The Rothschild Gardens book by Miriam Rothschild reviewed
The Rothschild Gardens
A bit about Miriam Rothschild
The late Miriam Rothschild was an amazing woman who made a name for herself in many fields including botany, zoology and entomology. Above all she was a naturalist with a deep understanding of how important wild flowers and wildlife are, and how we should be taking steps to conserve our natural habitats.
Miriam Rothschild was a Fellow of the Royal Society and had been awarded a DSc by Oxford University. A world expert on fleas, winkles, butterflies and seagulls, she published many scientific papers on the subjects she studied and researched. Among her works, she was also co-author with Clive Farrell of a book entitled The Butterfly Gardener.
Miriam was an author and among her books and writings, The Rothschild Gardens, is an incredible tour around the parks and gardens owned by the Rothschild family of which she was, of course, a member. Her book includes archive photos and anecdotes about the creation of these gardens and their owners and designers.
Ashton Wold in Northamptonshire
Ashton Wold, in Northamptonshire, is one of the many Rothschild gardens that Miriam describes in detail. It is the one she knows the best because it was her home and that of her father Charles Rothschild, who had been called the "Father of Nature Conservation". A passion for gardening and the study of nature clearly ran in the family.
Charles Rothschild had first discovered Ashton Wold whilst collecting butterflies with the vicar of Polebrooke. He was very impressed with the flora and fauna he found in the woodland there so imagine his delight when he found out that property there had been bought by his grandfather and left to his own father Natty.
Miriam explains the many changes the gardens went though over the years and of the flowers and trees that got planted there. Her father Charles at one point had a team of 14 gardeners, including an orchid expert. who was in charge of the collection of these exotic plants. Charles Rothschild also brought back the Blue Waterlily (Nymphaea caerulea) from one of his expeditions abroad and had a special greenhouse built to house the plants in large rainwater tanks.
He also grew Ligularias to attract butterflies, and the author mentions the very many Red Admirals that fed on the nectar of these plants, as a special memory.
She tells of how she became a "wild flower and grass gardener." She had realised that something must be done to help conserve the wild flowers and wildlife that were fast disappearing from the British countryside that she likened to a "snooker table", implying how barren it had become due to modern farming.
She tells of how the hothouses became coldhouses and were used for growing wild flowers, including Oxlips, Harebells and Cheddar Pinks, whilst one of the smaller greenhouses was used for rearing butterflies. These beautiful insects were another passion in her life.
At one point she had around 120 native wild flower species growing in the lawns, and she lined the pathways with Poppies, Cornflowers, Corncockles, Corn Marigolds, Feverfew and Flax. This mix of wild plants was dubbed ""Farmer's Nightmare." The seeds were to be sown every year.
Miriam explains that the garden came "to symbolise the new sympathy with wildlife." And she conintued by adding that "the conquest of Nature, is a thing of the past."
Waddesdon Manor was created by Ferdinand Rothschild. An unhappy widower, who had lots his wife and unborn son in a railway accident, he coped with his grief by throwing himself into the building of the Manor and surrounding it with extensive gardens, made all the more remarkable because it was to be situated on top of a hill in the vale of Aylesbury.
Miriam Rothschild explains how Ferdinand loved animals, and besides his dog, he had llamas,Sika deer, emus and a mountain goat, as well as a large aviary. The author personally presented a pair of the extremely rare Rothschild Grackles to the aviary in 1954 to start a very successful captive breeding programme.
She tells of the restoration programme that was commenced in 1989 following extensive damage to trees caused by gales in 1987. A butterfly garden was to be included . Buddleia, the Butterfly Bush, Michaelmas Daisies and the Ice Plant (Sedum) were essentials to attract the insects. Plum and pear trees were planted too because Red Admiral and Comma butterflies love the ripe fruit.
Seven Wonders of the World: MIRIAM ROTHSCHILD (part 1 of 3)
Other Rothschild Gardens
Some of the other gardens and parks that were designed, tended and owned by members of the Rothschild family and included in Miriam's book are Exbury, Ascott, Tring Park, Villa Ile de France, and Ramat Hanadiv which is over in Israel. Ramat Hanadiv today has several wildlife conservation projects in progress, details of which can be seen in the website for it.
The colour and black and white photos throughout The Rothschild Gardens provide a fantastic visual guide to all the places the author describes. Some of them are snow-covered views of grounds and trees, and these contrast with those taken in spring, summer and autumn. These seasonal photos help bring the book to life as well.
Rothschild's Birdwing Butterfly
Rothschild gardens poll
Have you visited one of the Rothschild gardens?
Rothschild flowers of the world
Miriam Rothschild ends her book with a look at the many flower species named after members of her family. There are orchids, rhododendrons, a cottoneaster, an iris and a rose. Some of these plants are hybrids and cultivars, named after the Rothchild who had first created and cultivated them. 'Lionel's Triumph', for example, was named in honour of Lionel de Rothschild and is a rhododendron hybrid.
I had known since my childhood that some members of the Rothschild family were naturalists, botanists and gardeners. As a boy, I remember finding out about the Rothschild's Atlas Moth (Rothschildia jacobaeae) and Rothschild's Birdwing (Ornithoptera rothschildi) butterfly.
Many people associate the name Rothschild with, banking, finance and wealth, yet many family members have made a very significant contribution to the conservation of wildlife, to gardening and to the sciences of zoology and botany. This is a side of the family that needs to be far more widely known about and The Rothschild Gardens is a great place to start.
Miriam Rothschild links
- The Hon. Dame Miriam Rothschild FRS :: The Rothschild Foster Human Rights Trust
- Obituary: Dame Miriam Rothschild | Science | The Guardian
Obituary: Zoologist, naturalist, academic and eccentric who was the Queen Bee of research into parasites and their hosts.
- Miriam Rothschild - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia