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Women Gardeners

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A re-examination of the women gardeners who created grand estates, public parks, municipal landscapes and private sanctuaries from the 17th century to the modern era.

Going beyond the better known gardens designed by Jekyll and Lindsay, this course will consider the many fine gardens created by women who, for whatever reason, are less well known today.

A whole new course exploring the many women that were creating grand estates, public parks and municipal landscapes both in the modern era and as far back as the 17th Century.

This course goes beyond the well-known gardens by Jekyll and Lindsay and we will discuss women that are little known today yet created many fine houses and estates.

Their influence on the style of our gardens, frequently unacknowledged, survives to the present day.

From Flora, Roman goddess of plants, to today's gardeners at Kew, women have always gardened.

This course recognises women's contributions to gardening in Britain and around the world spanning more than four centuries.

Despite growing vegetables for their kitchens, tending herbs for their medicine cupboards, and teaching other women about the craft before agricultural schools officially existed, women have been mere footnotes in the horticultural annals for specimens collected abroad, women largely having been associated with ephemeral forms of planting, rather than the substance of the structure.

These pioneers' influence on the style of gardens in the present day is fundamental to both garden making and our discussion and study of garden history.

Contemporary women garden designers and their highly influential presence among the significant garden exhibitions and shows, such as The Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court.

While throughout Europe, innovation through the Chaumont International Festival of Gardens and Jardins Jardins in Paris, the German Landesgartenschau and the development of American urban parks and spaces will also be considered.

Learning and teaching

There will be lectures, case studies and group discussions.

Coursework and assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved.

Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects. The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning.

Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

Reading suggestions

  • Stephen Anderton Lives of the Great Gardeners (  Thames and Hudson Ltd – Oct 2016)
  • Sue Bennett; Five Centuries of Women and Gardens: 1590s-1990s ( National Portrait Gallery Publications– Oct 2000 )
  • Jinny Blom; The Thoughtful Gardener: An Intelligent Approach to Garden Design ( Jacqui Small LLP – Mar 2017)
  • Ursula Buchan; Garden People: Valerie Finnis & The Golden Age of Gardening ( Thames and Hudson Ltd; 1st edition (7 May 2007)
  • Ambra Edwards; Head Gardeners ( Pimpernel Press Ltd - 21 Sept. 2017)
  • Kate Felus ; The Secret Life of the Georgian Garden: Beautiful Objects and Agreeable Retreats ( I.B.Tauris – 30 Apr 2016 )
  • Catherine Horwood; Gardening Women: Their Stories From 1600 to the Present Hardcover ( Virago May 2010 )
  • Deborah Kellaway; The Virago Book Of Women Gardeners ( Virago;– 1 Sep 2016)
  • George Plumptre; The English Country House Garden: Traditional Retreats to Contemporary Masterpieces ( Frances Lincoln (4 Sept. 2014)
  • Victoria Summerley; Secret Gardeners: Britain's Creatives Reveal Their Private Sanctuaries ( Frances Lincoln (5 Oct. 2017)
  • Twigs Way; Virgins Weeders and Queens: A History of Women in the Garden ( The History Press – 15 Dec 2006).

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.