Monday, 5 May 2014

Centenary of A Gardening Classic - the EA Bowles 'My Garden' trilogy exhibition

An exquisite arrangement of peonies from EA Bowles's garden at Myddelton House
In this diary I have frequently acknowledged the importance of EA Bowles's My Garden trilogy to my development as a gardener: read as a schoolboy (and many times since), his pen portraits of his plants and garden vividly convey the significance of plants as individuals as well as in the garden whole. Although written as the stormclouds of the Kaiser's War gathered they convey nothing but charm and horticultural tranquillity in the plot of a gentleman of leisure. A golden afternoon, perhaps, but now, a century later, the text is just as interesting and inspiring to a plantsperson as ever.

To celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the publication of the first two volumes, My Garden in Spring, and in My Garden in Summer in 1914 ( My Garden in Autumn and Winter followed in 1915)  the EA Bowles of Myddelton House Society has staged an exhibition entitled 'Centenary of a Gardening Classic' at Forty Hall, Forty Hill, Enfield. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the opening on Thursday evening, when I took these iPad snaps in poor light. The exhibition is on until 27 July and well worth seeing if you are in the vicinity, along with the increasingly splendid gardens at Myddelton House and the renovated Forty Hall itself, where there is a most magnificent Cedar of Lebanon on the lawn.

The exhibition was opened by Simon Parker-Bowles, EAB's grand-nephew (who grew up at Forty Hall), with a  welcome from Jackie Kingdom, Chair of the society.

A major part of the exhibition consists of photographic portraits of plants mentioned in the trilogy and still growing at Myddelton House, captioned with a relevant quotation. This is Carex elata 'Aurea', Bowles's Golden Sedge, which he found as a sport while collecting insects in the fens.

Bowles's painting of Narcissus 'Lavender'; 'the poor dear's perianth is not a thing to boast of, buckling and curling.... but the cup would save it even if the perianth were made of spiders' legs.'

There are some exhibits of Bowles memorabilia, including a full front pag of the Enfield Gazette and Observer devoted to him after his death: he was greatly loved in the community.
The interior of Forty Hall has recently been restored, highlighting the period of Sir Nicholas Rainton, occupant and Lord Mayor of London in the early Seventeenth Century. There are some lovely ceilings and features such as this mantel.
The Bowles family owned Forty Hall for a few decades and made some changes, including the addition of this window with a punning crest featuring a bee and several owls.


  1. Do you know if they are thinking of getting the triology republished. I have a 'Classic reprint' version of the Spring one but it is poor quality. I enjoy his writing and it might be a nice idea if they have a centenary reprint.

  2. Thank you for sharing this beautiful trees and great tutorial!! :D

    Garden Designer Norwich & Patios Norwich

  3. Hello, John!

    I actually haven't even heard of this trilogy. But it sounds great! Any ideas where I can find it? Since I started doing gardening in my free time (and free square meters of land), I've been looking for good books, connected to our green friends.

    Thanks in advance,


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