University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Anytime News Article

Dr. Leonard P. Perry
Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Some of the key figures that shaped our gardening plants and practices, from Ancient Greece to this century, begin with the letters "T" through "W".  Previous ones in this series can be found in articles on the web (

We begin with the relatively unknown Sir William Temple (1628-1699), an English essayist and keen gardener.  He is the first to mention and describe Chinese landscape design in the English language, bringing their concepts to the English-speaking world.

Theophrastus (circa 370-286 B.C.E.) was a Greek thinker, writer, and botanist.  He first studied under Plato, then Aristotle whom he succeeded at his research institute called the Lyceum.  He used his garden to study plants, and it is thought to have been the first botanic garden.  His book (Enquiry into Plants) was the first to systematically classify all known plants at that time.

You may be familiar with the name Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828), one of the more famous Swedish students of Linnaeus.  His name was given to the genus of popular annual vines, and to many species.   He traveled in Europe, South Africa, and Asia, introducing many new plants to Europe.  A couple found in many of our gardens today, and named after patrons funding his excursions, are a shrub (Deutzia) and perennial (Houttuynia).

Another name you see on plants such as the wandering jew (Tradescantia) is from the Tradescants-- John the elder (1570-1638) and his son John the younger (1608-1662).  They were among the earliest English gardeners and plant collectors, funded largely by royal patrons, introducing many plants to England including several North American natives.

Richard Turner (1798-1881), an Irish ironmaster, is probably not known by most but his works are.  His iron foundry was the foremost manufacturer of famous Victorian glasshouses, his best known extant one being the Palm House at Kew Gardens in London.

William Turner (1508-1568) is considered the father of botany in Britain.  His herbal was the first in English to include native plants.  Together with two other small books, these comprise the first English records of many plants.

Jules Vacherot (1862-1925) is mainly known in Paris and France, where he was an important garden designer.  He served as head gardener for Paris, and many of the gardens you see there today such as around the Eiffel tower, Trocadero, and Champs-Elysees originally derive from his designs.

Sir John Vanbrugh (1664-1726), while not actually a professional landscape gardener, consulted on and influenced the landscapes of many famous English homes such as Castle Howard and Blenheim palace.  He was instrumental in introducing the romantic English landscape style.

Two nursery families you should know are the Veitch family of England, influential in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the Vilmorin family of France, influential from the 18th century onwards.  Through them many plant explorations were funded, and many new plants introduced.

Nathaniel Ward (1791-1868) discovered the principle that a sealed glass case could sustain plants, the water transpired by them condensing and being reused.  This formed the basis for the Wardian case-- perhaps the earliest terrarium-- which was used to bring living plants back on long boat journeys from all parts of the world.

Ellen Willmott (1858-1934) was one of the first women honored in British horticulture.  Through her collections, gardens, and support of plant explorations, she has become immortalized with her name on cultivars and species from roses to lilies and crocus.  The large pale sea holly is often called "Miss Willmott's ghost", as she loved the plant and thought others should too, so scattered its seeds in gardens wherever she went!

We end our listing of famous horticulturists with Ernest Henry Wilson (1876-1930).  Although an English plant collector, primarily in China for the Veitch family, he eventually collected for and then became director of the Arnold Arboretum in Boston.  He introduced many plants including the evergreen Kurume azaleas (ancestors of our potted florist azaleas) and many flowering cherries.  The next time you see his most famous introduction-- the Regal Lily (Lilium regale)-- think of him bringing this back from the Min River gorges with a broken leg!

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