No – it’s not south-east Asia but south-west Dorset! Abbotsbury, a garden founded by the Strangways family in the late 18thc, was my first point of call recently on an out of season tour of some gardens in the south-west.
In 1863 Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of photography, must have been rather surprised by the contents of a letter he had just received from his uncle, William Fox Strangways, the 4th earl of Ilchester. The two corresponded regularly and often about gardens but this time Uncle William was complaining about his elderly gardener not just chopping bulbs in two & trying to stick them together again but asking what he should do about “amorous polygamy”. This was surely scarcely a subject fit for the pen of a Victorian gentleman so no wonder William said it had “left indelible impression in my memory.”
Actually its nothing as potentially scandalous as one might think. Uncle William’s gardener was rather confused and asking what he should do with Amyris polygama, more commonly known as the Chilean pepper tree, one of the rarer plants in the garden. So sorry if you’d read this far expecting a bit of salacious gossip but read on to find out more about this amazing sub-tropical garden and its origins.
[All photos are my own from Feb 2018 unless otherwise stated] Continue reading