Best remembered today for his technically innovative design for the Crystal Palace of 1851, Joseph Paxton (1803-65) was head gardener to the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth by the age of twenty-three, and remained involved in gardening throughout his life. Tapping in to the burgeoning interest in gardening amongst the Victorians, in 1841 he founded the periodical The Gardener’s Chronicle with the botanist John Lindley (1799-1865), with whom he had worked on a Government report on Kew Gardens. Paxton’s Flower Garden appeared between 1850 and 1853, following a series of plant-collecting expeditions. Only three of the planned ten volumes were published, but with hand-coloured plates (which can be viewed online alongside this reissue) and over 500 woodcuts, the work is lavish. These volumes reflect not only the Victorians’ interest in gardening, but also the extraordinary lengths to which they would go to retrieve the exotic and unknown.
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