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The Compleat Gardener’s Practice

‘I long to lay my hands on a copy’, wrote the garden designer Rosemary Verey of this manual to the 17th century garden, ‘as we have used his design of the True Lover’s Knot for our knot garden’. This volume, which she did acquire and which came to the Museum at the sale of her library in December last year, is a remnant of her passion for historic garden books, a passion which in turn can be seen in her designs. This copy of the The Compleat Gardener’s Practice even includes the yellow post-it note which Verey used to mark the knot design which inspired her own renowned garden at her home, Barnsley House.

In all, the book contains 30 plates depicting ‘a variety of knots for the beautifying of the garden’, and addresses the methods and plants proposed for the ‘garden of pleasure, the physical garden and the kitchin garden’. Stephen Blake was the gardener to William Ouglander, a Member of Parliament; however, very little else is known about him. The knot designs in this book are particularly interesting for what they reveal about the development of knot patterns in gardening books and pattern books of the time. The book includes illustrations of parterres de broderie which came into fashion at the turn of the 17th century, marking the epitome of a phenomenon which saw designs replicated in embroidery and textiles, as well as in garden design.

Rosemary Verey (1918–2001) took the garden world by storm in middle-age, and although her work was surprisingly diverse she is best known for the revival of period styles of gardening. The True Lover’s Knot, which she adapted from one of the plates in this book, emulates the more traditional styles of the Elizabethan period. The design is accompanied by an inscription by Blake: ‘Here I have made the true Lovers Knott, To Try it in Mariage was never my Lott’. Along with the laburnum walk and her kitchen garden, Barnsley House was well known for the knot garden which Verey planted there.

Purchased with the assistance of the ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries, Peter Nahum and Barbara Robinson.


Stephen Blake


Paper, leather

Associated Person

Rosemary Verey