A Thing in Disguise – The visionary life of Joseph Paxton – Kate Colquhoun

pg 10 – Joseph paxton had been born on 3 August 1803 … It was an auspicious year for a future gardener to be born. In 1803, the Liverpool Botanical Gardens opened and the Horticultural Society was conceived; Joseph Banks sent William Kerr to collect plants in China and Humphry Repton was about to publish his Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening.

Humphry Repton

Humphry Repton

pg 13 – AGED 15 paxton went to work at the estate of woodhall near walton in Hertfordhire. The house had been brought by Samuel Smith in 1801 and Paxton was to work there under the charge of William Griffin. He was lucky. Here was an 18th century park and woodland, with new gardens lately built around the house, run by an ardent horticulturist and reputed fruiterer. Griffin was the author of a treatise on the ‘Culture of the Pine Apple’ as well as a paper on the management of grapes in vineries; he was a part of the coalescing horticultural establishment and his name appears in 1824 among the first subscribers to the new Horticultural society Gardens at Chiswick.

pg 17 – On 1st Februrary 1787, the first periodical in England devoted to scientific horticulture, The Botanical Magazine or Flower Garden Displayed, edited by William Curtis, was published aimed foursquare at the rich and fashionable who had begun to cultivate exotics with passion. Designed ‘for the use of such ladies, gentlemen and gardeners as wish to become scientifically acquainted with the plants the cultivate’

William Curtis

William Curtis

pg 18 –  The creation of a horticultural society was the idea of John Wedgwood, son of the potter, who in 1803 had invited several of his friends- including Joseph Banks, WIlliam Forsyth from the Royal Gardens at Kensington and St James’s , William Townsend Aiton and others – to a meeting at the house of Hat chard, the famous bookseller in Piccadilly. There, wedgwood presented the idea of forming a new national society for the improvement and co-ordination of horticultural activities.  A Prospectus for the society was written, classifying horticulture as a practical science and dividing plants into the useful and the ornamental (with the useful taking priority) . The necessity of good plant selection was stressed, as with the design and construction of glasshouses.

John Wedgwood

John Wedgwood

*pg 19 – The first free-standing glass houses, using iron and wood instead of bricks and stone, were emerging, themselves demanding further experiments designed to optimize the stability of the structures. The light they admitted, and the most efficient forms of heating. In early decades of the 19th century, the horticultural journalist and revolutionary, John Claudius Loudon, invented, among many novelties, a form of roof design that he called ‘ridge and furrow’ – a zigzag glass construction which he notes maximized the access of light and therefore heat, particularly in the early morning and late evening when the sun was low in the sky. Loudon, however, maintained a preference for using glass in the more normal, flat construction.                                                                                                                   Loudon’s glass house breakthrough came in 1816, when he patented a flexible wrought-iron glazing bar which could be bent in any direction without reducing its strength, making curvilinear, even conical, glazing possible (THrough the Bessemer-Siemens process of ‘mild’ steel manufacture which made large-scale production possible was not commercially available until the 1860s.) It was one the first indications of the future use of iron for its strength and flexibility and sparked a new mania for building glasshouses in iron for their light and elegant appearance.

pg 20 – Thomas Clarke, who took his first orders in 1818 and soon supplied the queen at osborne and Frogmore. The loddiges nursery had, by 1820, a huge hothouse 80 feet long, 60 feet wide and 40 feet high, heated by steam and built according to loudons design

pg 21 – 21  Samuel Ware 0 later the architect of the Burlington Arcade – built a 300-foot long conservatory in the formal garden, backed by a brick wall, with a central glass and wood dome. In time, it would be filled with the recently introduced camellias which , along with the exotic animals, captured the very height of Regency fashion

pg 25 (collection of new planting abroad).. “All this hunting created an even greater need for better green-houses and stoves in which to nurture and cultivate successfully the treasure tropical and subtropical plants. An increasingly technical and complex conversation was being joined by an expanding number of voices. Skill in methods to improve and force fruit and vegetables had been growing in England since the 17th century at least- hotbed for salad vegetables, heated walls to ripen fruit trees, pineapples pits and the like were commonplace. Greenhouses, however, were expensive . Glass was heavily taxed by weight, so that manufacturers made efforts to make it thinner and it became increasingly fragile.  There was new experimentation with cast iron and curved frameworks, and the invention of pliable putty had helped reduce the instances of glass fracturing in extreme temperatures. By the 1820s. the new sophisticated greenhouses were classed into four categories;

  • ‘cold’ Greenhouses; conservatories heate in winter
  • ‘Dry stoves’ where the temperature would be controlled to a maximum of 85*F during the day and 70*F at night;
  • and the orchid house or the ‘Bark Stove’ where the temperature was never allowed to drop below 70*F and might rise to 90*F on summer’s day/



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