The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 11 Inns of Court

Temple Garden Flowers

Previous - Next

The most fascinating feature of a garden ought to be its flowers, and of these also some particulars can be gleaned from the accounts. There is enough to show that the Temple Garden was quite up to date in its horticulture, and that it followed fashion as closely in its plants as in its design. It is not surprising to find Dutch bulbs, and especially tulips, being bought when such a lover of those flowers as Sir Thomas Hanmer was a member. He was one of those who devoted much time to the culture of that flower, when the tulip mania was at its height, and raised new varieties, which were known by his name, "the agate Hanmer." In 1703 the list of bulbs purchased is carefully noted. There were "200 'junquiles' at 6s. a hundred; for 200 tulips at 5s. a hundred; for 100 yellow Dutch crocus, for 50 Armathagalum." The spelling of "junquiles" is much more correct than our modern "jonquil," and all the old writers would have written it so, Parkinson, in 1629, describes them as "Narcissus juncifolius" or the "Junquilia or Rush Daffodill "; but "Ornithogalum" was too much for the Temple scribe. The "Ornithogalum" or "Starre of Bethlehem," and probably one of the rarer varieties, must be meant by "Armathagalum." The Arabian variety was then "nursed in gardens," but it should be "housed all the winter, that so it may bee defended from the frosts," wrote Parkinson, and sadly admitted that the two roots sent to him "out of Spain" had "prospered not" "for want of knowledge" of this "rule." There was also the "Starre flower of ᆭthiopia," which "was gathered by some Hollanders on the West side of the Cape of Good Hope"; and this is more likely to have been the variety bought for the Temple with the other Dutch bulbs. Among the other purchases were various shrubs, on which the topiary art was then commonly practised. There were "15 yew trees for the Great Garden in pots,... 4 box trees for the grass plots,... 12 striped 'fillerayes' "-this latter being variegated phillyreas (most likely angustifolia), which were largely used for cutting into quaint shapes. Another account is for "28 standard laurels, 4 'perimic' (laurels), 6 junipers, 4 hollies, and 2 perimic box trees." These "perimetric" trees had already gone through the necessary clipping and training, to enable them to take their place in the trim Dutch garden. Another year flowering shrubs are got for the Benchers' Garden: "2 messerius at 2s., and 2 lorrestines at 2s." The Daphne mezereum had been a favourite in English gardens from the earliest times, and the laurestinus (Viburnumtinus) came from South Europe in the sixteenth century. Parkinson, the most attractive of all the old gardening authors, has a delightfully true description of the "Laurus Tinus," with its "many small white sweete-smelling flowers thrusting together,... the edges whereof have a shew of a wash purple or light blush in them; which for the most part fall away without bearing any perfect ripe fruit in our countrey: yet sometimes it hath small black berries, as if they were good, but are not" ! Fruit-trees were also to be found-peaches, "nectrons," cherries, and plums, besides figs and mulberries. That the walls were covered with climbing roses and jessamine is certain, from the oft-recurring cost of nailing them up. "Nails and list for the jessamy wall," and the needful bits of old felt required to fasten them up, was another time supplied by "hatt parings for the jessamines." Thus it is easy, bit by bit, out of the old accounts, to piece together the Garden, until the mind's eye can see back into the days of Queen Anne, and take an imaginary walk through it on a fine spring evening. The Bencher walks out of the large window of the "green-house" on to the terrace, where the sun-dial points the hour: the orange trees, glossy and fresh from their winter quarters, stand in stiff array, in the large artistic pots. Down the steps, a few stiff beds are bright with Dutch bulbs in flower. The turf, well rolled (for a new stone roller has just been purchased), stretches down to the river between straight lines of quaintly cut box, yews, and hollies. He sees Surrey hills clear in the early evening light, and the barges sail by, and boats pass up and down the river. He may linger on one of the seats in the garden-house overlooking the river, or wander back under the stately elms of King's Bench Walk, to rest awhile in the Privy Garden, where the air is scented with mezereum, and cooled by the drops that fall from the metal leaves hanging over the basin of the fountain.