Monday, July 20, 2015

Garden Guide for English Historical Authors: Summer

by Margaret Porter

As gardener, garden historian and collector of gardening manuals, I tend to follow the advice of gardeners long past as often—perhaps more often—than current experts. As historical author, maintaining authenticity in terms of what was grown in a given period, and when it bloomed, is extremely important to me.

This is intended as the first of four planned seasonal guides, with information taken from 17th and 18th century sources in my personal library. The illustrative pictures come from my own 21st century gardens, in which I grow heritage plants.


damask rose
In the Kitchen & Herb Gardens. Plant out sweet herbs (thyme, hyssop, sweet-marjoram, clary sage, burnet, sorrel) that were sown under glass, screening them from the sun until they take root. Gather mullein, speedwell, sundew, catmint, spearmint, peppermint, feverfew, mallow, horehound, saxifrage, tansy, St. John’s wort, tarragon, wormwood, lavender spikes, pimpernel, dwarf elder, orach, calamint, eyebright, damask rose and other roses, elderflower. Manure the melons. Sow Turnips, broccoli, plant beans, sow lettuces for a late crop. “Gather up snails in the morning and evening, and after showers of rain, at which times they will come abroad from their holes and places of harbour, and are easily destroyed.”

Fruit and Vines. Repair espaliers, tie up and train vines and cut off weak side shoots. Harvest currants, green gooseberries, strawberries.

Trees and shrubs. Trim evergreens. Clip hedges at the middle or in later part of the month. Those cut now will require clipping again in August.

In the Flower Garden. Transplant annual flowers from hot-bed to the borders of the flower garden. Lift tulips, anemones, ranunculus, narcissus, fritillary, crown imperial, and other bulbous and tuberous flowers after leaves decay. Clean them and box or bag until time to plant out. Cut box edging at mid-month, in moist weather. Support and trim flowering plants.

Flowers in bloom: Larkspur, white lily, orange lily, everlasting pea, veronica, hyssop, snapdragon, linaria, yellow loosestrife, yellow and blue aconite, veronica, linaria, rose campion, bellflower, ox-eye, columbine, marigold, chrysanthemum, nigella, wallfower, sweet william, iris, cranesbill, red valerian, bachelor’s button, poppies, columbine, thrift, candytuft, foxglove, periwinkle, camomile, lavatera, lavender, globe thistle, squill.

lathyrus (everlasting pea)

Trees, shrubs, vines in bloom: Pomegranate, Spanish broom, yellow and white jasmine, roses, tamarisk, lime tree, cinquefoil, honeysuckle, Syringa, viburnum, passion flower, Tulip-tree, spirea, Portugal laurel, sweetbriar, lime tree, American dogwood.


In the Kitchen garden: Harvest late crop of kidney beans. Sow spinach for winter use, as well as carrots and onions and turnips. Sow broccoli for a spring crop. Pull and dry onions and garlic when leaves wither and spread them in a dry place. Pull stalks of beans, cabbages, peas that are no longer bearing. Withhold water from ripening melons, for better taste, except in the driest weather. Harvest cauliflower, artichoke, cabbage, carrots, beans, peas, turnips, lettuce, radish, mustard, cress, parsley, sorrel, chervil, salsify, horse radish, tomatoes for soups, burnet, borage, mint, sage, thyme, other pot herbs.Harvest medicinal flowers: winter savory, pennyroyal, mints, toadflax, dill, basil, French lavender, ladies bedstraw, rocket, henbane.

Fruit and Vines. Remove new shoots from espaliers, train regular shoots. Place glass vials of honey-water in the walls to destroy wasps that might infest fruit.

17th century iris
In the Flower Garden. Take up bulbs of late flowers such as red lilies, martagon lilies, transplant Persian and other irises, fritillaries, narcissus. Transplant biennials and other plants sown in spring: carnations, pinks, stock, wallflowers, hollyhocks, Canterbury bells, scabious, bellflower, foxgloves, columbines. Clean borders of leaves. Gather seeds from ripening flowers. Cut down withered or decayed flower stalks.

Trees and Shrubs. Cut and trim hedges.

heritage sweet pea
Flowers in bloom: Carnations, Pinks, sweet williams, stock, linaria, lathyrus, sweetpea, white lily, day lily, aconite, lavatera, poppies, feverfew, camomile, gillyflower, larkspur, nigella, marigold, lupine, red valerian, hollyhock, candytuft, mallow, nasturtium, globe thistle, statice, cardinal flower, clove-gillyflower, heliotrope, monarda, rudbeckia, scabious, golden rods, statice, soapwort, scarlet beans, veronica.

sweet william

Trees, shrubs, vines: various roses, Spanish broom, jasmine, trumpet-flower, passion flower, honeysuckle, tulip tree, ceanothus, Portugal laurel, blue-flowered clematis, magnolias.

passion flower


In the Kitchen & Herb Gardens. Continue to sow spinach, onions, cabbage seed, and cauliflower, under glass or in frames. Cut flowering spikes of lavender, rosemary, savory, hyssop, to encourage new shoots before winter and for distilling or drying. Continue to pull onions and garlic as leves wither and fall, and dry for winter use. Cucumbers for pickling are now in season, pick before they grow too large. Weed asparagus beds, winter crops such as parsnips, leeks, beets, and cabbages.

In the Flower Garden: Gather flower seeds as they ripen, spread them to dry in the sun, keep them in their pods or husks until time for sowing. Transplant polyanthus, primrose, and auriculas, shade and water them till they take root. Cut down flower stalks that have flowered or decayed. Prepare beds for hyacinths and tulips so the earth will settle before planting. Clean gardens of weeds. Sow seeds of anemone, ranunculus, crocus, fritillary, hyacinth, tulip, narcissus, cyclamen, iris, auricula, lily, martagon, polyanthus in pots or boxes of light, rich earth. Sow seeds of annual flowers on warm borders where they can withstand the winter, to flower early the following summer. Keep the pleasure garden neat, mow the grass frequently after moist weather, have it rolled. Keep the gravel walks clean of weeds.

Gather Garden Produce: cabbages, kidney beans, peas, artichokes, carrots, lettuce of several sorts, cucumbers, turnips, melons, onions, sallet herbs, potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, pot herbs, cucumbers for pickling, nasturtium flowers for sallets and seeds for pickling.

Fruits for Harvest: Apples (codlin, summer pearmain, pippin, and others), several varieties of pears and peaches, nectarines and plums, white and black grapes, Orleans figs, filberts, mulberries, gooseberries, currants, black cherries, melons.

Flowers in bloom: carnation, goldenrod, cardinal flower, campanula, hollyhock, African and French marigold, nigella, candytuft, sweet pea, lathyrus, sunflower, lavatera, mallow, tuberose, veronica, nasturtium, feverfew, chrysanthemum, globe thistle, stock, lupine, lavendula, zinnia, pinks, Marvel of Peru, cyclamen, geranium, double feverfew, alyssum, monarda, hibiscus.



Flowers in bloom: Common white jasmine, passion flower, honeysuckle, althea, musk ruse, laurustinus, trumpet flower, tulip tree, Spanish broom, hydrangea, spirea, tamarisk, kalmia, rhododendron, cassioberry.


English Garden History: Spring Guide
English Garden History: Autumn Guide
English Garden History: Winter Guide

Anyone with a particular interest in or curiosity about types of roses available prior to the 20th century may visit my article By Any Other Name: Historic Roses.


Margaret Porter is the award-winning and bestselling author of twelve period novels, whose other publication credits include nonfiction and poetry. A Pledge of Better Times, her highly acclaimed novel of 17th century courtiers Lady Diana de Vere and Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St. Albans, is her latest release, available in trade paperback and ebook. Margaret studied British history in the UK and the US. As historian, her areas of speciality are social, theatrical, and garden history of the 17th and 18th centuries, royal courts, and portraiture. A former actress, she gave up the stage and screen to devote herself to fiction writing, travel, and her rose gardens.


  1. Great post! Loved the detail! Just bought your novel and licking my,lips in anticipation!

    1. Oh, thank you! I do hope you will enjoy it, and glad you enjoyed the article. You will find gardens in many of my novels!

  2. Margaret, this is wonderful! Thank you for all your work compiling this information.

    1. My pleasure. I contemplate a book, but for now have only the time for short pieces.

  3. Very important history , thank you for posting! I have read the names, it's great to see the plants !

    1. I've got so many photos, I grow so many of these plants. I had to be very selective!

  4. Wow! Just what I have been looking for. Thank you for sharing all this wonderful knowledge. I cannot wait for the Autumn post.

  5. This information is great and will be very helpful for my background/setting information. Looking forward to the rest of the series. Thanks.


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