A-Z of Garden History: A-D

To celebrate the new short course on Garden History the Library reveals it's treasures alphabetically

Allotment planA is for Allotment

A piece of land let out by a local council or other public body to individuals for growing vegetables, fruit and flowers. Allotments derive from the medieval practice of allotting part of a field to a cottager for them to use to feed their families.

The modern allotment movement has its roots in the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, when land was given over to the labouring poor for the provision of food growing. In 1908, the Small Holdings and Allotments Act came into force, placing a duty on local authorities to provide sufficient allotments, according to demand.

Allotments really came into their own in wartime, particularly with the Second World War ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign supported by the RHS; at its height there were more than 1.5 million allotment plots. The RHS Lindley Library has a very strong collection of allotment leaflets and literature.

  • Pictured is a foldout colour diagram of an allotment layout from the RHS pamphlet titled 'The cropping of an allotment or small kitchen garden', published in 1917.

Group of students outside bothyB is for Bothy

A simple cottage built to house young, single gardeners working in a large garden. Often built along the wall of a kitchen garden, many had a reputation for very basic, cramped conditions.

In his Encyclopaedia of Gardening, J.C. Loudon complained that young gardeners are often housed ‘in one ill ventilated apartment, with an earthen or brick floor, the whole routine of cooking, cleaning, eating, and sleeping is performed and the young men are rendered familiar with filth and vermin.’

  • Pictured are students at RHS Wisley in 1921 outside the bothy.

Carpet bedding planC is for Carpet bedding

Developed in the second half of the 19th century, carpet bedding was the practice of forming beds of low-growing foliage plants in intricate patterns that resembled a carpet.

John Fleming, head gardener at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire, was credited with popularising the technique in the 1860s. It became a very popular feature of public parks and seaside resorts. Many of the postcards in the Lindley Library’s parks and garden postcard collection feature magnificent examples of carpet bedding.

  • Pictured is a colour illustration of detailed designs for carpet bedding featuring a butterfly shape, with a list of plants to use to create the pattern. From The Gardener's Assistant by Robert Thompson, published in 1878.

Drive planD is for Drive

A route around, but within a park or estate, originally intended for horsedrawn carriages.

Drives were often designed to pass through carefully composed scenic points and provide an impressive view of the main house.

The landscape architect Humphrey Repton devised a number of long drives. In his Red Book for Blaise Castle near Bristol (1796) he explained that: ‘In the drive I have marked out from the house to the castle, I shall avail myself of that vista thro’ the wood towards the river… that the most careless observer may have leisure to view the delightful scene.’

  • Pictured is an illustration of a plan for landscaping a drive at the front of a house, from Thomas Hitt (1690-1770/71): The modern gardener. London, 1771.

Take a short course in Garden History

This course is the ideal introduction to British Garden History in the special setting of the RHS Lindley Library. Over six weeks, participants will be taken on a chronological journey through the main themes of over 500 years of garden history. The course begins on 16 September.

Learn more about the course

More information

Even if you are not an RHS member, the RHS Lindley Libraries are open to everyone and provide access to modern collections of books and journals on gardening and related topics. Our heritage collections of rare books, photographs, art and archives are accessible by appointment.

RHS members can borrow from the thousands of gardening books held in the Lindley Libraries.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.