The storyteller garden

Garden history – the stories behind the plants in a small Nottinghamshire garden

My garden

Storyteller garden: Every garden has tales to tell

Storyteller's garden in May

The garden behind the stories

The design of my garden

The design of my garden

We bought our Victorian semi 30 years ago. The garden is only small (45′ x 31′) but it has a 12 foot high brick wall at the end that would grace a much one bigger house (and indeed once did – on the other side of it). Smaller brick walls on either side offer an encouraging backdrop in which to labour, creating a small garden.

A few years ago I had the temerity to open to the scrutiny of the public on the local garden trail. This requires serious chutzpah and even more serious hard work.

Shuttle fern unfolding

Shuttle fern unfolding

Other people on the trail have bigger and better gardens; many offer refreshments and plant sales; there are choirs, chickens, bee hives and even wood-turning. I just have plants. But those plants and how they got to be here have stories, some of them quite remarkable.

I’ve been a storyteller all my working life. So today I tell some of the stories behind the plants in my garden. I hope they fascinate others as much as they fascinate me.

We’ll hear about why the French once made growing potatoes illegal, the nefarious deeds of competitive 18th century Lancashire gooseberry growers, my French wives, Chinese pirates and why roses improve your hearing.


Pulmonaria vulgaris, or lungwort. In medieval times it was believed that the shape of a plant offered a hint as to its medicinal benefits.

In this storyteller blog I hope to share and to continue telling those tales – drawing on the expertise of some wonderful garden history writers (whose books I’ll try to encourage you to read in a future blog), my own little collection of Victorian gardening books and Google (which offers us access to and useful glimpses of a fantastic selection of academic texts, old books and journals here and internationally).

I studied history at University many years ago but I was a journalist for 20 years and I’m in PR now, so if I’ve misinterpreted texts and twisted the truth somewhat, consider it an occupational hazard. Please forgive and correct me and please share your stories and nuggets of knowledge too. Thanks for taking the time to read the storyteller garden blog.


  1. Jude

    As Bruce Forsyth would say’ you’re my favourite’.

    Of all the gardens I visited yours made an impact and inspired me.

    Thank you

    • Thank you. That’s flattering – I went round all the gardens last night and there were some real crackers, so that’s a generous compliment. This year’s Beeston and Chilwell Garden trail was a record-breaker – 637 visitors and over £5,000 raised for charity from 13 gardens.

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