Tag Archives: gardening women

Botany and Scottish Gardens: Linnaeus was right?

Statue of Linnaeus in the Royal Academy of London

Statue of Linnaeus in the Royal Academy of London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John Lindley (1799-1865)

John Lindley (1799-1865) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whilst  away in Scotland earlier this year I had the opportunity to look at and to read a number of books I might otherwise not have read. One of these was

Gardening Women – their stories from 1600 to the Present by Catherine Horwood. A fascinating title I think you must agree.

Now I didn’t read this book in any great detail but did dip into it and found the chapter on the systems of plant classification in the early 19th century especially fascinating.

There was rivalry in the nineteenth century between the followers of Carl Linnaeus who came up with his ideas in the second half of the 18th century, and those who followed

A. P. de Candolle

A. P. de Candolle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Linnaean system set up an hierarchical scheme of genera and species with stamens and pistils – the male and female sexual parts of flowers.

In contrast de Candolle thought that flowers were non-sexual and thus those who were more prudish in Victorian society preferred this system. He set out a morphology of the plants as a whole with monocotyledons and dicotyledons which is still used.

John Lindley who was a Professor of Botany at London University favoured de Candolle and therefore wanted to separate what he considered to be ‘drawing room botany’ from botany as a natural science. He thought that Linnaeus’s system had resulted in botany becoming an ‘amusement for the ladies rather than an occupation for the serious thoughts of man

So when we visited Edinburgh Botanical gardens I wa well prepared for the Latin and the phrases describing the plants’ make-up and sexual proclivities!

Here we didn’t have time to visit all the garden so decided to see the glasshouses as they said they had a collection of rare plants.

Indeed there were some amazing rhododendrons in them that had been collected from all over the world and were some really tiny ones that came from remote mountains in places like Borneo, the Philippines and Malaysia in the  very high altitudes. I had recently discovered that rhododendrons came not only from China and Japan but also North America, and now was more than surprised to find out just how many places they grew. All very cool of course.

The Botanical Gardens had a World of Palms trail to follow but disappointingly they did not have a plant of the very tall Colombian type that we saw in the cloud forests there and when questioned no-one there seemed to know about it. clearly we hadn’t found the palm experts…PLants in glasshouses at Edinburgh Botanical Gardens P1000463 P1000441 P1000449 P1000452

Of course we did manage to find some other interesting plants whilst in the glasshouses and I thought you might like to see some of them. And the tea and cake there was fabulous and very reasonably priced.  And you could hire the very nice cafe area (waiter service) for your wedding at a very good price indeed with an all white event suggested. Much cheaper than London prices….. One thing  I got quite addicted to, having been introduced to it in Scotland, is the Afganato – a black espresso coffee over a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Yummy!