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Directions for the Gardiner: Top Tips

John Evelyn is best known for his Diary, second only in reputation to that of his friend and fellow diarist, Samuel Pepys. But during the seventeenth century, as well as recording the events of the English Civil War, the Restoration of Charles II and the Great Fire of London, he was also writing notes on the upkeep of his garden at Sayes Court, London ‘which may be of use for other gardens’. In the post below, OUP UK Publicity Manager (and our resident green-fingered garden expert) Juliet Evans chooses a selection of her favourite top gardening tips from Directions for the Gardiner and Other Horticultural Advice.

Give now also all your hous’d plants (such as you do not think requisite to take out) fresh Earth at the surface, in place of some of the old Earth (a hand-depth or so) and loosning the rest with a fork, without wounding the Roots: let this be of excellent rich soil, such as is thoroughly consumed, and will first, that it may wash in the vertue*, and comfort the plant: Brush and cleanse them likewise from the dust contracted during their Enclosure. These two last directions have till now been kept as considerable Secrets amongst our Gard’ners…

[* trace elements/the goodness in the soil]


(March) Now do the farewell-frosts, and Easterly-winds prejudice your choicest Tulips, and spot them; therefore cover such with Mats or Canvas to prevent freckles, and sometimes destruction.


Never cast the water upon plants newly planted, nor on flowers, as Auricula, Hepatica, primeroses, or other fibrous plants, but at some convenient distance; so as to moisten the earth about the Roots, and not wett the leaves; for it makes them apt to scorch.


One may sow Reddish, & Carrots together on the same bed: so as the first may be drawn, whilst the other is ready: or sow Lettuce, purselan, parsneps, carrots, Reddis on the same beds, & gather each kind in their season, leaving the parsneps to Winter.


Prepare all Dung & Composts before winter, that it may be frosted, & become short, sweete & mellow.


The Tooles are to be carried into the Toole-house, and all other instruments set in their places, every night when you leave work: & in wett weather you are to clense, sharpen, & repaire them.


Fruit-Trees, which are planted by Walles, as peaches, Apricots, &c: are best watred by pouring it in at holes, made halfe a foote, or more from the stem (but not so deepe as to wound the rootes) with a wooden stake pointed. Make up of good rich water, especially during the time the Fruite is forming: and at other dry seasons.


‘The Gardiner should walke aboute the whole Gardens every Monday-morning duely, not omitting the least corner, and so observe what Flowers or Trees & plants want staking, binding and redressing, watering, or are in danger; especially after greate storms, & high winds and then immediately to reforme, establish, shade, water &c what he finds amisse, before he go about any other work.’

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