The Compleat Gardener’s Practice, Directing the Exact Way of Gardening. In three parts. The Garden of Pleasure, Physical Garden, Kitchin Garden

Item author: Stephen Blake
Item date: 1664
Grant Value: £2,976 from FNL's B. H. Breslauer Fund
Item cost: £8,928
Item date acquired: 2014
Item institution: Garden Museum
London borough: LB Lambeth

This copy of the The Compleat Gardener’s Practice, a 17th-century gardening book, was acquired from the library of the garden designer Rosemary Verey, and includes the yellow sticker she used to mark the knot design which inspired her own renowned garden at her home, Barnsley House.

The book contains 30 plates depicting ‘a variety of knots for the beautifying of the garden’ and addresses the methods and plants proposed for the ‘garden of pleasure, the physical garden and the kitchin garden’. Stephen Blake was the gardener to William Ouglander, M.P.; however very little else is known about him, other than that he was active in the middle period of the seventeenth century. The knot designs in this book are particularly interesting for what they reveal about the development of knot patterns in gardening books and pattern books of the time, and their use in both the garden and the applied arts. Little has been written about The Compleat Gardener’s Practice as a resource for the study of design compared with contemporary texts similarly famed, which makes it particularly ripe for further research.

Rosemary Verey (1918-2001) was a prolific garden designer and a collector of gardening literature. The Compleat Gardener’s Practice was a book Verey had coveted for a long time before she finally acquired it. In 1987, she remarked, ‘I long to lay my hands on a copy… as we have used his design of the True Lovers’ Knot for our knot garden’. Verey subsequently reproduced the True Lovers’ Knot in her own popular books. Along with the laburnum walk and her kitchen garden, Barnsley House was well known for the knot garden she planted there, reflecting the inspiration she often drew from past styles and traditions in garden design.

Stephen Blake’s The Compleat Gardener’s Practice is an important addition for the Garden Museum collection, because it illustrates the change in use and design of the garden during the seventeenth century. It is also invaluable to the study of twentieth- century garden design.

This grant was awarded from FNL's B. H. Breslauer Fund, thanks to the generosity of the President and Officers of the B. H. Breslauer Foundation.


The Compleat Gardener’s Practice, 1664. Image: The Garden Museum.
The Compleat Gardener’s Practice, 1664. Image: The Garden Museum.