LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts

The Secret Life of the Georgian Garden

by Dr Kate Feluś.

The Secret Life of the Georgian Garden follows the course of a typical day as it might be enjoyed by the landed gentry in the years from 1714 to 1837. It’s a fabulous book, which drew me in from the first page. I found it hard to put down.

Beautifully designed, and lavishly illustrated (with many quotations too), Kate Felus’s study brings the Georgian garden’s day to life through the pursuits enjoyed at many of the nation’s great country homes: from the gentle walks and rides of the Morning (with the occasional naval battle on the lake), via the sports and recreation of the Afternoon (avert your eyes from the rustling shrubbery), through the music and merriment of the Evening, to the fêtes and fireworks of The Night-Time.

But we learn so much more than this; Felus also introduces us to garden designers, garden buildings, garden fashions, garden food and drink, and more, as well as people who had the privilege of enjoying the gardens themselves: from the host families and their guests – including touring royalty – to estate workers and members of the general public (with bracketed reminders to help keep tabs on who’s who, and where’s where).

I’ve visited many landscape gardens, and have often stood marvelling at the beauty of my surroundings, wishing – of course – that I could enjoy the space in the same way as the original occupants; but without any idea of how they actually did that. Now I know, and now I want to revisit all those places, and the many others introduced in this book, so I can superimpose the history on the scenes, and see them for the pleasure grounds they really were.

Felus writes with the authority of thorough research, but also with a style that makes this book refreshingly accessible. I recommend it to anyone who has ever stood in the garden of a British stately home… and wondered.

An easy five stars.


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