Among my Christmas presents I was delighted to find Thoughtful Gardening, which is a collection of Robin Lane Fox’s writing for the FT. I can’t praise it enough. He’s particularly good at pricking the pretentions of bodies such as the RHS and the National Trust in their pronouncements on climate change. The RHS has defined it as “gardening in a global greenhouse” and they say that Tresco has spread to Tunbridge Wells and is on its way to Teeside.
As a specialist in the sort of plants which grow in Tresco I take great interest in the subject When asked, I refer to the great craze for exotic plants in the 1870’s, heralded by William Robinson with the publication of his book The Subtropical Garden (1871). The craze was sustained by a series of mild winters and hot summers but it soon fizzled out when everyone lost their exotica in the cold years of the 1880’s.
Robin Lane Fox has an even longer historical perspective and refers to the meticulous diaries kept by the naturalist Gilbert White between 1751 and 1773. White records a run of mild winters between 1757 and 1760, much as we experienced a few years back. This was followed by a series of humdinger winters, just like ours of the past two or three years. It’s good to see Robin Lane Fox bring some perspective to the debate.