In English Garden Eccentrics, renowned landscape architect and historian Todd Longstaffe-Gowan reveals a series of obscure and eccentric English garden-makers who, between the early seventeenth and early twentieth centuries, created intensely personal and idiosyncratic gardens. They include such fascinating characters as the superstitious antiquary William Stukeley and the animal- and bird-loving Lady Read, as well as the celebrated master of Vauxhall Gardens, Jonathan Tyers, who created at his home at Denbies one of the gloomiest and most perverse anti-pleasure gardens in Georgian England. Others built miniature mountains, shaped topiaries, displayed exotic animals, excavated caves, and assembled architectural fragments and fossils to realise their gardens in a way that was often thought excessive.
With quirky and compelling illustrations and chapters including “Lady Broughton’s ‘Miniature copy of the Swiss Glaciers,’” “Topiary on a Gargantuan Scale: The Clipped ‘Yew-trees’ at Four Ancient London Churchyards,” and “The Burrowing Duke at Harcourt House,” English Garden Eccentrics brings together garden and landscape history with cultural history and biography. The book engagingly reveals what it is about the gardener and his or her creation that can be seen as eccentric and focusses on an area of garden history that has scarcely been explored: gardens seen as expressions of the singular character of their makers, and therefore functioning, in effect, as a form of autobiography.
This lively and accessible book calls on gardeners today to learn from example and dare to be eccentric.
Distributed for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
“This fine book by the garden historian and landscape architect Todd Longstaffe-Gowan raises the bar considerably on what constitutes a garden eccentric. . . . What really makes this book work, though . . . is Longstaffe-Gowan’s impeccable research combined with his ability to tell a story. . . . It is obvious that he cares about these people and believes their gardens function as a form of autobiography.”—Ann Treneman, The Times
“A glorious cabinet of curiosities . . . English Garden Eccentrics is a compilation of enjoyably singular case studies but if there is an overarching theme it is that in gardens we find reflections of human yearning.”—Lucy Lethbridge, Financial Times
“The book is rich in unexpected insights into cultural history that give a broader context to its theme.”—Bruce Boucher, Art Newspaper
“English Garden Eccentrics profiles about two dozen mavericks who astonished visitors with sculptured terrain. . . . Hydraulics powered thunderous waterfalls, man-made mountaintops were covered with pulverized white stone to simulate snowfall, and grottoes teemed with ceramic gnomes or pet kangaroos.”—Eve M. Kahn, New York Times
“[Todd Longstaffe-Gowan’s] new book divulges grottoes, toy hermits and a ‘parlour of Venus’ of questionable taste. . . . As most of them are unfamiliar, his detailed presentations enlarge the range of conventional histories of English gardens.”—Robin Lane Fox, Financial Times
“Todd Longstaffe-Gowan defines eccentricity as behavior that’s ‘strange and, intriguingly, both engaging and disturbing.’ The historic garden-lovers in his new book fit the profile.”—Peter Saenger, Wall Street Journal
“One of the strengths of this book is that Todd Longstaffe-Gowan has chosen garden makers who are mostly lesser known and in some cases virtually unknown. This is also an exceptionally well-made book. . . . Some well-known examples of garden eccentricity are included, but in every case the author provides new details.”—Tim Richardson, Literary Review
“In English Garden Eccentrics landscape architect and author Todd Longstaffe-Gowan reveals a fascinating array of English garden-makers who, between the 17th and 18th centuries, created idiosyncratic gardens incorporating miniature mountains, exotic animals, caves and topiary.”—Bath Magazine
“Worthy research and interpretation. . . . England was awash with eccentrics throughout the 19th century. Many of them populate the pages here—surely, one of the author’s chief difficulties was who to leave out.”—Steven Desmond, Country Life
“As well as being a historian, Todd Longstaffe-Gowan is himself a gardener and practising landscape architect, and English Garden Eccentrics is enriched by the depth of his working knowledge. His experience also gives him an imaginative sympathy with each of his garden-making subjects who as a result spring from the page as real, if highly unconventional, human beings.”—Susan Owens, Times Literary Supplement
“In his portly and absorbing new book, Longstaffe-Gowan. . . rescues from obscurity the dramatis personae of a long-lost, almost unimaginable world. . . . So rich are their details, so compelling their stories . . . English Garden Eccentrics is simply unputdownable.”—David Wheeler, The Oldie
“The author delights us with the surprising tales behind the 20 or so individuals who from the early 17th century through the beginning of the 20th century fashioned a range of unusual gardens. . . . The stories are amusing, at times tinged with sadness but always informative and very entertaining. Each chapter is to be savoured because these gardens functioned as a form of biography, with each personality revealing themselves through their creativity. . . . I loved this book.”—Advolly Richmond, Gardens Illustrated
“[Todd Longstaffe-Gowan] has brought his encyclopedic knowledge of the gloriously idiosyncratic gardens and garden makers of England to life in this sparkling text. If only there was as much imagination in the oeuvres these days. Hopefully, Todd will trigger a renaissance of the eccentric.”—Jinny Blom, House & Garden
“Those who plan to enjoy green thoughts in green shades this summer should be accompanied by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan’s English Garden Eccentrics, a delightful, book-length survey of the work of many of the eccentric gardeners of England over the past 300 or so years.”—Michael Glover, The Tablet, “Summer Reading”
“This book, considered simply as a reading experience, must be one of the most delightful in the canon of garden history. It is well written, beautifully produced and copiously illustrated.”—Brent Elliott, Garden History
“Longstaffe's eyes are fixed firmly on the snippets of information about the wilder reaches of the human psyche which his research has unearthed and he conveys those snippets in prose which is both lucid and lively.”—Tim Longville, Hortus
“This superbly researched collection explores the nature of eccentricity, expressed in garden creation from the 18th century onwards. It abounds with illustrations which tantalise our imagination since many of these eccentricities have disappeared over time.”—Jeremy Garnett, London Landscapes