Private & Public:
Finding the Modern British Garden

New exhibition coming soon!

Our next exhibition, Private & Public: Finding the Modern British Garden, will bring together over thirty works by Modern British artists who found inspiration in green spaces at a time when many artists were retreating to planting and painting in their gardens.

Celebrating the art of both private sanctuaries and public green spaces of London, the exhibition will explore intimate depictions of gardens, greenhouses, parks and city squares by artists of the interwar era including Charles Mahoney, Evelyn Dunbar, Eric Ravilious and Ithell Colquhoun.

This exhibition is presented in partnership with Liss Llewellyn, and the works will be available for purchase, in aid of the Museum’s educational and community programmes.

22 March – 4 June
Friends go free

Find out more and book

Alice Vincent: Why Women Grow

Book Extract

We are delighted to be hosting the official launch of garden writer Alice Vincent’s new book ‘Why Women Grow’, a major narrative exploration of the relationship between women and the soil. Tickets to attend in-person are almost sold out, but livestream tickets are still available. Ahead of the event on Tues 28 February, this week we are sharing an exclusive extract from the book:

“In the middle of this stuck year [2020], I opened a green notebook and wrote down a list of names. I listed the women I wanted to speak to – strangers, most of them – about their gardens and about their lives; women whose work had interested me. Because women have always gardened, but our stories have been buried with our work. For centuries we have learned the soil’s secrets. We have ushered herbs from the ground and dried them for healing; we have braided seeds into our hair to preserve legacies even when the future looks bloody and uncertain; we have silently made the world more beautiful, too often without acknowledgement. I wanted to try and change that. I wanted to see the gardens that women made. I wanted to know what had encouraged them to go out, work the soil, plant seeds and nurture them, even when so many other responsibilities sat upon their shoulders. I wanted to know how their lives had taken them to this place, and what it brought them now they were here…”

Keep reading

Job Opportunity: Family Learning Officer

Our Learning Team is recruiting for a part-time Family Learning Officer, a new role made possible thanks to our new Arts Council funding as a National Portfolio Organisation. The successful candidate will become the fourth member of our Learning team, in a role created to develop our learning programme for both local families and those from further afield. Our aim is to engage and inspire children and adults of different ages and backgrounds to enjoy, participate and experience the Garden Museum through hands-on and sensory activities, stories, play and digital, all with a common theme linked to gardening and the natural world.

Apply by Monday 13 March

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Plant of the Week: Fatsia polycarpa

By Matt Collins, Head Gardener

Three endearing qualities set Fatsia polycarpa aside from its near ubiquitous cousin, F. japonica. Four, in fact, if you include a slightly more robust hardiness. Unlike japonica, whose coastal origin bestowed its leaves with a waxy, leather-like texture, polycarpa’s foliage is by contrast relatively sheen-free; the mat option, in place of gloss. It is also enormously variable, the highly decorative palmate lobes by turns elongated, narrow and curvaceous.

The plant is remarkably shade-tolerant, too: it is a natural born woodlander, at home in the dim of the understory. For us this comes in handy, considering our gardens for the most part lie in the shadow of tall buildings and towering London plane trees. Growing at the foot of a large mulberry tree, our polycarpa is positioned in perhaps the most shady (and dry!) spot of all, and yet it thrives. In fact, in late spring each year I saw off a good 2-3 weighty stems, just to reduce the congestion that results from the plant’s immense vigour.

Fatsia polycarpa came to us from Crûg Farm nursery in North Wales, home to Sue and Bleddyn Wynn-Jones — beef farmers turned globetrotting, modern-day plant collectors — and many other weird and wonderful plants. Landscape designer Dan Pearson had approached Crûg Farm while seeking interesting additions to his design for the Museum courtyard (a ‘garden of treasures’, in the spirit of the Tradescants entombed within the courtyard itself). Among the offerings came this beautiful, multi-stemmed evergreen shrub grown from seed gathered by the Wynn-Joneses in mountainous Taiwan; one of numerous trips they have made to the island as licensed plant collectors. Sue told me they now have a sizable polycarpa colony in the garden at Crûg Farm, growing under oak trees, and that these differ from the mass produced form in the distinct curvaceousness of their leaves.

For the sense of calm this evergreen instills when sat beneath it on the courtyard bench, Fatsia polycarpa could be ‘plant of the week’ year round. It is at this moment in late winter, however, that the magnificent inflorescences appear: tall spikes of clustered white flowers held bright and glowing just above the dark foliage.

For enthusiasts so inclined, the Crûg Farm website is an enchanted forest of spectacular foliage; the nursery itself is, I’m told, pure joy for the horticulturally inquisitive. I’m still eagerly awaiting my first visit.

About our gardens

Object of the Week:
Sash for the Order of the Free Gardeners (c.1850-1900)

The first societies to protect the secret knowledge of gardeners, and individual welfare, were founded in the 17th century. By the 19th century the Order had incorporated many of the rituals of Freemasonry but continued to be independent.

The blue silk moire ceremonial sash of the Ancient Order of Free Gardeners is edged in red and trimmed with gold filigree wire tassels and braid. The sash is embellished at the wearer’s shoulder with a gold and dark blue star, with a set square, compass and gardening knife design at its centre. Also attached to the sash is a black and white lithographed silk panel depicting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden which is considered to be a central symbol of their Order.

The letters A, N and S are the initials of Adam, Noah, Solomon who were considered to be founding ‘Gardeners’. O probably represents the symbol of the olive tree. The panel contains many other symbols of the Order, including the set square, compass and grafting or pruning knife at the base of the left-hand column and the bee hive at the base of the right. The Order shares many symbols in common with the Order of Freemasonry, though it is older. The panel was made in Glasgow by Charles Lang who was also a supplier of Masonic regalia. It is thought to date from the end of the 19th century.

Explore our collection online

Three weeks left!
Lucian Freud: Plant Portraits

Only three weeks remain to see Lucian Freud: Plant Portraits, the first exhibition to explore Freud’s frequent yet lesser-known paintings of plants.

Freud was not a gardener but had a close and respectful relationship with plants, from rarely-seen drawings from his childhood in Berlin to his garden in Notting Hill, and the straggly potted plants that followed him from home to home throughout his life. This exhibition explores why and when he chose to paint plants, and not people; yet how he granted them the same gritty realness as his human subjects.

Open until 5 March
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Images: Evelyn Dunbar (1906-1960), Conservatory at the Cedars, image courtesy of Liss Llewellyn; Alice Vincent (c) Giles Smith; Children’s gardening workshop at the Garden Museum photo by Graham Lacdao; Fatsia polycarpa (c) Matt Collins; Museum visitors in Lucian Freud: Plant Portraits photo by Graham Lacdao
Garden Museum
5 Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7LB
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Garden Museum · Lambeth Palace Road · London, London SE1 7LB · United Kingdom