This weekend, just down the road from the Museum at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show will getting ready to celebrate its 100th anniversary. To commemorate this centenary, we have been down to the potting shed and dug up some objects from the V&A collections that might be of interest to anyone with green fingers.
Did you know that the V&A has a vast collection of botanical illustrations, dating back hundreds of years?
Bull Bay; Magnolia grandiflora L., drawing, Georg Dionysus Ehret, 1743. Museum no. D.583-1886. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This example by Georg Dionysius Ehret depicts the the Bull Bay (Magnolia grandiflora). The plant was introduced to Europe from the southern United States and flowered in Europe for the first time in the garden of Sir Charles Wager at Parson’s Green, near Fulham. Ehret walked there every day from his home in Chelsea to draw the plant. He studied each stage of its unfolding and ‘drew every part of it in order to publish a perfect botanical study of it’.
Superior Flower Seeds Poster
This poster for Mandeville & King Co.’s Superior Flower Seeds, which dates from the early 20th century, shows a variety of common flowers that were grown in American gardens of the period. They include cornflowers and gaillardias (also known as blanket flowers). In the centre is an informal bouquet, which emphasises the decorative role of these particular plants, whether as cut flowers in the home or growing in the garden.
Watering can, Martyn Rowlands,1957. Museum no. W.68-2002. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This unusually shaped watering can was designed by Martyn Rowlands for Ekco. The graduated bucket comes with a detachable hinged lid and spout, and is both lightweight and space saving. It garnered some publicity for its innovative design when it was launched, featuring on the cover of Design magazine in October 1957.
Bulb pot, Wedgewood, about 1820. Museum no. 2390-1901. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Of course, the garden isn’t the only place that flowers can be gown. This hedgehog bulb pot, manufactured by Wedgewood, was deigned for indoor use. It would be filled with moss and planted with crocuses, which grew through the holes. Wedgwood has made these bulb pots intermittently since at least 1783.
Garden Implements design
Jug, Eric Ravilious (designer), Wedgwood (manufacturers), about 1939. Museum no. CIRC.470-1948. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This jug, featuring a design by Eric Ravilious, would surely have delighted any keen gardeners who were lucky enough to own it back in the late 1930s/early 1940s. The design features a number of garden objects, including a sunflower, wheelbarrow, green house, bee hive, watering can and even a sleeping cat. It was also available as curtains!
Garden Implements, curtain, Eric Ravilious (designer), Edinburgh Weavers (manufacturers), about 1940. Museum no. T.423-1993. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Budding horticulturalists can discover more garden-related objects through Search the Collections.