The Hatfield

Hatfield Gardens

It looks just as beautiful and fluid as it did 400 years ago. Has a woman been in charge of the gardens? They have been kept more fluid than most men would have made them. Men often try to complete everything but that can conflict with a garden whose very nature is change. That touch doesn't seem to have been crashed into by a man since I left it.  

Here is what we did.
 As is stated on the Hatfield House web site:

Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, employed John Tradescant the Elder to collect plants for his new home. Tradescant was sent to Europe where he found and brought back trees, bulbs, plants and fruit trees, Here

These were mainly the coldest enduring plants that John could locate. From all of these we took the 40% that were best at enduring cold weather and put those in about 1/2 of the gardens.

Then we planted conventional plants in the other half. That way if we had a cold wave in the summer 1/2 of the gardens would still flourish with beauty.

The weather during the little ice age was warm usually but the main thing was that it was terribly unstable. The years fluctuated wildly, sometimes the summers would be warm and sometimes they would suddenly become cold. The temperature could drop anytime from March to August. In those years the growing days would be cut by a lot. About every six years the growing season would drop like that, then warm back up again, so deciding what plants to grow was playing a form of Russian Roulette. Those were known as years with two falls.

You can read on this page more of what I wrote concerning the little ice age in England.

In normal years the two halves of the garden bloomed about a month apart. First one half the gardens would bloom and then about a month later as those flowers faded the other half of the gardens would leap into bloom. If it was one of those strange years only the first of the flower beds would bloom.

That was how we organized the gardens until about 1620. Then I got fed up with the inclement weather and built some of the first greenhouses in England (and the world).

greenhousesThis is a side view of one of the greenhouses. They were cut into the ground so that the dirt alone would kept the inside temperature from freezing until about March. The glass side faced south and slightly west so that also kept it warm inside most of the winter. The greenhouses were about 45-60 feet long. We also had heaters installed for the coldest days but we only used them for about ten days of the year and those days were usually in March.

Kew Palm HouseActually the greenhouses were a lot like the Palm House at Kew Gardens but our panes of glass were a bit smaller. 

A horse once went through one of the greenhouses when it's rider tried to jump it and missed. Dogs could run over them but the sheep would occasionally break through the glass with their hooves.

Zinnias We were the first in England to grow Zinnias, a warm weather flower (left). We started them in the greenhouses I think in March and then later transplanted them outside. Marigolds

We also breed the famous English Marigold (right). We made it a bit more colorful but more important we made them so they would blossom over a long period of time. Also, the blossoms stayed open longer and once they were picked they took about three times as long to wilt as the original marigolds. We made them usable in flower arrangements. One of my greatest pleasures was in seeing them appear in markets all over England.

Date PalmThe plant which got the most visitors excited were the various palm trees we grew in the greenhouses. They almost always thought there was something wrong with them since they had never seen a tree with only upper branches and no lower ones. My reputation as a 'court jester' got me accused of turning a tree upside down and painting the roots green more than once!

Nutmeg I grew the first nutmeg tree (right) in the west. It was a by-product of the Dutch and English war over Run Island in the early 17th century. It grew so fast that in four years time, even with trimming, it was bursting through the roof in it's determination to grow to be 50 feet tall. The Dutch had a monopoly on nutmegs so we tried to break it. We contracted to start a farm in the tropics and I sent several hundred small plants there but insects liked nutmeg as much as humans did and it failed. 

The truth be known, nutmeg was a major component of most aphrodisiacs. People came from all over England just to see our tree since they were fascinated by anything and every thing having to do with nutmegs as in this old English rhyme:

I had a little nut tree,
Nothing would it bear
But a silver nutmeg,
And a golden pear;

The King of Spain's daughter
Came to visit me,
And all for the sake
Of my little nut tree.

Her dress was made of crimson,
Jet black was her hair,
She asked me for my nut tree
And my golden pear.

I said, "So fair a princess
Never did I see,
I'll give you all the fruit
From my little nut tree.

The greenhouses worked so well that we built four of them. We had many tropical plants and I think that included banana plants which were put outside the greenhouse and even in the house when they got large.
We supplied a lot of plants to the crown. We supplied exotic plants to King James and Charles as well other government buildings.

The second use of two of the greenhouses were as comfortable spaces or I guess you could call them the world's first conservatories. I made them into reading rooms and visiting parlors. We had tables and chairs set up in them where we could lounge away the winter afternoons among a jungle of the only green plants in England while we read and visited.

Alice in Wonderland

On to the Hatfield Maze. The most difficult maze on earth.


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