The Garden Museum, Lambeth August 06, 2015 20:43

It isn’t every day that you get something lovely arrive through the post.  But last week it did, in the form of a letter and catalogue from the Garden Museum.

For the uninitiated, the Garden Museum was originally conceived by Rosemary Nicolson and her husband John in 1976. Rosemary discovered the tomb of two men, both named John Tradescant. The two Johns were in fact a father and son, who were botanists, gardeners and plant hunters for some of the most powerful people in the country.  Father John had been gardener to Robert Cecil at Hatfield House and then later to Charles I. John Junior took over from his father as Royal Gardener and travelled around the world on plant hunting expeditions.  

The tomb was hidden in the neglected churchyard of St Mary’s at Lambeth. Plans were afoot to bulldoze the Church and create a car park.  Rosemary set about ensuring that the ruins of the church (which celebrates gardening through sculptures and engravings on its walls) was saved. Having successfully won their case, the Friends of the museum have spent the last forty years  raising funds and scouring the world for worthy exhibits showcasing the story of British Gardens from the time of the two Johns to modern day.

The letter I received tells of the journey, energy and sheer determination it has taken the Friends of the Garden Museum to build a collection of 1000 objects, and to secure the £6 million funding it needed to develop.

It also came with a catalogue, highlighting objects available to ‘adopt’ – I love the idea of gardening groups, allotment cohabitants, families and friends getting together to adopt a 19th Century Cucumber Straightener or a 1920’s cat shaped bird scarer.  Wonderful stuff.

The Tradescants, the Nicholsons and the Museum itself is an uplifting tale of gardening adventure, guts and persistence. If you fancy a peek at the Museum and it’s amazing collection, get in quick. The Garden Museum is closing 31st October for building and development works, and will reopen in 2017.