Thursday, 13 October 2016

Edward Kemp at Birkdale

Edward Kemp's publication on "How to Lay Out a Garden", first published in 1850 and entitled "How to Lay Out a Small Garden", was published in several editions and was one of the most popular gardening books of its time.  A kind lady (thank you Ann) recently pointed out to me that his 1864 edition had a drawing for a garden in Birkdale Park, one of Kemp's early creations.  I was so surprised to find out that it is our site (the subject of a Conservation Management Plan), as I had read an earlier edition in which it is not mentioned - the moral being don't forget later editions! A stroke of luck.......

garden plan proposed in 1864

It's not the same garden design, but his descriptions of sea-side gardens are very detailed and useful:
"The mode of arrangement which I have found most satisfactory under such circumstances, is to give great prominence to grass in a garden, and, by banks of varied form and height, to secure some degree of diversity, obtaining shelter also by depressing certain parts of the lawn". 
His prescriptive approach to gardening means that we have a strong guide for restoration in the spirit of Kemp, as well as the limitations of gardening along the exposed west sea-front, reclaimed from the extensive sand dunes running along this section of the coast, which plants he favoured and how the circumstances of having to suppress wind-blown sand, created a simplicity to the design, with the lawn and 'grass banks'  having pride of place (made feasible and practical by the invention of the lawn mower in 1830), laid out in what he describes as "the shape of a sunk panel". From his detailed description we can identify that the wych elm, poplar and sycamore are probably daughters of the original planting, even if not the original trees.

1891 - garden as implemented