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The Royal Gardeners

When a gardening writer and TV presenter enjoys the unprecedented success of Alan Titchmarsh, it must be difficult to keep coming up with fresh concepts to tickle the palate of a devoted public. With Royal Gardens: The History of Britain's Royal Gardens, Titchmarsh is clearly onto another winner. The royal gardens of Great Britain represent some of the most glorious horticultural achievements and Titchmarsh is the perfect guide, both in this sumptuous book and the accompanying TV series. Rather like opera, gardens were once the exclusive preserve of the wealthy and the titled, and the democratisation that put such delights within all our grasps is a relatively recent phenomenon. Of course, however much attention we lavish on our own modest plots (with such Titchmarsh books as How To Be a Gardener at our elbow), most of us won’t be able to aspire to the acres of beauty so comprehensively covered here, and our pleasure will come from visits to these splendid sanctuaries.

What do we need to look for on our visits? This is where the expert eye of Titchmarsh comes to the fore--not to mention his avuncular manner, as evident in his books as in his TV appearances. In tracing the history of magnificent royal gardens from medieval times to the present day, both sumptuous modern photography and evocative period illustrations are used to conjure the palaces and gardens for us (needless to say, many did not survive); the moods evoked by the gardens range from the modest and engaging to the awe-inspiring and epic, and Titchmarsh is equally adroit at catching the essence of each garden, from the serene splendour of Hampton Court’s Privy Garden to the Georgian gardens that are such a much-loved feature of Kew Gardens. Unlike most Titchmarsh books, this one does not present gardens that are easy to emulate, but most will find sheer pleasure in just looking. --Barry Forshaw


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