Mary, Duchess of Beaufort

The unlikely link between Watford and Mary, Duchess of Beaufort

On Sunday 19 September at 11am, I am delighted to be starting the Watford & Decorum Memory Walk to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Society. This is a 2.6 walk through the Heritage Walk of the beautiful Cassiobury Park. If you follow this blog (and my own at www.a-gardening-woman.com) you'll know that I have a very personal reason for supporting this charity. My mother, a great gardening woman who inspired my love of plants, suffered from Alzheimer's in the last painful years of her life.

But I'm also keen to go to Cassiobury as it has links with one of my 'Gardening Women'. The land there belonged to the brother of Mary, Duchess of Beaufort (1630-1715). Arthur, later Earl of Essex, had a passion for trees, and, in consultation with John Evelyn, created probably the first 'wooded' garden in the country at Cassiobury. It remains the largest open space in Watford. 

Mary grew up to be one of the most respected plant collectors of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Her determination to identify and catalogue every plant that came into her possession lasted for a quarter of a century.  By 1701, William Sherard, the botanist and compulsive cataloguer of gardens, suggested that hers were close to the best in Europe.,  ‘being furnish’d with all conveniences imaginable, and a good stock of plants’. Her good stock of plants was a collection which ran into thousands. She keep detailed records of them all. Her great passion was for non-native species and her meticulous care for seeds encouraged some of thre greatest botanists in Europe to entrust her with their new finds.

Just a reminder of other talks and events coming up this weekend:

On Saturday 18 September I shall be talking about Gardening Women at The Independent Literary Festival at Woodstock at 12 noon at The Oxfordshire Museum. Online booking has closed but tickets may still be available.

And then at 3pm on Sunday 19 September, I'll be at Ivy House, North End Road, NW11 for two events. First I'm leading a walk around North London's secret garden, Hill Garden and Pergola, former home of Lord Leverhulme and designed by Thomas Mawson. Then at 4pm I'll be giving a talk on Gardening Women back at Ivy House. For details of tickets, please contact the Hampstead & Highgate Literary Festival/London Jewish Cultural Centre.