Head Gardeners of Victorian Era England

Head gardeners held positions of prestige in Victorian era Britain. They had large staffs, were experts of botany and started gardening trends.

a garden featuring carpet bedding overlooking a port city.

Photo: denvilles duo

Victorian era English Head Gardener John Fleming invented the gardening practice of "carpet bedding" that is still used today in many gardens throughout the world.

During the Victorian era in Britain, the head gardeners of great country houses were the experts in horticultural practices. Boys of twelve years began an apprenticeship, and if they were receptive they could rise through the ranks and assume the responsibility of producing all of the floral art needed for a grand house and garden.

Head gardeners commanded a large staff and supervised the growing and arranging of both garden flowers as well as exotic flowers grown under glass.

They wrote for the “Gardener’s Chronicle” and started trends. For example, Donald Beaton used masses of red geraniums and created “ribbon bedding” to edge stone stairs and paths. John Fleming created the Duchess of Sutherland’s monogram by clipping plants to resemble a Turkish carpet and the term “carpet bedding” was coined.

By the 1870′s, floral arms and insignias graced all the great gardens and parks.

Today, garden magazines and television have replaced head gardeners as resources for horticultural expertise. Changes in the economy and the idea of gardening as a hobby have made the role of head gardeners obsolete.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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