Monday, 5 July 2021

Betty Dougherty: Green Gardener: Creating a Wild Garden (1975)

So far, I have gardened in two small gardens and on one large balcony. I hardly ever consult gardening books or the Internet: I just like to try out things and see how I get on.  On the other hand, I love books about how someone made a garden. One of the first „garden stories” I bought is this one. I bought it in 1977, I know that because back then I still made a note of the purchase date and place in my books. At the time I was a student living in a flat and I can’t remember having an interest in gardens. Still, something must have attracted me to the book. Having just reread it I think it must have been the story of the discovery, buying and developing of the house and garden rather than the information on plants (of which there is a lot). When she wrote the book Betty Dougherty was Head of the Graphic Design Section of the Design Council in London. I guess this must have been based in the Design Centre in Haymarket. During the 70’s and 80’s I used to visit London at least once a year. The first thing I always did was visit the Design Centre in Haymarket, followed by tea and cake at Patisserie Valerie in Soho (this was before it became a chain). Then one year, the Design Centre had vanished. A shame, they had some great exhibitions and a nice shop. I haven’t been able to find out much about Betty Dougherty. She seems to have written books on leatherwork and linocraft, assuming that is the same Betty Dougherty. A second volume of practical advice to gardeners (as mentioned on the cover of this book) does not seem to have materialized. In this book she describes how she buys a semi-detached cottage in Suffolk as a second home. 


At first all her time is spent doing up the cottage. Many friends come to help her. On the title page the subtitle is” How an amateur created a wild garden” and an amateur is what she is. In fact it seems as though at first she gives little thought to the fact that she had acquired a garden. However once renovation of the house is complete she is bitten by the bug and becomes a devoted gardener.
The plan of the garden is partly determined by trenches dug by laborers and by discoveries made by clearing out the garden. Thus a bed in the shape of a boat is made and a sunken paved garden is discovered. 


This is a great book for lovers of heathers and conifers as she becomes devoted to them.  She also discusses many other plants (there is an index) and her experiences, triumphs and mistakes. Challenges are the wind and rabbits. Reading it now I was astonished at the casual use of weed killers; perhaps this was normal in the 70’s?  I like how she describes how she falls into the trap of planting too much (haven’t we all?), without considering that plants will grow …. After a few years she is able to buy the second half of the house and to merge the gardens. Now she has enough room for all those extra plants! 


In the last chapter she mentions moving to the house permanently (nrs. 1 and 2 in the plan below).

I tried to find the house on Google maps /satellite view and as far as I can tell there are now two large new buildings and a golf course in its place.


  1. Oh what a shame the houses are no longer there and a golf course covers all her hard work. Haven't seen this book at all but it sounds like it inspired you in your gardening.

    The wild heather is just coming into bloom on the mynydds here. (A Mynydd is a wild hillside - it translates to "mountain" but most are just hills).

  2. I love books with drawings and maps and plans of gardens and have never seen that book so thank you for sharing.
    Searched on google and went into street view I think the houses are still the same but 4 are now 2 and they've had huge extensions!

  3. Last night I found a 1980-82 Writers Directory listing Betty's address as 2 Mount Pleasant, Wades Lane, Lower Raydon, Ipswich. Postcode IP75QW. I'll have another look on Streetview!

  4. Yes Sue,you are right. The house with the glass extension is Betty's.