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Garden Museum Literary Festival 2019

“Glorious. A dream event.” - Country Living

We are thrilled to announce that this year’s Garden Museum Literary Festival will take place at Houghton Hall & Gardens in Norfolk, hosted by The Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley, on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 June.

This unique annual Festival is Britain’s only travelling Lit Fest, having previously visited Boughton House (2017), Hatfield House (2015) and Petworth House (2014). Each venue provides a temporary space for us  to celebrate the best in garden writing – and to share what inspires us in gardens.

This year’s festival will include lectures by some of the UK’s most influential and award-winning garden designers and authors, as well as opportunities to explore the magnificent gardens and house at Houghton Hall. A choice of two or three talks or tours will be offered at any one time over the course of the two days. Tickets however will be strictly limited to ensure a very special sense of intimacy.

Please see the programme below to discover what to expect during a magical midsummer weekend of talks and conversations at one of Britain’s most enchanting private homes.

Click on speaker names below for more details.

Latest News

New Talk – Lord Cholmondeley in Conversation with Tim Marlow.

In 2000, Lord Cholmondeley commissioned James Turrell to create a ‘Skyspace’ at Houghton Hall & Gardens, a viewing chamber to look at an ever-changing square of sky above. Visitors to the Literary Festival can also see site-specific commissions by artists including Anya Gallaccio, Jeppe Hein, Stephen Cox, Phillip King, Rachel Whiteread and Richard Long, each created in dialogue with Houghton and its historic landscape.

Lord Cholmondeley will share his vision for Houghton in conversation with Tim Marlow, broadcaster and Artistic Director of the Royal Academy of Arts. They will also discuss the programme of exhibitions which have included James Turrell in 2015, Richard Long in 2017, Damien Hirst in 2018 and continue with Henry Moore at Houghton Hall: Nature and Inspiration, open 1 May – 29 September 2019.


Friday 21 June

Arne Maynard – on designing Gardens to be Gardened
Julian & Isabel Bannerman – on Creating a Scented Garden in Cornwall
Mary Keen – Objects, Incidents and Accidents in the Garden
Tim Richardson – delves into the history of sculpture in gardens
Peter Parker – How did the delphinium get its name? The author of A Little Book of Latin for Gardeners reveals this and much more
Tom Williamson – on the 18th century landscape of Houghton
George Carter – on Objects in the Garden: a historical look at sculptural and architectural focal points in the landscape
Lisa Chaney – on what gardens tell the biographer of J. M. Barrie, Elizabeth David and Coco Chanel
Lord Cholmondeley in conversation with Tim Marlow – on his vision for Houghton as a contemporary arts destination

Saturday 22 June

Carol Woolton – historic links between floral jewels and gardens, a glamorous glimpse into the world of garden-inspired jewellery
Luciano Giubbilei‏ – the garden design star will share his thoughts on inspiration from art and sculpture
Sam McKnight, Jo Thompson & Caroline Donald – discuss hair stylist Sam McKnight’s garden in West London, designed by Jo Thompson and featured in Caroline Donald’s book The Generous Gardener: Private Paradises Shared
Shane Connolly – Rediscovering the Meaning of Flowers
Sir Roy Strong – on Heroes & Heroines
Richard Mabey – Britain’s greatest living nature writer looks back on a lifetime’s writing
Catherine Horwood – gives the first glimpse of her biography of Beth Chatto, to be published in September
Hugh St Clair – on life and love at Benton End with Cedric Morris and Lett Haines
Raffaella Barker – on how growing a garden can grow a novel
Victoria Fritz – on her rediscovery and restoration of the garden of rockeries and roses of 1920s statesman Austen Chamberlain
Christopher Woodward – Director of The Garden Museum, on Virginia Woolf and gardens

Houghton Hall & Gardens

Houghton is one of the grandest survivors of the Palladian era, built in the 1720s for Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole. It is a showcase of the work of architects James Gibbs and Colen Campbell complemented by the richly ornamented interiors of William Kent and furnished to reflect Walpole’s wealth and power. Now it is home to the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, Walpole’s descendant, and his family. The traditional parkland that surrounds the Hall, includes a spectacular herd of white fallow deer. The pleasure grounds to the west of the house follow the 18th century plans of Charles Bridgeman.

Next to the Stable block is an award-winning five-acre Walled Garden created by Lord Cholmondeley in memory of his grandmother, Lady Sybil Cholmondeley, with the help of then Head Gardener, Paul Underwood; and later advice from Julian and Isabel Bannerman, who also added a number of architectural elements.

“Wherever this blissful young festival roams in the future it is certainly worth downing tools to follow it.” The Daily Telegraph

Please Note:

  • The Festival will be on a Friday and Saturday (not a Saturday and Sunday) as on these two days Houghton Hall & Gardens are closed.
  • Ticket prices exclude lunch and refreshments, which will be available to purchase on the site. Accommodation is also not included.
  • Dogs are not allowed at the Literary Festival.

Media Partner: Literary Review


  • Julian and Isabel Bannerman

    Julian and Isabel Bannerman

    Julian and Isabel Bannerman have been designing gardens and garden buildings together since 1983. They have won awards and competitions such as the one to design British Memorial Garden to 9/11 in New York ; RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal; Civic Trust; Europa Nostra; Georgian Group; Christies Garden of the Year. But the greatest reward is that the gardens are loved and lived in.

  • Raffaella Barker

    Raffaella Barker

    Raffaella Barker is the author of novels such as The Hook, Hens Dancing, Summertime, and daughter of the poet George Barker.

  • George Carter

    George Carter

    Objects in the Garden
    Focal points are key to gardens of all sorts large and small this talk looks at the historical use of focal points in gardens - sculptural and architectural - and shows how these ideas can be used in modern gardens

    George Carter, who lives in Dereham, is admired for his ability to share ideas from historic landscapes to create magical scenes in modern settings.

  • Lisa Chaney

    Lisa Chaney

    Lisa has lectured and taught on the history of art and literature, has made TV and radio broadcasts on the history of culture, and reviewed and written for journals and newspapers, including the Sunday Times, The Spectator and the Independent. Lisa’s most recent book is a life of Coco Chanel.

  • Shane Connolly

    Shane Connolly

    Rediscovering the Meaning of Flowers
    Cut-flowers, why do we have them? And how can we make the flower insudtry more sustainable?

    Shane Connolly's timeless, artisan floral arrangements have attracted clients including HRH Prince of Wales.

  • Caroline Donald

    Caroline Donald

    Caroline Donald has been gardening editor of the Sunday Times since 2000. A writer and editor with a particular interest in the cross-pollination of gardening, design and the arts – both high and domestic – she has also curated successful series of garden talks at Messum’s gallery in Wiltshire and Durslade, the Somerset outpost of the international art gallery Hauser & Wirth. She has an unruly cottage garden in Somerset.

  • Victoria Fritz

    Victoria Fritz

    Making Peace: Restoring Chamberlain’s Garden
    In 1919 foreign secretary Sir Austen Chamberlain bought “a pretty place, with a lovely view and just what Ivy has always dreamed of”. Over the following decade, Chamberlain and his wife developed a garden of rockeries and roses, at the same time as he cultivated an inter-war peace deal between Britain, France and Germany. Speaking at the Literary Festival this summer, Victoria uncovers the story of the Chamberlains as she restores their garden a century on.

    About Victoria Fritz
    Victoria is a BBC News broadcaster and instagardener. Victoria’s passion for the natural world has taken her from British Colombia to Patagonia, along the Amazon and across the Pacific. The practices she learns she shares on social media as @thesocialgardener. Victoria gardens with gusto on five acres of terraced hillside, woodland and meadow on the High Weald in Sussex.

  • Luciano Giubbilei

    Luciano Giubbilei

    Luciano Giubbilei‏ is a garden design star known for his Tuscan landscape designs and his winning garden at the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show. His inspirations range from his native Siena to experimental planting at Great Dixter.

  • Catherine Horwood

    Catherine Horwood

    Beth Chatto: A Life in Plants
    A look at Beth Chatto's early life and the influences that helped make her one of the 20th century's greatest gardeners.

    Catherine started her career as a journalist, drifted into academia and out again to be a full-time writer about her favourite things - dress and gardening history. In addition to writing for publications such as Gardens Illustrated and The English Garden, ​Catherine has worked on exhibitions and broadcasts especially on the history of women in horticulture.

  • Mary Keen

    Mary Keen

    Mary Keen has designed gardens from America to Corfu, and writes regularly on gardening for the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator.

  • Richard Mabey

    Richard Mabey

    Richard Mabey is the author of some thirty books, including the ground-breaking and best-selling “cultural flora” Flora Britannica (1996), winner of a National Book Award, and Gilbert White, which won the Whitbread Biography Award in 1986,. His recent memoir Nature Cure (2005), which describes how reconnecting with the wild helped him break free from debilitating depression, was short-listed for three major literary awards, the Whitbread, Ondaatje, and J.R. Ackerley prizes.

  • Tim Marlow

    Tim Marlow

    Tim Marlow is Artistic Director of the Royal Academy of Arts. Prior to his appointment at the Royal Academy, Marlow was Director of Exhibitions at White Cube for over 10 years (2003-2014).

    Marlow has been involved in the contemporary art world for the past twenty-five years as curator, writer and award-winning radio and television broadcaster. Having trained as an art historian, he has also worked with many of the most important and influential artists of our time.

    Marlow sits on the Board of Trustees for the Imperial War Museum, Sadler’s Wells, Artichoke, Art on the Underground Advisory Board, The British School at Rome and Cultureshock Media.

  • Arne Maynard

    Arne Maynard

    An international garden designer with a portfolio of high profile clients, Arne designs gardens across the globe. He is an RHS Gold Medal and Best in Show winning designer and is hailed by his profession as one of most important garden designers working today.

  • Sam McKnight

    Sam McKnight

    From Divas to dahlias
    When Sam McKnight is not travelling round the world coiffing the hair of the world's top models, he's out deadheading his roses. The legendary hair stylist and Jo Thompson, Chelsea gold-winning designer, talk to Caroline Donald, gardening editor of The Sunday Times, about their collaboration in his north London garden and the joys that gardening brings.

    Celebrated session hair stylist, Sam McKnight, is the hairdresser of all hairdressers. He boasts a legendary career spanning over four decades encompassing catwalks, editorial and advertising campaigns for fashion houses such as Chanel, Fendi, Balmain, Burberry and Tom Ford. A regular contributor to both British and international Vogues, W, Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair, i-D and Love, he has over 100 covers to his name from British Vogue alone.

  • Peter Parker

    Peter Parker

    Peter Parker is a journalist and author of A Little Book of Latin for Gardeners.

  • Tim Richardson

    Tim Richardson

    Tim Richardson is a garden historian and landscape critic, and an irreverent commentator on all matters pertaining to gardens.

  • Hugh St Clair

    Hugh St Clair

    Hugh St Clair is a writer, interior design guru and curator. This year he releases a new book, A Lesson in Art & Life, The Colourful World of Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines.

  • Sir Roy Strong

    Sir Roy Strong

    Sir Roy Colin Strong, CH, FRSL is an English art historian, museum curator, writer, broadcaster and landscape designer. He has served as director of both the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Strong was knighted in 1982.

  • Jo Thompson

    Jo Thompson

    Listed by House and Garden magazine as one of the country’s top ten garden designers, she has been the recipient of four Gold and five Silver Gilt medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and in 2017 she won the People’s Choice award at the first RHS Chatsworth Flower Show. She is also a member of the RHS Gardens Committee and Garden Advisor for RHS Rosemoor, as well as being a member of the RHS Show Gardens Selection Panel. Jo lectures both nationally and internationally, and also tutors at The London College of Garden Design.

  • Tom Williamson

    Tom Williamson

    Tom Williamson is professor of Landscape history at the University of East Anglia.

  • Carol Woolton

    Carol Woolton

    Carol Woolton is Contributing Director of Jewellery for British Vogue, Jewellery historian and author of four books including Floral Jewels: From the World's Leading Designers, and is curating an exhibition at the Garden Museum in 2020.

Image: Houghton Hall & Gardens © Houghton Hall Archives; Fossey Images