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Object of The Week – Andrew Lawson’s Photographic Slides for ‘Brilliant Gardens’

By Alice Ridgway, Archivist

The Garden Museum is home to the collection of Andrew Lawson, the photographer: 20,000 slides and transparencies but also the correspondence and records which detail how his unique eye captured the nation’s garden from the 1980s to the present day, from Highgrove to designs by his friends Penelope Hobhouse and Rosemary Verey.

His first books were homages to the social history of London’s streets and he was particularly fond of the smaller gardens across the UK ‘upon which our just reputation as a nation of great gardeners is based.’ Brilliant Gardens was published at the beginning of Lawson’s photography career in 1986. It celebrates the English gardens which ‘never fail to catch the attention of passers-by.’ It also acts as a record of the small and often transient garden masterpieces that represent horticultural works of art, admired throughout the world as marvels of dedication, devotion and design.

In a new series for our Object of the Week feature, I will be sharing some of my favourites from Brilliant Gardens collection of photographic slides that now reside in our archive. To begin, I have chosen two gnome-related photos with accompanying captions from the book written by Candida Lycett Green. For good measure, there is a photograph by Lawson of the Gnome Reserve in Devon, established in 1979 by Ann Atkin. The reserve holds more than 2,000 gnomes earning its place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Mr and Mrs W. Fisher, Cookley, Halesworth, Sullfolk

“Wilfred Fisher has been a farm-worker all his life and began this collection of ornaments about ten years ago when playing Bingo, he won a model squirrel. His wife Dulcie says, ‘All my pot plants died so we started collecting more ornaments as time went by. Wilfred makes a lot of them by using moulds he sends off for. The penguin, dog, fish, fox and mermaid are all his. They’re made of concrete and then painted by him. We’ve got hundreds of ornaments now.'”

Mr and Mrs L. Hudson, Deddington, Oxfordshire

“Leonard Hudson, an Austin Rover factory worker and his wife Sybil, have lived in ‘Knotty Ash’ for around 20 years. ‘My wife was the inspiration for this garden as she so loves to be outdoors. We find that the pleasure it gives to us both by doing it in our spare time is well worth it. Many people call in for a friendly chat and a few tales of their own gardens. The smiles on the children’s faces when they see the gnomes are worth everything.’ The front garden at ‘Knotty Ash’ is filled with over 300 gnomes and animals which get placed differently after each weekly mowing of the lawn.”

The Gnome Reserve and Wildflower Garden, Devon

Visit our film library to watch our 20-minute film about Andrew Lawson and his photographic archive.

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