14 Apr 2016

Gardens, history and culture: insight from the Library’s collection

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

I was delighted to discover, in my first week of volunteering at the library, a collection of papers by Gareth Evans: a writer on plants, gardens, garden history and a former volunteer at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. From the beginning, the Garden has had an interest in the use of plants in medicine (which you can investigate in our Apothecary’s Hall) and the Gareth Evans papers provide an insight into various traditions.

A short article published in 2003 struck a chord in the way it vividly captures a visit to Läckö Slott, a castle situated on Lake Vänern , Sweden’s largest lake. The foundations were laid in 1298 and by the seventeenth century, after considerable renovation and extension, the castle became the home of one Sweden’s most powerful families, reflecting their status and influence.

However, it is the garden that appears to most captivate Evans.  In his article he describes its dramatic setting, design, colours and aromas, from the formality of the parterre to the familiarity of the kitchen garden. The garden is indeed vividly evoked, but so also, unwittingly perhaps, is the historical and cultural significance of this special place. Evans uses these words, taken from John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 7, to recall the moment:

At the round earths imagin’d corners, blow
Your trumpets Angells, …

The Gareth Evans collection also includes papers that similarly describe the garden of Carl Linnaeus, botanist, zoologist and physician who devised the formal two-part system we use to classify all life forms; the life and character of John Bartram, the first botanist of the Americas; and the herbal heritage of Barcelona. The papers form part of a wider context for the remedies of the Physicians of Myddfai, a key interest of the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

For further information on these papers please contact the Library team on 01558 667129 or email library@gardenofwales.org.uk