Kate Nicoll

Ornamental plants in Historic Gardens

Webinar: 15th of November 2022, 09:00 – 16:00 (GMT+00:00).
Practical workshop: 11th and 12th of July 2023, in the UK.

The palette of plants available to gardeners has grown exponentially from medieval times to the present day. The first recorded plant introductions were brought by the Romans as they colonised much of Europe. The colonial expansions of those self-same countries from the Renaissance onwards means that plants have been spreading further to include the Americas, Asia and Australasia in every possible direction. Add in the efforts of the plant breeders who have been selectively growing the best plants since human settlement began, and the plant hunters of the 18th and 19th centuries, and you end up with an ever-growing figure of X million ornamental plants currently in cultivation.

How do the heritage gardeners of today make sense of this enormous resource available to them as they restore or recreate the historic gardens in their care? Do they stick slavishly to the historically correct plants that were available when the garden was first planted, or do they take advantage of the improvements that have been bred into cultivars since then? Is there the freedom to interpret planting styles to reflect our own current needs for all year interest, drought/disease resistance or sustainable gardening methods?

Ornamental garden - with perennials
Photo: Kate Nicoll


We hear from Garden Historians, Plant Records specialists, Gardeners and Plant Growers about how they navigate through this ever-expanding catalogue of plants.

The speakers are:
Lenneke Berkhout, Dutch Garden Historian
Renske Ek, Garden Curator at Het Loo
Mark Laird, University of Toronto
Dr David Marsh, Trustee of the Gardens Trust
Maria Löfgren, University of Gothenburg
Alison Crook, National Trust
Lucy Pitman, Plant Heritage
Linnea Oskarsson, POM The Programme for Diversity of Cultivated Plants, Sweden
Cassian Schmidt, Hermanshoff Gardens

More information in the program.

Botanic Garden in Gothenburg Photo: EGHN


The venue for the practical workshop on Ornamental plants in July 2023, is Wrest Park, near Bedford, UK. This is an English Heritage Garden with a wealth of historic planting. The first day will be spent at Wrest Park, and The Head Gardener, Luke Andrew will show us the latest plantings as advised by Mark Laird, one of the speakers at the Ornamental-webinar. Mark Laird, who specialises in 18th Century landscapes, join again by Zoom from Canada.

The second day will be divided between the recently restored Swiss Garden, Shuttleworth, where we will work with Head Gardener Sissel Dahl’s latest designs and Ascott Garden, Buckinghamshire, a National Trust Garden with both historic and contemporary planting. The theme of authentic varieties and climate change will be discussed, and we will work on propagation techniques and plant recording methods. 


Kate Nicoll is the workshop coordinator in the Craft Skills for Garden Conservation project, and in that way, more or less involved in all project activities.

Overview project activities


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Ornamental plants in Historic Gardens

Webinar date: 2022/11/15
Practical Workshop date: 2023/07/11


Ornamental plants in Historic Gardens

Webinar date: 2022/11/15
Practical Workshop date: 2023/07/11

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