Could you be a gardening entrepreneur? 1. Henry Wise and George London

I recently attended a talk given by Professor Sir Roderick Floud on 3  gardening entrepreneurs and would like to tell what he said and also add some of my own research.

I am starting in chronological order with Henry Wise.

Henry Wise was born in 1653 and baptised at St Alfege, Greenwich in that September.

According to its website, the church has connections with many famous figures in British history, including Henry VIII, Thomas Tallis, General James Wolfe, and John Flamsteed. The present church (which replaced an earlier medieval building) is nearly 300 years old but there has been a church for around a 1000 years on this site. It was designed by Nicholas Hawskmoor, Sir Christopher Wren’s famous pupil, and is one of the churches built under the Fifty Churches act of 1711.

By 1702 Wise was the Royal Gardener for Queen Anne. this is a particularly important post as this meant that not only was he repsonbile for maintenance of the royal gardens and parks but also for supplying the necesary plants – through his own nursery of course (see below Brompton Park).

1670s George London is first recorded as apprenticed to John Rose, gardener to the Earl of Essex and Charles II (it is Rose who was depicted presenting ‘the first pineapple raised in England’ to the king in a celebrated painting). At this time, London was despatched to France to learn about the compartmented formal gardens that would so influence his style. By 1675, he was in the employ of Henry Compton, Bishop of London, who was an enthusiastic plantsman at his Fulham Palace gardens and also an important political figure, as a supporter of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 that saw William and Mary enthroned.

1680s In 1681, London was a founding partner at the Brompton Park Nursery (some 100 acres on the site of today’s Kensington museums), but his career really took off after William and Mary’s arrival, when he was appointed deputy superintendent of the royal gardens, below William Bentinck, Duke of Portland, a key horticultural figure in his own right as well as William of Orange’s key political advisor.

1689 Henry Wise’s obscure early career was perhaps not as glittering as London’s, but, by 1689, when he and London were sole partners at Brompton Park (the others having died or retired), he was also appointed a royal gardener, with responsibility for Hampton Court and Kensington. On the accession of Queen Anne in 1702, Wise took over from Bentinck as superintendent of royal gardens, and London busied himself with design projects all over the country, reputedly covering up to 60 miles a day on horseback.

About 1700 George London kept up with the times, as any leading professional must. London’s visit, in company with Bentinck, to gardens in France in about 1700, introduced him to the serpentine walks in the bosquets at Marly (an adjunct of Versailles), which may have planted the seed of an idea.

1706 There is a sentence in The Retir’d Gard’ner (London and Wise’s 1706 translation of the contemporary Le Jardinier Solitaire, by François Gentil) that provides a clue: ‘The most valuable Labyrinths are always those that wind most, as that of Versailles, the Contrivance of which has been wonderfully lik’d by all that have seen it.’

A few years later, London was working at Castle Howard for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, where the naturalistic Wray Wood came to be seen to be in the vanguard of this new naturalism. The Retir’d Gard’ner advocates walks of pallisades of hornbeams ‘winding variously for the greater Ornament of Park, Labyrinths and Groves’, and particularly recommends the latter. ‘Those [groves] that are irregular… are not less esteeem’d; for the Variety of them, in great Parks, is what pleases most.’

London’s work and writing prove that it was variety, not naturalism, that was the keynote of the incipient landscape-garden style, and that the Baroque style was not simply ‘swept away’, but rather tweaked at the edges in the early stages of its development.

After 1714 Later writers saw fit to deride London and Wise as old-fashioned, but, when he died in 1714, London wasn’t seen as some relic of the Baroque design past-he was very much at the top of his profession and fully aware of the latest stylistic developments.

According to the article on Wise and George London in Country Life, Wise, operating with George London were sole partners at the celebrated Brompton Park Nursery from 1689 until London’s death in 1714 where they enjoyed a near monopoly on large-scale landscape design, also supplying thousands of trees to landowners for avenue planting. []

At this time London was the  place for nurseries to flourish as this was where the grand land owners spent the Season and thus where their garden designers could connect with each other easily and also purchase plants centrally and in great numbers. The Brompton Park nursery occupied between 50-100 acres of land where the South Kensington museums are now and in 1702 was estimated to have nearly 10 million plants for sale.

London and Wise specialised in an English version of the formal Baroque gardens associated with the Catholic courts of continental Europe, of which Versailles was the pre-eminent example. These were gardens in which magnificent flat parterres spread out below one or two façades of the palace or house, defined by box hedges in patterns derived from textile designs and enlivened with coloured gravels, white or painted statuary, extravagant fountains and colourful annual flowers.  See the painting of Kensington Palace.kensington_palace_garden_baroque_kip_knyff_original

A feature of the design at Het Loo are the scrolling parterres surrounding various sculptural features and fountains.
A feature of the design at Het Loo are the scrolling parterres surrounding various sculptural features and fountains.

Wise managed to buy The Priory in Warwick in 1709 at what would be in today’s value £32,110,00. this demonstrates the large amount of money that such gardeners were able to make in this period. He left an estate of £305,000,00 on his death. This was his ‘profit’ from his income from the garden centre plus the £4.7 million he received each year to maintain the royal gardens. Which included all the labour and all the plantings. But the profit margin was around 33.3 % which was typical at that time.

The best example of a garden designed by George London is Hanbury Hall which has recently been restored to his original designs by the National Trust.

By the way, there was a nursery growing plants in Willesden Green at the end of Chatsworth Road – more of that in another post.


A Garden is a grand teacher

Excerpt from

The Beauties of a Cottage Garden



Gertrude Jekyll.

A Garden is a grand teacher. it teaches patiences and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all, it teaches entire trust. ‘Paul planneth and Apollo watereth, but God giveth the increase’. The good gardener knows with absolute certainty that if he does his part, if he give his labour, the love, and every aid that his knowledge of his craft, experience of the conditions of his place, and exercise of his personal with can work together to suggest, that so surely as he does this diligently and faithfully, so surly will God give the increase.

Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) was a garden designer who collaborated with Edwin Lutyens the architect and was involved in the design of Hampstead Garden Village.

Her Cottage Garden style encouraged the use of plants with scents and that were native (or nearly) and good for wildlife, and some of these can be seen here in pictures taken by Jim Coakes of the garden at 58a Teignmouth Road.

P1040145 P1000226 P1000303 P1000449 P1010448 DSCN1567 P1000192 20141030_132512


Willesden the most exquisite


Willesden Green as seen in 1839

From Jack Sheppard by W. Harrison Ainsworth

What a contrast did the lovely scene she (Mrs Sheppard) now gazed upon present to the squalid neighbourhood she had recently quitted! On all sides, expanded prospects of country the most exquisite and most varied. Immediately before her lay Willesden – the most charming and secluded village in the neighbourhood of the metropolis – with its scattered farm-houses, its noble granges, and its old grey church tower peeping above a grove of rook haunted trees.

Holy Wells – Fun and Games in London Post 1:

In Elizabethan time, London was dotted with wells all over to provide (safe) drinking water. Some of the  more notable such wells were the holy wells by St Bride and St Clement, and the Clerk’s well by St John of Jerusalem.

Mentioned by Fitzstephen as early as 1174, the Clerk’s Well was the scene of medieval miracle plays performed by the Parish Clerks of London, and gave its name to the district of Clerkenwell.

Until the reformation, the well was located in the boundary wall of St Mary’s Nunnery. After the dissolution of the nunnery and the destruction of its boundary wall, the well was located in the basement of a building in Ray Street (now Farringdon Lane).

In 1800 a pump was placed at pavement level to facilitate public use but by the middle of the 19th century the well had been closed. The exact location of this important site was uncertain but was rediscovered in 1924, during building work in Farringdon Lane.

Holy Well Clerkenwell as seen today at museum

Bagnigge Well, aka Reddewell or Reedwell, belonged to the Benedictine Nunnery of St Mary’s Clerkenwell. It got its name Bagnigge from the valley which followed the route of the Hloebourne between Clerkenwell and Battle Bridge – which was Bagnigge Vale. Battle Bridge was so named after a an ancient bridge over The Fleet where Boudica‘s army is said to have fought an important battle against the Romans.  Battle Bridge is now Kings Cross Station. There is also a small brook called Bagnigge Wash. This area was frequently flooded as it was originally a swamp! The Holebourne and the Fleet were navigable up to this point well into the 1700s and Bagnigge House was thought to be the country residence of Nell Gwynne.

The wells at Bagnigge consisted of 2 different types of water – one of which was noted for being a purgative. And it is interesting how many holy wells and spa wells had this type of effect and that this made them very popular – presumably because of the lack of regular vegetables in the common diet.bagniggewells

As in my previous post, these spa or holy wells had many entertainments for the gentry and the masses developed alongside, much in the way you would develop a seaside, at Bagnigge there were skittles, bowls and tea house. If you can spot it, the wells are noted in a tablet between 61-63 Kings Cross road where Bagnigge House originally stood.

Further down from Battle Bridge on Gray’s Inn Road was a mineral spring dedicated to St Chad. This well also had gardens and recreational activities associated with it in the 1700s. This water was also claimed to be purgative, diuretic and a mild tonic – all at the same time! To find it you will need to look for St Chad’s Place and then the Met Line which has built over it.

The old parish church of St Pancras also had a spa and a well with extensive gardens and avenues of trees. Difficult to believe now as all you can see are pavements and buildings.. These waters were according to Mr Edward Martin, the proprietor in 1697:St Pancras Holywell

“ a powerful antidote against rising of the vapous, also against stone and gravel and as a general and sovereign help to nature.”

Sadler’s Well was thought to be used by the monks of St John’s Priory.

From “The Political State of the British Empire” by John Adolphus, 1818

“As the water was found to be ferruginous [by Mr. SADLER], though not so much impregnated with iron as those of Tunbridge Wells in Kent, they were immediately recommended as useful in removing obstructions in the system, and purifying the blood.

Sadler’s Wells was inclosed within a wall of considerable extent, with several fine trees within”

From “The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction” by Reuben Percy, John Timbs, 1839

“ Henry VIII., in 1538, dissolved the priory and its revenues; when the well, to which superstitious uses were ascribed, was covered over: and as no water was in any way known to be derivable from it, time, which obliterates all things, annulled, even in the memory of man, all cognizance or remembrance of it for nearly a century and a half.

The dissolute manners prevalent in the reign of Charles II., gave encouragement to a variety of music-houses in and about the metropolis, but none of them attained the popularity or celebrity of that erected on the north side of the New River Head, on the site of the present theatre, by a person named SADLER; who, being made surveyor of the highways, and having good gravel in his own ground, the garden attached to the music-house, employed two men to dig there, and in digging, the pickaxe struck upon a broad flat stone, which being raised, was found to have been supported by four oaken posts, and under it a large well, encircled by stone, arched over, and curiously sculptured. SADLER, impelled by its singularity, conceived it had some medicinal quality, and as such, had been used in former times: his conjecture was confirmed on reference to a physician.

He at first sold the water in bottles, then in roundlets, till at last Dr. MORTON advised his patients to drink the water as a restorative; and its salubrity induced Sadler’s Well to be visited, in 1684, by from five to six hundred persons every morning.”

Urban Plots and mini plants?

I have adapted an article from a good website on growing vegetables and plants as we are looking to create a new garden at the side of our house  [Gardening Know How –] with the hope it will give us some good suggestions. I have to look up UK suppliers of course and so I shall be adding the English names and varieties to this article and who supplies them.

We have started with 2 items we have purchased – mock rock-wall stratums plaques which we bought earlier this year with sedum growing on them. 20150930_170911

We are planning to then create a further set of hanging pots with racks we have cut from pallets which we will also nail into the walls. We shall need some long and tough nails and a brick drill but very doable. 20150930_171133

What should we then plant? Well this is where this article comes into play. Obviously we could plant trailing flowers as shown with the lobelia, but we also have the choice – if the plants will get enough sun, to plant mini-veggies and micro-garden.

What Is Micro Gardening?

By Amy Grant

In a burgeoning world of people with ever-decreasing space, micro container gardening has found a rapidly growing niche. Good things come in small packages as the saying goes, and urban micro gardening is no exception. So what is micro gardening and what are some useful micro gardening tips to get you started?

What is Micro Gardening?

Urban micro container gardening is the practice of cultivating vegetables, herbs, roots and tubers in small spaces. These gardening spaces might be balconies [1], patios [2], or rooftops [3] which make use of containers – anything from plastic-lined wooden crates, old car tires, plastic buckets [4], trash cans, and wooden pallets to purchased “nourishmats” and polypropylene bags. In our case the area is the side walls of our flat! So hanging micro gardens.

Small scale hydroponic systems [5] are another option as well as aeroponics [6], growing plants in hanging containers with little to no soil, or aquaponics [7], which is growing plants directly in water.

What are the benefits of urban micro container gardens? They combine a technique of horticultural production with environmentally friendly technology suited for city dwellers. These include rainwater harvesting [8] and household waste management.  As we already harvest just about all our rainwater I doubt if we shall use any more than we already do but it would be nice to grow some herbs for our use again and I love the idea that maybe a mini veg might just fit one pot – doubt it though, mini leaves are feasible though.

Micro Container Gardening Tips

Micro gardening can work for just about anyone with a small space and be as simple and inexpensive as you wish. Research by the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization shows that a well-tended 11-square foot micro garden can produce as much as 200 tomatoes [9] a year, 36 heads of lettuce [10] every 60 days, 10 cabbages [11] every 90 days and a whopping 100 onions [12] every 120 days! 11 foot sq is not very micro!

More costly irrigation drip systems can be installed amongst a micro garden, or rainwater can be channeled through a system of gutters and pipes into a cistern or directly off the eaves of the roof.

The internet is rife with both DIY micro garden plans as well as a host of products available for purchase that can help get your own micro garden going. Remember, your tiny Eden doesn’t have to cost a lot. Think outside the box and look for salvageable items that can be repurposed. Many industrial districts have free pallets, yours for the asking. We didn’t have to ask – they were left with us due to some deliveries we had had – and actually they are often better scavenged from builders than bought as I have been offered them at £10 in the past! Think also about the very large soil bags or sand etc that are often used for building – scavenge one of those for a metre square garden.These make wonderful “walls” of herbs that double as miniature edible gardens as well as colourful, sweet smelling partitions or privacy screens on a tiny balcony.

Many different types of vegetable can be grown in an urban micro garden, although some vegetables are admittedly a bit large for very small spaces, but you can certainly grow many dwarf size veggies [14]. Some of these include:

  • Dwarf bok choi – Nicky’s Seeds have Pak Choi
  • Romeo baby carrots – Nicky’s Seeds have several varieties
  • Fino Verde basil – Try Greek Basil or Holy Basil as these have small leaves
  • Jing Bell peppers – Suttons seeds have Snackbite peppers. and Thomson and Morgan have Mini Bell
  • Fairy Tale aubergine – Marshalls Seeds have Ophelia; Nicky’s Seeds have several varieties
  • Red Robin tomatoes – again try Nicky’s Seeds for more varieties
  • Rocky cucumbers –  again try Nicky’s Seeds for varieties

Also, look into the extensive selection of microgreens [15] such as baby spinach, chard and lettuces that are perfect in an outdoor or indoor micro garden.

Think about growing up to maximize space too. For instance, many squash plants can be trained to grow up [16] rather than out. Use trellises, lines, tepees made from bamboo or even rebar or PVC pipe, old gates…whatever you can think of that will act as a support and can be anchored sturdily. We utilise the bamboo canes we cut from our Black Bamboo plants when we thin them each year.

Article adapted from Gardening Know How:

URL to a rticle:

URLs in this post:

[1] balconies:

[2] patios:

[3] rooftops:

[4] plastic buckets:

[5] hydroponic systems:



[8] rainwater harvesting:





[14] dwarf size veggies:


[16] squash plants can be trained to grow up:

Painting the Lines

Out of sequence of the history of Willesden, I am going to write about a famous painter who has painted the railway lines in Willesden Junction and at Willesden Green, many times – Leon Kossoff.

I had not heard about Kossoff until the weekend I went to the Literary festival in Kew and heard him mentioned by Iain Sinclair who I heard talk about his new book on his Over Ground railway walk.[London Overground: A Day’s Walk Around the Ginger Line].

Sinclair mentioned in passing a painter who had painted Willesden Junction  many times, and also the ‘under’ the railways activity – the area we do not see when we look out of the window of the train. That which is under the railway and the train – and which uses their buildings – the Arches or the bridges or the waste areas by the side of the railways.

Under the Arches in London are many spaces which have been inhabited for years – since existence – by many industries or for other purposes including leisure: now railway arches have been converted into cinemas, climbing walls, bakeries and boxing clubs and skate parks and artists’ spaces and galleries too. Sinclair looks at them when he walks and Kossoff painted them.

RefurbishedArches skate park under the arches


Like Sinclair, Kossoff too looked out of the train window and also his studio window and painted what he saw. Sinclair filmed what he saw.

Kossoff was born in Islington in 1926 and is now therefore 88/9 and now finds it too taxing to paint.

He has spent his whole life in London apart from his time as an evacuee and during his military service. His home territory when growing up was the East End – Shoreditch, Bethnal Green and Hackney as was typical of the Jewish emigrants from the Ukraine. He had 6 siblings and his father was a baker.  Art was unknown in his family but he found his way to the National Gallery when 10 years old and started to ‘translate’ what he saw into his own versions.

Evacuated in 1939 to Kings Lynn he stayed with a family who encouraged his art and which led to him returning to London in 1943 to study art at St Martin’s and Toynbee Hall. After military service he also studied at Borough Polytechnic under David Bomberg and met Frank Auerbach there. These 3 together formed what is loosely called the London School. They were joined by Lucien Freud, Keith Critchlow, and Francis Bacon.

Between 1963 and 1968 he had a studio in Willesden, near Willesden Junction and painted what he saw :

“Something happens when you see Willesden Junction stretching out in front of you. What else can you do but draw it?”

He also painted Kilburn Station for many years and painted what he saw in the swimming pool at Willesden where he took his son.

Willesden Junction, Morning in October 1971 Leon Kossoff born 1926 Lent from a private collection 2006
Willesden Junction, Morning in October 1971 Leon Kossoff born 1926 Lent from a private collection 2006

At the bottom of the garden of the family house in Willesden Green are railway lines – the Chiltern and the Jubilee and the Met lines pass by – from which, in the 1980s and 1990s, he drew the trains as they went past. Train lines, he says, “open out the landscape, somehow”. A recent subject has been a cherry tree in his garden, one of its lolling branches steadied with struts. Once, before the suburban houses were built, there was an orchard here. [And I shall write more about the landscape in Mapesbury and what was before in a later post]. cherry tree

Many of the landscapes in his drawings and paintings are now gone, which is why to look at them is to look through Kossoff’s eyes but also to travel into his past with him. Even the trains at the bottom of the garden look different now, trees have grown up to obscure the view and the area is considered a protected wildlife corridor for the urban wildlife to travel safely up and down the rail lines.

It’s a smutty place, Kossoff’s London, congested, seething, murky, messy, relentlessly itself, and usually rendered in a mixture of charcoal and pastel.

The colours were most often sombre – greys edging off to black. He has always loved architectural decrepitude, often seen from a fairly high view point: gantries; a gasometer ; the demolition site; conventionally unlovely industrial locations; places between places; grubby edgelands like Iain Sinclair talked about – the passed by, the unloved, the areas where our transient population can linger and not be noticed.

These are the interesting places that are changing as London finding itself short of spaces looks for more, and finds them crowded up against the railway lines (see the new flats at West Hampstead) or underneath and even attempts (I remember it well – the Tesco store over the railway line at Gerrard’s Cross, as I was living near there then, that collapsed initially, but has since been rebuilt and opened in 2010) to build over the railways. The railways change the scenery of London constantly and are the driver of change in many ways. Here we can celebrate an artist who has captured the railways as they were before London’s need for space transformed them. kossoff photo

I have taken as my sources a number of articles about Kossoff:

  1. Wikipedia and Leon Kossoff
  2. Independent article on Kossoff
  3. Guardian article on Kossoff
  4. Studio Independent article on Kossoff
  5. Plus pictures taken from the articles and the Tate Gallery.

The weary man rests

The weary man may rest serene in leafy sylvan Willesden Green

This project started as an idea and a discussion probably in 2012/3.

Could we improve the look of our urban town and make it again the leafy paradise the original quote above thought it was back in the late 1800s when the Metropolitan Railway first came to our town?

What we wanted to was to make our town – Willesden Green, leafy, sylvan and green again. how could we go about doing this? And who could we partner with to help us?

Our first partners were our local Councillors from Brent who being part of this discussion agreed that they would do what they could to help us green our very urban environment.

To explain our beginnings it is necessary to consider the history of Willesden Green, how it got its name, and what it now looks like.

So I shall start with the history and naming and then take you – my reader – through what our town – yes we are considered as a town within London – currently looks like and what it looked like before we started greening.

In later posts I will explain our projects and outcomes and what it is like to undertake public gardening with volunteers, in London’s congested environment. what succeeds and what doesn’t and what you need to think about when undertaking such projects.