tune with his methods. His writing seems to speak directly to me as if he were teaching me and I need his ongoing guidance to improve my own gardening. 

 I have written about my admiration and joy when visiting Geoff Hamiltons Barnsdale Gardens near Oakham in UK in A Personal Review Of The Inspirational Gardener Geoff Hamilton

If you are looking for a down to earth, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and practical gardening guide to "Cottage Gardens" please take a look at this book. 

The photos included here are all of my own photographs taken either at Barnsdale Gardens or in my own garden at home. 



Section One History Of The Cottage Garden 

 Section one covers a fascinating history of the cottage garden and the people who tended them. 

Cottage gardens have been in existence in some form since the Middle Ages in UK and the premise for all cottage gardens is that they are there to be used. These gardens were used primarily for food, herbs and some medicinal purposes, plus some flowers to lift the spirits. 

Geoff takes us through the Cottage garden in the UK and how it its use changes and evolves through the Middle Ages ( 500- 1400) to the enlightened era of the  Elizabethan age (1533- 1603) onto the Victorians and beyond and into the twentieth century. 

It includes discussions of gardens and the role of people who were the labouring classes, the craftspeople and the wealthier people.

It discusses the role of medieval medicine and primitive gardening techniques and how over time improvement in living conditions meant more vegetables and fruits were consumed and how gardening developed. 




He highlights certain influential gardeners over time such as Capability Brown, Humprey Repton and William Robinson. 

 The role of topiary and model villages is discussed along with the effect of social divisions, revolts, reforms and philanthropic movements. He covers the role of Allotments and the evolution of the Cottage Garden into the more modern age. 




Section Two Creating A Cottage Garden 

Section two instructs us on how to create a Cottage Garden and covers two different styles. 

The first is very much a working garden to feed us and be as productive as possible. 

This is the affordable Artisans garden, which is built specifically with low cost and reclaimed or second hand materials in mind. More is handmade and plants grown and raised from young.

This style of garden is much more like the original cottage gardens built and tended by working people, would have looked.  

Entrance to Artisan Cottage Garden Barnsdale. Photo by Raintree Annie


The second garden is more stylized, an idea rather than the reality of the rustic garden, with far more comforts and romance. 

Vegetables would be grown, but were not essential to the gardener for food for the family. 

This is the more expensive Gentleman's garden, where cost is not really an issue. It is altogether more elaborate and uses more costly materials. 

Gentlemans Cottage Garden Barnsdale UK. Photo by Raintree Annie 

I had the pleasure of seeing both these gardens in Barnsdale gardens designed and built by Geoff Hamilton, they have stood the test of time and look fantastic. 

Interesting Geoff said that he enjoyed making the more affordable Artisan garden more than the more expensive Gentleman's garden. When you understand more of the man and gardener he was this is not surprising. 

He believed there is creative pleasure in making items, raising plants, developing a personal garden and saving money.

He understood that people can and do buy some ready-made items and grown plants for the garden, but his hope was that gardeners would take ideas from both types of gardens and using our creativity, make them our own. 

So we learn about building these two gardens from principles to the layout. Which important aspects to include, how to consider designing it, what sort of boundaries to consider and what materials to use.

He includes information on arbours and benches, herb tables and love seats, paving, compost bins, containers and cold frames. He details what to consider, how to build and design and gives a very comprehensive overview of both gardens. The photographs and pictures are lovely and bring it all to life.   


Artisan Cottage Garden Barnsdale. Photo By Raintree Annie

Plants In The Cottage Garden

Then the book goes into more detail about the plants to use at the back, middle and front of the border to provide those layers of use and interest in the garden. 

This section includes propagation techniques so we can make more plants for free! This is always a very useful and easy skill to learn for anyone who has a large garden to a window box. 

Geoff's love of plants and trees comes through and he details how to choose and look after trees, climbers, ramblers, border plants, shrubs, herbaceous plants, bulbs, annuals, biannuals and topiary. It details a wealth of plants that we can include according to our situation and needs.


Section Three A Cottage Economy

Section Three covers "A Cottage Economy" and teaches us how to grow and tend a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, tree fruit and soft fruit.

He includes cultivation methods and how to grow vegetables in borders. It is a very useful, practical and interesting guide to growing and tending these plants.

The way Geoff Hamilton approaches the information, it all seems totally achievable and straightforward to learn. 


Cottage Garden Plants Through History. 

Finally the book discusses Cottage Garden Plants Through History where he gives a snapshot of plants that would have been grown through the ages. Although a short section this is quite fascinating to learn what was grown in different eras in history. 


I bought this book in the UK as a hardback copy but it is available via Amazon in hardback and paperback and I imagine it is the same book. 

If you have the smallest interest in gardening or even garden history in terms of cottage gardens and the way people lived with them and how they evolved, this book is very interesting and a worthwhile read.

If you love gardening and want to learn more from a true master I do not hesitate to recommend it.   


Geoff Hamilton died many years ago now but even today, or perhaps more so today, many people grow vegetables and fruit in gardens or allotments to supplement the weekly shop.

With shortages and prices of vegetables, salad and herbs rocketing in the shops, growing food ourselves can make it more accessible and affordable to us. 

I wonder if gardening may again become something we need to know how to do and an essential life skill to pass on to the next generation as it used to be. So maybe the story or history of the Cottage Garden is not yet over. 


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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

A Personal Review Of The Inspirational Gardener Geoff Hamilton



This article is a personal review of the late great Geoff Hamilton and how he inspired my lifelong love of gardening.

I grew up watching the TV programme Gardeners World. My parents always watched it and so as a young child when I was around and not playing outside, I watched it too. 

I remember watching Gardeners World on TV before Geoff Hamilton presented it but it was Geoff Hamilton when I was a little older who completely captured my gardening heart and imagination and inspired me to love plants and try to be a gardener. 




As a child my parents always gave me a small plot of land to grow easy plants and quick growing vegetables and I think that was a great thing to do and gave me as a young child the joy of gardening with quick results!

As I grew older I wanted to know more and pre-internet my main sources to learn about gardening were books and gardening programmes on TV. 

Geoff Hamilton seemed so approachable, and accessible and appeared to be talking to me directly. He had a natural easy way about him and clearly a passion for gardening and plants in all his TV appearances and books. He was that rare combination of a talented presenter and expert gardener who could teach in an accessible and relaxed manner. 



In fact, unlike some presenters of TV shows, I don't think he saw it as about him at all but rather about teaching us how to look after plants and flowers, vegetables and trees, how to design and make, build and tend and I loved him for it. I could really relate to his honest, rational and logical approach to gardening.

I also really related to his ideals around organic gardening and his approach to gardening in a wildlife-friendly manner. Both these ideals were quite new and radical at the time when he started his TV shows and wrote his books and they completely resounded with me.  




Without a doubt, Geoff Hamilton was a person I would really have loved to have met in person and is one of my regrets in life that I did not. However, He does live on in Barnsdale gardens, now run by his son Nick Hamilton. You can feel Geoff's presence there and his books are wonderful to read and learn from.

For many years as a young adult gardening had to take a back seat to my life. I was at University and then working in a city, renting different places and I had no garden. I had to make do with a window box or a few pots, or the windowsill. 

Of course, I always wanted my own garden and would help my parents with theirs whenever I went back home, but I wanted my own. It was not until we got married and then bought our own home that I got to flex my own gardening muscles both figuratively and practically! 

So then I returned to Geoff Hamilton and read and re-read his books and watched his videos to learn and understand all I could, He truly was my gardening inspiration and teacher. 



When he left Gardeners World with health issues I was very sad and then his subsequent death really affected me. I do now like to watch Monty Don, Alan Titchmarch and others who I still learn a lot from, but I have to say it was Geoff Hamilton who was my original inspiration, who along with my parents made me into a person who has a deep love of plants, wildlife, nature and gardens. 

I was so lucky a couple of years ago to visit Geoff Hamiltons gardens where he filmed all of Gardeners World and other programmes at Barnsdale in Rutland in UK. 



I was beyond excited to visit this wonderful place I had watched for years on TV!! I was not disappointed, quite the opposite. I have to admit for me this was an emotional visit and I experienced a full range of emotions from joy to sadness, awe and amazement, tears and laughter.

The first thing to greet you when you enter the garden is Geoff Hamilton's gardening jeans!! I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this place of my gardening hero. 




My husband and I spent two whole days walking around, taking notes and photographs. we absolutely loved it. We originally intended a day visit only but we just had to go back again within the same weeks holiday. 

I recall watching how Geoff built each garden and how gardens evolve over time. I loved that he often gave different options for a garden a more expensive one and a less expensive version to achieve a similar effect. In this way he made gardening financially accessible for most people whatever the budget and size of the garden. 

He also showed us how to make and build much of the hard landscaping, fencing, ponds and brickwork and for me always seemed to explain it in a manner I felt "I could give that a go".

Even within the same week there were new things to see and things we did not notice the first time around. I wish I had visited years ago and I hope I make it back again.




The whole site is divided up into smaller gardens you can walk around and into each beautiful individual garden. There are many gardens to explore including ones Geoff built from scratch and filmed from the beginning. 

Some of the gardens include the Ornamental kitchen garden, The Gentlemans cottage garden, Artisan cottage garden, Wildflower border, A Rock Feature, Bog garden, Courtyard gardens, a Children's garden, a Japanese garden and Herb garden plus many more. Many of these were designed and built by Geoff. 




In this way with individual gardens of a manageable size, it is quite easy to walk around and appreciate each garden on its own and it does not become overwhelming. There is a welcoming, friendly atmosphere. You feel that you could take planting ideas,  features or make similar designs in your own garden. 

We went in late May and I do think it would be worth visiting these gardens at least 4 times a year in each season to fully appreciate all the planting and care taken throughout the seasons.  

           

Our own garden is quite established and it would be a mammoth task to change it now. However, we have decided when we move house that we will base our new design on one of Geoff's gardens.

We will of course adapt the design to the space we have and add our own particular nuances and special or favourite plants and we so look forward to building and growing it. 




 Geoff Hamilton has written a number of wonderful books and I think I have most of them. I will write reviews on them in time to come but wanted to list just a couple of them here so you can start to discover the down to earth brilliance of this most humble, gentle and wonderful gardener. 


 


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