History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

29 March 2007

Naked Gardens?

Don't forget that Sally MacKenzie is giving away a signed copy of her newest book, The Naked Earl, and the Hoydens are giving away a full set of the Naked Books (Duke, Marquis and Earl!).

True confession time--I’m not much into research. I don’t hate it, it’s just that I often end up falling in and drowning when I’d only meant to stick my toe in. And nine times out of ten, I end up deciding I really didn’t need that nugget of information I was searching for.

In The Naked Earl I got tangled up in gardens. Since the only thing I know for certain about plants is they make me sneeze, I had a definite learning curve. It turns out horticulture was quite a hot topic in the 18th and 19th centuries for at least two reasons: theories of garden design were changing and the variety of available plants was expanding.

The bulk of The Naked Earl is set at Baron Tynweith’s estate. Lord Tynweith prefers the older, formal style of gardening that was already falling out of favor in the early 1700s--orderly, geometric designs with parterres and topiary. I chuckled at this line from Alexander Pope’s satirical “Catalogue of Greens to be disposed of by an eminent Town Gardener” which one of my books said appeared in the Guardian in 1713: “a Quick-set Hog shot up into a Porcupine, by its being forgot one Week in rainy weather...” Maybe that’s what inspired me to give Tynweith a twisted sense of humor--he has a separate topiary garden where the shrubbery is trimmed to depict some inventive shapes not suitable for viewing by the ladies of the party.

Lancelot “Capability” Brown (1716-83), among others, swept away many formal gardens when he redesigned properties in a more natural style--though his form of “natural” often had him totally redoing the estate, digging lakes where there weren’t any and planting hundreds of trees. Uvedale Price (1747-1829) and Richard Payne Knight (1750-1824) found Brown’s efforts boring--they favored the more irregular Picturesque style of landscape gardening. Humphry Repton (1752-1812), possibly the most prominent garden designer of the Regency, brought pieces of these various design philosophies together. Repton was an accomplished salesman. He produced “Red Books” which allowed clients to see what their property would look like before and after his proposed work. Some “Red Books” survive today.

Once a landowner decided on a design, he now had a much wider variety of plants to incorporate into his garden. Travelers--missionaries, soldiers, even professional plant hunters (!)--collected specimens from all over the world and sent them back home. The number of nursery gardens--and nursery catalogues--greatly increased. The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804, and the collection of exotic plant species at Kew grew rapidly during this time.

Here are a few of the books I poked through to educate myself, however slightly, on botanical issues: Plants in Garden History by Penelope Hobhouse (ISBN 1-86205-660-9); Seeds of Fortune A Gardening Dynasty by Sue Shephard (ISBN 0-7475-6066-8)--an account of the horticulturally significant Veitch family; and Regency Design by John Morley (ISBN 0-8109-3768-9). (I love the picture on the cover of Regency Design. According to the jacket, it’s called “The Artist and His Family” by Adam Buck (1813). Check it out on Amazon. What do you think that child is doing with the cat? Don’t you think all hell is about to break loose?)


Blogger CrystalGB said...

Very interesting information about the history of gardening. I love gardening and it is enlightening to see how it was done in the past.

5:21 AM  
Blogger Katherine Bone said...

The Peerage took pride in their gardens, didn't they? That brings to mind Lady Katherine De'Burg's comments in the new P&P about Mrs. Bennet's gardens being quite lacking. Traditional ideas were the norm and new ideas were looked upon with disdain. What is an up an coming landscape designer to do?

I've not read any of the Naked books yet but they sound like they are full of wit and spark. What has been your greatest inspiration for these books?


6:57 AM  
Blogger Laura Drewry said...

Hi, all. I'm here in NYC, stealing time on my friend Laura Drewry's computer. (Laura writes Western historicals--her most recent is Charming Jo.)

Kathy, probably my greatest inspiration is really Georgette Heyer. I read her books as a kid and loved her wit. So, I try to put some of what I think of as her banter in my stories--though she always kept the bedroom door firmly shut and I, um, don't.

Off to meet my agent!

11:26 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Good Lord, I think I'm the only romance writer in the world who never read Georgette Heyer. I'd better hit the library.

And Sally, I'm right there with you on research. Some of it is a necessary evil for me, and the rest is a big, delicious pit waiting to pull me into something that's not even in my time period! Noooo!

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome info!!

I've got a hero hanging out as a gardener, not that he knows a rose from a reticule.

I'll have to check out those references. And obviously read your books!

7:06 PM  
Blogger Sally MacKenzie said...

Okay, I hope you all figured out that Laura Drewry comment was me! Let's see if this one shows up under the right name. Blogger is stronger than I am!

And Victoria, definitely check out Georgette. My mind is more fried than normal--being away at this conference--but I'm sure someone here can give you some favorite Heyer titles. I would not start with A Civil Contract, though.

Off to bed so I can wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed for tomorrow's presentations!

7:24 PM  
Blogger Margaret Porter said...

My experience as a rosarian and a garden historian was background for one of my own garden-y novels. I look forward to reading yours!

I've got a facsimile of a Repton Red Book for a country house I've visited, and I saw several of his original ones at a London exhibition last spring. His vistas grew to be quite grand and splendid.

But I confess my preference for the ornamental style and spectacle of the wonderfully restored gardens at Hampton Court!

10:34 AM  
Blogger Keira Soleore said...

I sighed as the site came up and I saw the first picture. I sighed louder a second time when I saw all that beautiful old stone and the violet creeper trained over the gate.

I like riotous English cottage gardens, but the sigh-worthy ones are always the formal French ones.

I have a confession to make, too. I have a black thumb. I can kill cacti, too.

BTW, this is the first time I've come across the name "Uvedale" as in Uvedale Price (1747-1829). Hm. I've got to include this in my WIP somehow. Uvedale.

Sally commented in her interview thread to Keira, "After the Baron comes The Naked Viscount. And then I have to think. I do believe having a Naked Baron and a Naked Baronet would just be TOO confusing, don't you agree??

How about a Naked Laird, set in Regency London but with a trail back to Scottish Highlands? :)

Oh, Victoria! Get thee to a library. How about starting off with Devil's Cub or Venetia by La Heyer?

12:20 PM  

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