How English is the English garden? Conference at Wrest Park

Wrest House by Nigel Cox

English Heritage is calling for papers for a conference entitled How English is the English Garden? which will take place at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire on 17th June 2020.

Any internet search for ‘English Garden’ brings up a swathe of images filled with herbaceous borders, box hedging and rambling roses. This concept of the English garden has become ingrained in the national consciousness but these idyllic scenes give only one snapshot in the long complex history of the English garden. From their design and designers to the ‘outlandish’ plants that fill the borders, the gardens we enjoy today were formed through the exchange of ideas from the continent and beyond.

This conference will focus on this international network, and the designs, people and plants which have been both imported to and exported from the English garden from the medieval period to the present day.

We are looking for papers which address any of the general themes or questions outlined above and in particular which include:

  • The cultural context in which ideas of the ‘English garden’ evolved including art, poetry and prose
  • Imported influences on garden design and exporting ‘English’ design ideas abroad and the mechanisms for dissemination such as garden visiting, correspondence and horticultural literature
  • The plants of the English garden: plant collecting in the past and today and its links to colonialism and trade
  • The garden designers, gardeners, architects and landscape architects who shaped the ‘English garden’


We welcome proposals for 20 minute papers. Abstracts of up to 300 words and a brief biographical note should be sent to by 31st January 2020.

Five tickets will be available free for students, which will be competitively applied for.

Photo of Wrest House by Nigel Cox, CC BY-SA 2.0,

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Painswick Roccoco Gardens, the Red House, Photo © Joab Smith