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.