Whether he is nurturing a single rare seedling into a blossoming tree or planning acres of exquisitely conceived royal gardens, John Tradescant's fame and skill as a gardener are unsurpassed in seventeenth-century England. But it is Tradescant's clear-sighted honesty and loyalty that make him an invaluable servant, and in his role as informal confidant during garden strolls with Sir Robert Cecil, adviser to King James I, he witnesses the making of history, from the Gunpowder Plot to the accession of King Charles I and the growing animosity between Parliament and court.
Tradescant's talents soon come to the attention of the most powerful man in the country, the irresistible Duke of Buckingham, the lover of King Charles I. Tradescant has always been faithful to his masters, but Buckingham is unlike any he has ever known: flamboyant, outrageously charming, and utterly reckless. Every certainty upon which Tradescant has based his life -- his love of his wife and children, his passion for his work, his loyalty to his country -- is shattered as he follows Buckingham to court, to war, and to the forbidden territories of human love.
From the details of garden design and innovation to the politics of a growing revolution which was to kill a king and turn a world upside down, Philippa Gregory once again makes history come alive through the people whose passions shaped that world.
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Posted August 05, 2010 by Julie , PlaistowUnusual history of the lovely English Gardens and how they came to be
June 06, 2005
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Excerpt from Earthly Joys by Philippa Gregory
The daffodils would be fit for a king. The delicate wild daffodils, their thousand heads bobbing and swaying with the wind, light-petaled, light-stemmed, moving like a field of unripe barley before a summer breeze, scattered across the grass, thicker around the trunks of trees as if they were dewponds of gold. They looked like wildflowers; but they were not. Tradescant had planned them, planted them, nourished them. He looked at them and smiled as if he were greeting friends.
Sir Robert Cecil strolled up, his uneven tread instantly recognizable in the crunch of the gravel. John turned and pulled off his hat.
"They look well," his lordship observed. "Yellow as Spanish gold."
John bowed. The two men were near each other in age both in their thirties but the courtier was bent under a humped back and his face was lined by a lifetime of caution at court, and with pain from his twisted body. He was a small man, little more than five feet tall his enemies called him a dwarf behind his hunched back. In a beauty-conscious, fashion-mad court where appearance was everything and a man was judged by his looks and his performance on the hunting field or battlefield, Robert Cecil had started his life with an impossible disadvantage: crooked, tiny and struggling with pain. Beside him the gardener Tradescant, brown-faced and strong-backed, looked ten years younger. He waited in silence for his master to speak. It was not his place to prolong the conversation.
"Any early vegetables?" his lordship asked. "Asparagus? They say His Majesty loves asparagus."
"It's too early, my lord. Even a king new-come to his kingdom cannot hunt deer and eat fruit in the same month. They each have their season. I cannot force peaches for him in spring."
Sir Robert smiled. "You disappoint me, Tradescant, I had thought you could make strawberries grow in midwinter."
"With a hothouse, my lord, and a couple of fires, some lanterns and a lad to water and carry, perhaps I could give you Twelfth Night strawberries." He thought for a moment. "It's the light," he said to himself. "I think you would need sunlight to make them ripen. I don't know that candlelight or even lanterns would be enough."
Cecil watched him with amusement. Tradescant never failed in the respect he owed his master, but he readily forgot everything but his plants. As now, he could fall silent thinking of a gardening problem, wholly neglecting his lord who stood before him.
A man more conscious of his dignity would have dismissed a servant for less. But Robert Cecil treasured it. Alone of every man in his train, Sir Robert trusted his gardener to tell him the truth. Everyone else told him what they thought he wanted to hear. It was one of the disadvantages of high office and excessive wealth. The only information which was worth having was that given without fear or favor, but all the information a spymaster could buy was worthless. Only John Tradescant, half his mind always on his garden, was too busy to lie.