Short lectures range from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on your requirements.  I can also offer two complete "Study days" for a more in-depth look at the subject of garden history, and details can be found at the bottom of this page.

 

 Food of the Gods - the utterly delicious history of chocolate
New for Spring 2017.  Congratulations, lucky finder of this Golden Ticket, which entitles you to a guided tour of  Wonka's famous chocolate factory, conducted by Mr. Willy Wonka himself.  You will learn all about the history of chocolate from its discovery in the forests of central Mexico to the birth of the modern chocolate bar, and your tour will include tickets to a rehearsal of Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte, a ride in the Great Glass Elevator to a chocolate processing plant, breakfast with a Spanish Marquesa and possibly - if you have been very good indeed - some free samples to take home with you.  



Portrait of a Victorian Garden - James Bateman and the story of Biddulph Grange
Created at a time when new horticultural treasures were pouring into England from newly explored countries and when technology was making its presence increasingly felt in the garden, Biddulph Grange is a unique - some would say completely bizarre - creation. A walk around Biddulph takes you on a tour of the Victorian world as seen through the eyes of its enigmatic creator James Bateman and reflects not only the period but Bateman's ideas, beliefs and outlook on life.  Prepare to be surprised....
-----------------------------------------


Tools of the Trade
Have you ever stood looking into your cluttered shed wondering where it all came from? This talk won't help you find the trowel or untangle the hose from a deckchair but it will introduce you to the history of the lawnmower, the wheelbarrow, your secateurs, that wretched hosepipe and many of the other bits and pieces that we need to keep our gardens looking cared for and tidy.
 --------------------------
 


Down in the garden, something deadly lurks. Several people who stood between the gardener and a large inheritance have died horribly. Could it be that they have all been poisoned with the plants and flowers that grow there?  Many have been used throughout history as part of the murderer's stock-in-trade, both in fiction and real life, so should you be on your guard against "herbaceous murder" as the gardener welcomes you in for what might be your very last garden tour?  Make sure your life insurance is up to date against murder most floral - it's time to Say It With Poison!
 --------------------------
 
In the middle of the 14th century, a beautiful and exotic visitor from the east set foot on European soil for the very first time. With an extensive wardrobe of colourful veils of glistening silk shielding her dark and mysterious eyes from the gaze of the curious, the captivating visitor swept all before her and made people her willing slaves. Her beauty became the stuff of legend and she could bring prestige and riches to anyone who courted her favour. But within 150 years she would fall from grace within the course of a single week.  The Tale of the Tulip follows the spectacular rise and fall of this beautiful garden flower. 
----------------------------------------------

 Much has been written about plants that changed the world - cotton, sugar, tobacco, but little about Great Britain's "national drink" - tea. We get through nearly 35 million cups of it a day but do you know where tea came from? Have you suffered on your knees through the Japanese Tea Ceremony? What was the Temperance Movement. Who invented the Tea Bag? And why should you never add the milk first? 
            Pour yourself A Nice Cup of Tea!

----------------------------------------------

 

The Devil's Garden - From the screams of the mandrake plant to the Forbidden Fruit of Eden, from ghosts in a plate of beans to something very nasty hiding in a pot of basil, this unusual talk takes you on a garden tour with a difference. Beware - these plants can seriously damage your health, your marriage, your sanity or your pocket (and if you are very unlucky, all four!).

------------------------------------------------- 



The Capable Mr. Brown
  - we all know his name, but what do you know about Brown's family life, the people he worked for and what else was happening in England at the time? Where did the new style of landscape gardening he is famous for come from? This talk takes a look at the life and career of Lancelot "Capability" Brown - a man who changed the face of England for ever. Born into poverty and obscurity, he became renowned across the world as the father of the English landscape garden movement. But who was he?
-----------------------------------------------

 

The Inexhaustible Mr. Paxton - plantsman, Head Gardener to the Duke of Devonshire, architect, designer of the "Crystal Palace", inventor, MP publisher, owner of "Punch" Magazine, railway magnate and the first man to produce a flower from the Giant Amazonian Waterlily in Europe, this talk looks at the rags-to-riches tale of the 19th century's most extraordinary (and seemingly inexhaustible!) man, Joseph Paxton.

--------------------------------


Dig for Victory
looks at the period when England's gardens took on the might of Hitler's armies.  Gardens great and small, public and private saw clematis give way to cabbage and roses replaced by radishes. This talk looks at the role of the "forgotten army" - the Land Girls - who helped to put food on the tables of the nation, plus advice and propaganda given to gardeners in print and over the airwaves, the unexpected problems of putting an Anderson Shelter in your back garden and why Enid Blyton's rabbit was called "Stew".
--------------------------------------
Starting with a look at what a folly actually is (and what it isn't),
             The Art of the Folly
            looks at weird, wonderful and (generally) unexplained garden buildings of the 18th and 19th centuries. Many have entertaining stories behind their creation -  find out how to out-do the Bishop of Salisbury, what happens when you put an advert in the paper for a hermit and how to produce a 50 foot pineapple.
------------------------------------------------------------
 
 
Flower Power!
            Four half-hour talks which can be combined to suit your timing needs. Beloved by artists as well as gardeners, flowers are everywhere in art. But are they just flowers or do they carry hidden meanings? Is there a deeper significance - spiritual, cultural or aesthetic - than we realise?  Put on your deerstalker and prepare to exercise your little grey cells as we tour a virtual art gallery looking for the clues that artists have left for us between the petals of roses, lilies, tulips and sunflowers.
--------------------------------------------------------
 
The Painted Garden is two talks in one - a virtual tour through some of the major art galleries of the world and a journey through the history of gardening. From Egyptian tomb paintings to London Underground posters via an unseemly scramble for very expensive tulip bulbs and the landscapes of Capability Brown, all the major trends and fashions in the history of gardening are explored through the medium of paintings.
 
The Ancient Garden looks back at gardens of two important civilizations: ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire, Design, layout, horticultural techniques and the plants to be found there are discussed, using paintings from tombs and palaces, evidence from archaeological sites and modern resources. We follow the rise and fall of each empire and their gardens, and discuss how your garden and kitchen were changed by plants that arrived with the Roman legions.