A Quintessence of Englishness : Minterne Gardens and The Victorian Plant Hunters
As an Island nation we have always relied on our sea-faring prowess to expand our spheres of influence. Our explorers are well known - Drake, Raleigh, Captain Cook, the pilgrims on the Mayflower - the list is endless.
However, there is another group of unsung English explorers - the plant hunters of the Victorian times. They explored throughout China, Bhutan and the Himalayas in search of botanical species. Their names include - Kingdon Ward, George Forrest, Edmund Loder. These plant hunters were sponsored by many amateur garden enthusiasts in England under the umbrella of the Royal Horticultural Society.
Between 1850 and 1947 their trips, lasting up to 6 years each, introduced countless new exotic species to English Gardens. Magnolias, Rhododendrons, Azaleas, to name but a few. The seed was shared around the sponsors who propagated this as a basis for exotic subtropical shrub gardens; the vast majority of species at Minterne were propagated from seed brought back by these explorers.