Documents: Special Interest: Gardening In England:

Victorian writer who helped make gardening accessible

to women is inspiration behind garden at world’s largest annual flower show
by RHS
July 1, 2015

Jane Loudon, the first female horticultural author, is celebrated at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2015 (30 June – 5 July)

Inspired by the work of author Jane Loudon, garden designers Alexandra Stevenson and Jean Wardrop have created ‘A Growing Obsession’ for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (30 June – 5 July).

During the 1800’s, a passion for gardening in Britain was born. Jane Loudon (1807 – 1858) was the first female botanical author in the Victorian era. She identified a need for ‘entry-level’ gardening manuals and wrote them as she learnt, making gardening accessible for women by avoiding technical terms aimed at professional gardeners and communicating her own enthusiasm in a practical and useful way.

Alexandra and Jean said: “Traditionally, a woman’s place in the garden was to sit in the shade looking pretty, as her husband did the digging, or to pick and arrange flowers. Loudon felt strongly that women should garden properly, understand the mechanics of gardening and garden design. She was the first to produce what were essentially gardening manuals aimed at women written in language devoid of technical terms that introduced the joys of horticulture to women.”

Loudon's influence is difficult to exaggerate; her beautifully illustrated books and conversational writing style on gardening and plant identification sold in their thousands. Jane Loudon was working on her first gardening book ‘Instructions in Gardening for Ladies’ awhich sold more than 1350 in the first day, published the same year that Perennial, the horticultural charity, was established in 1839.

Alexandra added: “As we have progressed through the design and development of the garden and now the build, it has acquired greater importance and meaning to us. We feel that we have become closer to Jane through reading her books and appreciating more of the trials she overcame through her life.”

The garden portrays a Victorian style, matching with the influence of Jane Loudon herself. Flowerbeds are exhibited in floral scroll bedding patterns alongside paths for strolling down. Cooling ferneries are set into rockeries - a fashionable garden accessory of the time - and the glasshouse hosts exotics that resonate the golden age of plant hunting. To continue on the theme of women in gardening, the colour scheme is refined and feminine with pinks, purples and whites.

“Our second key influence was the inventive Victorian period. Such inventions which made it possible for the middle class to enjoy gardening. Our feeling was that this period in history, when the 'democratisation of gardening' occurred, was an ideal subject for the 25th anniversary of the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show”, added the designers.

To buy tickets for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2015, visit:

About the RHS

The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood to inspire passion and excellence in the science, art and practice of horticulture. Our vision is to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener, healthier, happier and more beautiful place. We believe everyone in every village, town and city should benefit from growing plants to enhance lives, build stronger, healthier, happier communities and create better places to live.

We held our first flower shows in 1820, were granted a Royal Charter in 1861 and acquired RHS Garden Wisley, our flagship garden, in 1903. From our first meetings in a small room off London’s Piccadilly, we have grown to become the world’s largest gardening charity. At our gardens and shows and through our scientific research, publications, libraries and our education and community programmes we inspire a passion for gardening and growing plants, promote the value of gardens, demonstrate how gardening is good for us and explain the vital roles that plants undertake.

The RHS is committed to bring the joy of gardening to millions more people, inspire the next generation of gardeners and invest in the future to safeguard a £10.4 billion industry employing over 300,000 people. We are entirely funded by our members, visitors and supporters. RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and help us secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262

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