The Arboricultural Historian

Walled Kitchen Garden – A Journey back In Time

Ever since I was a university student, I’ve had an enduring passion for the history of arboriculture, and how changing arboricultural practices over time have helped to shape the culinary culture of our islands.
The story of walled kitchen gardens is a lengthy odyssey which has its origins in a time before trains, electricity, cars and supermarkets. An orchard – cum – vegetable garden is one of the most ancient forms of gardening, however, a walled kitchen garden took on a new importance during this time.

One way in which to impress and entertain important visitors or possibly visiting foreign dignitaries was to provide exotic fruits. Fruit trees, including apricots and peaches, grew best and ripened earlier when planted against an enclosure’s walls.

The 1700s saw great debates about the size, shape, and layout of walled gardens and the best methods for growing fruit, vegetables and flowers. Heated glasshouses in the 1800s allowed tender and exotic delicacies to be grown, but as transport improved and produce became easier to buy, kitchen gardens became more of a luxury.

Between 1800 and 1939 walled kitchen gardens were at the height of their productivity, but the outbreak of World War I in 1914 can now be seen as the start of their decline. Few, if any, were built after that date.

So 2014 is a fitting year for the dedicated people at the Isle of Wight Gardens Trust to uncover the fascinating story of walled kitchen gardens and their role in the history of Island life. We will also see how walled gardens are used today and travel forward in time to consider how they might be used in the future.

Continue reading »

Isle of Wight Gardens Trust News

Appointment of new Chairman – Susan Dobbs

Well, it certainly has been a busy 12 months for the IWGT. Following the sad news that chairman John Harrison would be stepping down after presiding over a highly successful 10 year tenure which saw many important organisational reforms and an increase in profile, it’s exciting news indeed that Mary Jones has been appointed as the new Chairman of the IWGT. I was lucky enough to have a quick chat with Susan, who said … “It was an honour and a surprise to me to be asked to be chairman after John Harrison, Peter Marsden and others have led the Isle of Wight Gardens Trust so successfully for the last 24 years”.

National Recognition for Woodlands Vale Estate

At the IWGT’s AGM it was announced that, following an application by IWGT, Woodlands Vale Estate in Seaview had been added to the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England in June 2016 at Grade II, thus recognised as being of national importance.

Annual General Meeting 2016

The IWGT hosted an enjoyable AGM at Dimbola, where John Evans regaled members with many amusing tales about the life of Julia Margaret Cameron. Ron Smith, who chaired the IWGT steering committee, formerly the organisation’s President, was the founding Trustee for saving Dimbola from demolition thus sharing a close common history.

Continue reading »