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Queer Garden History

It would be very easy to draw up a long list of well-known gardeners who were queer, from Horace Walpole and Béatrice de Rothschild to Beverley Nichols and Vita Sackville-West. But is there a link between sexuality and creating a garden? Have the imaginations and energies of people whose private lives have placed them outside society’s norms been redirected toward designing gardens? Why is it that queer gardeners have been so influential in the formation of gardening taste?

In the first of a series on this theme, the biographer and historian Peter Parker discusses these questions with three authors who have studied sexuality and gardening in the 20th Century: Nicola Shulman on the eccentric plant hunter and writer Reginald Farrer; Hugh St Clair on the painter and plantsman Cedric Morris; and Sarah Barclay on the artist and garden designer Humphrey Waterfield.

  • Peter Parker

    Bio »

    Peter Parker

    Peter Parker is the author of two books about the First World War, The Old Lie (1987) and The Last Veteran (2009); biographies of J.R. Ackerley (1989) and Christopher Isherwood (2004); Housman Country (2016); and A Little Book of Latin for Gardeners (2018). His anthology Some Men in London: Queer Life, 1945-1967 will be published by Penguin in two volumes next year.

  • Hugh St. Clair

    Bio »

    Hugh St. Clair

    Hugh St. Clair is an experienced arts and design journalist with reviews and
    features published in numerous British and international magazines and
    newspapers, from House & Garden and Country Life to The Art Newspaper and
    Bonhams auction house magazine. He has edited and written four books on
    paintings including three editions of Miller’s Picture Price Guide and Miller’s
    Buying Affordable Art. His biography A Lesson in Art & Life: The Colourful
    World of Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines (Pimpernel Press) celebrates the
    long relationship of the two men and their enjoyment of life through gardening,
    cooking and painting.

  • Nicola Shulman

    Bio »

    Nicola Shulman

    Nicola Shulman is a writer and critic. She has written widely on literature and the arts for many publications including The Times Literary Supplement, the Telegraph, The Spectator Vogue and the Oldie. She devised and curated the successful exhibition “Fashion and Gardens” at the Garden Museum in 2014. Her publications include: A Rage For Rock gardening: The story of Reginald Farrer, and Graven With Diamonds: The Many lives of Thomas Wyatt, Courtier, Poet, Assassin, Spy. Her own garden is in North Yorkshire.

  • Sarah Barclay

    Bio »

    Sarah Barclay