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The Garden History Society

Forgotten Gardeners, II: John Graefer Author(s): Alice M. Coats Source: The Garden History Society Newsletter, No. 16 (Feb., 1972), pp. 4-7 Published by: The Garden History Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1586242 . Accessed: 29/07/2013 13:43
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and with much of the material yet practically untouched, my own experiavailable; is that when working ence on one subject of interest in another fragments clearly to be passed have often the exchange of ideas between subject by. Now, with within such a group as ours, such items can be passed on rather than members, passed by.

We should
the

remember the

astounding

Bacon,
of

when he wrote
without of which, this

that

gardening

"is

to the refreshment greatest are but handiwork". palaces gross to which our country has ment",

spirits man; the history Surely made a world-famous

contribution,

and buildings refresh"greatest is as much

worth

our study

as that

of the

"gross
* , * *

handiwork"
* * * * *

of buildings
*

and palaces?

Forgotten

gardeners,

II:

John

Graefer,

by Alice

M. Coats

In one sense, Graefer or Graffer) Graeffer was forgotten (also almost spelt for nothing of his early he began; has been recorded before life. He is said to and to have been a pupil of Philip have been a German by birth, but we do Miller; not knowwhen of his subsequent or why he came to England, nor the dates employat Croome, a plant-loving and by James Vere, ment by the Earl of Coventry silkGore. We are first able to put a finger of Kensington on him about 1776, merchant of Thompson and Gordon at Mile End - the year the nursery-firm in when he joined over made the to the James his which business sons. Gordon, founder,

During

the

following

decade

Graefer

seems

to have

been responsible

for

are credited in Hortus Those of 1776-78 number of plant-introductions. Kewensis the later ones to Graefer the most productive to "Gordon and Graeffer", alone, when he introduced Aucuba japonica, years being 1783-4, japonica, Ophiopo9on and and Eucomis re-introduced Orontium japonica, angustifolius punctata, Elaeagnus or Zungeed, whose fragrance the Zinzeyd var. has so intoxicating an orientalis, of Teheran men lock in the neighbourhood that women when the tree effect up their result of the introduction was observed in England.) is in bloom. (No particular obtained to know how Graefer his Japanese It would be interesting as the plants, a to for closed then limited was except Europeans, entirely very country trading India The only channel would seem to have to the Dutch East concession Company.

been through

Thunberg,

who left

Japan

in December
on the way. introduced.

1776 and got


Perhaps In

back to Sweden in
met him, since William

visited 1779, having January both were known to Sir Joseph It was not only plants

England Banks. that Graefer

Graefer September

1785

Aiton of Kew was looking Graefer put him in touch


employed, known of first Hove's on the antecedents,

for a gardener to send abroad as a plant-collector, Anton Hove, who was subsequently with the Polish
African and then in India. But coast, nor of how he and Graefer became again, nothing acquainted.

and
is

In February

of the

same year

the
Sir

Queen of Naples

and Sicily

had asked

the

William to find British Minister her an English Plenipotentiary, Hamilton, a out to lay in the English She wished in addition to garden gardener. style, the palace at Caserta. that surrounded Sir William the formal already gardens Sir Joseph and by August to his the request Banks had correspondent Banks, passed for the post. candidate The appointment Graefer as a suitable seems to selected to it in his journal White referred for Gilbert more than have made some stir, of the King of the two Sicilies "The Gardener later:two years is a Scotchman and had been partner, or assistant, who went over two years to ago; /sic7 Mr. Gordon."

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Arrangements

were

made in September

for

a passage

to Naples

for

Graefer,

and a servant his three sons is mentioned but they may have followed (no female a wife later: and one daughter survived but these first fell him), bookings and eventually with much difficulty accommodation was found for them on through, a vessel bound for Leghorn. Here Graefer had to wait three weeks for a ship for he was on this of the John Dr. on Naples; accompanied part journey by Sibthorp, his way to the Greek islands, with his draughtsman Ferdinand Bauer. They were for a long time by bad weather at the island of Ponza, and employed the delayed in making time a thorough botanical of the island. The gardener survey reached on 18th April Less than three later months eventually 1786. Naples Sir

William

reported

that

"a beautiful

plant

called

Emma has

been transplanted

from

- Emma Hart, the protegee of his nephew Charles later to England" Greville, become Lady Hamilton. Another visitor was Dr. (later J.E. Sir) English Smith, who called at Naples in March 1787 in the course of a Continental Grand Tour. Graefer took him botanising and showed him Daphne collina he had (which found on Ponza) beside Volturno" in such profusion previously as growing "shelvy to resemble "the celebrated of Paestum". (Smith's rose-gardens description.) the new garden was making progress. A site of 50 acres had been Meantime, to the existing and to was a include purchased adjacent garden, vegetable garden, a botanic and a bowling-green. Graefer soon had 80 men at work, garden besides the walls. But he was beset many masons The Italian building by difficulties. were and so were the palace who did all gardeners intensely jealous, servants, could to blacken his he was overcharged for his they and character; lodgings, monies due to him were not paid. Half-a-dozen times he would have given it all to England, if it'had not been for Hamilton's up and returned and backing He was not helped assistance. of his employers. by the character King Ferdinand, was capricious, (a Spanish Bourbon) vindictive and tyrannical; he enjoyed riding on fairground roundabouts and consorting with the riff-raff of Naples. (Haydn wrote for him a Divertimento in C Major incorporating two hurdy-gurdies, the King fond of these He had married at seventeen instruments.) being Maria Carolina of sister of Marie Antoinette, who had a nature even more domineering Austria, than his called her "the only man in Naples". So long as the new garden own; Napoleon was Maria's the disliked at one time he threatened plaything, King to it; indeed, have it ploughed and sown with corn. But after two the Queen was obliged up years to give it up on account of the expense; Ferdinand then began to take an interest in it, and before with was Graefer arm-in-arm. Graefer was given long a walking and employed on advantageous terms a house pension by the Queen, was by the King;

built

for
-

him in the
of

grounds
he

and he was sent


to

all

over
But

the
in

kingdom
1795 the

to

collect
favour

plants

some

which

introduced

England.

was again his wits'


going.

royal

withdrawn and for two years no supplies were forthcoming; Graefer was at the Queen came forward with a donation end till to keep the gardens of difficulties Graefer managed to create a garden which the criti-

In spite
cal J.C.

Loudon many years later called a specimen "as perfect of the English as we have seen on the Continent. The verdure pleasure-ground of the turf is maintained of irrigation, and parts of the walls by a partially-concealed system were originally laid with which could at the time Kensington gravel. Every exotic be purchased at the Hammersmith was planted, and many of them form now nursery fine nor later (Neither William had a good very specimens." Loudon, Robinson, word to say for the earlier formal which seem to have been both pretengardens, tious and dull.) Several of the locality noblemen Graefer to lay out employed their grounds.

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of

In eleven

a Descriptive (in England) 1789 Graefer Catalogue published and Perennial and varieties of Herbaceous hundred species

of upwards Plants etc.,

a manual which

has been described

as second

in usefulness

only

to Miller's

in the In the foreword he claims to have been "publicly celebrated Dictionary. This refers "Invention of Prepared annals for his of the Admiralty" Vegetables". and brown to a patent and preparing which he took out in 1780 for "drying green a a or will for that it retain so or other Scotch year longer borecole, kale, as a preventative or its virtue as an excellent natural its flavour food, period were hung in in salted water the plants of scorbutic After disorders". scalding but after a room heated other "a or completely being stove", any buzaglo by

dried

they

were
to

allowed
in

to re-absorb

sufficient

humidity

to prevent

them from

packing. pieces crumbling was at Nelson Admiral on 1st August of the Nile After the Battle 1798, would first more his duties as much, or rather recuperating permit, than, Naples Emma. The with the fascinating his affaire and then pursuing from a head-wound then (Nelson had already French being occupied Rome, and at the end of the year The and set up the short-lived took Naples, at sea) Republic. Parthenopian they but in the following in Sicily, took refuge through July, largely royal family with the Nelson to his throne. He rewarded was restored Ferdinand Nelson's help, and under the shadow of Mount Etna; in Sicily, of Bronte dukedom and estate

within
serve

a month the
as steward

Admiral health

had brought of his crews,

Graefer

and his the

family

from Caserta
Nelson, always

to

on his

new property.

(One wonders

whether

solicitous
Vegetables".) and "Nelson

for

the

knew about

"Invention
of

of Prepared
signed Irish himself descent

Nelson Bronte";

with his title was pleased an eccentric his fame induced

and thereafter clergyman

called
as

Prunty

or Brunty

to

change
in

the

spelling
condition;

of his
its

name, which
ancient

he handed
of

on

to his talented "Bronte" was then The estate

daughters. a derelict

fortress of

Maniace
called landlord.

was in ruins
La Fragila. He had

and the
Nelson

only

habitable
to

building
improve the

of

any size

was a farmhouse
agriculture

was

anxious

standards

and to demonstrate

to the

downtrodden

peasantry

the

benefits

of having

an English

for honesty in Graefer, whose "character confidence great and as an agriculturist abilities and his undeniable", unimpeachable /was7 in fitting and two years' revenues the first him to employ authorised up a house for his to have exceeded seems Graefer the estate. instructions, improving that had been intended, which was all in order, the farmhouse of putting instead a "perfect of the into Maniace himself he busied Palace", worthy converting financial little received Nelson Duke of Bronte. of the glorious residence Meantime his heirs. benefitted and the estate his return only lifetime, during over three before the on 7 August at Bronte died Graefer just years 1802, at Trafalgar. death Admiral's of a different, and apparently account Loudon gives J.C. circumstantial, at Caserta the that he remained He says death. Graefer's occupation throughout in and died, or "was, Murat (1808-1815), of Naples brother-in-law, by Napoleon's and hostile stabbed set been in murdered" mortally by upon having 1816, part, It seems certain, fall from his when stunned gig. by an accidental peasants of John Graefer, was another this murder the victim that perhaps partial however, of the original the death for as the evidence three one of the gardener's sons, "one of the Graeffers" to record that It is pleasant John in 1802 is irrefutable. in at Caserta was still 1835. head-gardener

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Principal

references:2nd ed. (1810). Kewensis, W., Hortus The Letters Banks (1958). W.R., .... of Herbaceous A Descirptive J., Catalogue Plants 1789). of Gardening (1822). Loudon, J.C., Encyclopaedia N.H. Sir of and Letters The Nicholas, ed., Dispatches Lord Nelson (1845). Nelson (1947). Oman, C., Aiton, Dawson, Graefer,
* * * * * * * * * * *

Perennial

....

The Conservatory, and corbels were Hesketh member victorian Park,

Hesketh completely

before restoration Park, rusted through. and its Conservatory,

in

1971.

Some roof

bearers

Southport,

by John

A.

Harrison,

F.I.B.D.

we have what has been described by a leading Southport, as "an outstanding of midimportant example Society I would to think the hand of Paxton like was landscape design". it was"the and authorities of do) but feel (as many authors ghost" responsible Edward Kemp of Birkenhead, for Paxton had died in former his Paxton pupil through Park was completed in 1868. I have been back through all the Hesketh 1865 before no reference and can find of the Council to Paxton, whatsoever minutes old written a that local tradition he involved been was rather it has like always although at Hardwick Hall. But alas' it just of Mary, Queen of Scots wasn't the tradition In Hesketh Park, of the Victorian

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