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In 2012 whilst working at the Royal Horticultural Society's library, Fiona Davison unearthed a collection of handwritten letters that dated back to 1822. The letters, each carefully set out in neat copperplate writing, had been written by young gardeners in support of their application to be received into the Society's Garden. Amongst them was a letter from the young Joseph Paxton, who would go on to become one of our best-known gardeners and architects. But he was far from alone in shaping the way we garden today and now, for the first time, the stories of the young, working-class men who also played a central role in the history of British horticulture can be told.
Using their letters, Fiona Davison traces the stories of a handful of these forgotten gardeners whose lives would take divergent paths to create a unique history of gardening. The trail took her from Chiswick to Bolivia and uncovered tales of fraud, scandal and madness - and, of course, a large number of fabulous plants and gardens. This is a celebration of the unsung heroes of horticulture whose achievements reflect a golden moment in British gardening, and continue to influence how we garden today.