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Born in 1858 to a wealthy family, Ellen Willmott became one of the great figures in British gardening. She owned three gardens, in England, France and Italy, and employed over a hundred gardeners at Warley Place alone. She mixed with royalty and her name was associated with the greatest gardeners of her day: Gertrude Jekyll, William Robinson and E. A. Bowles. In 1894 she joined the Royal Horticultural Society and in 1897 she was one of the first sixty recipients (and one of only two women) to receive the Victoria Medal of Honour. An acknowledged and admired expert in her field she died in 1934 aged 76, but by then she was alone and nearly bankrupt.
First published in 1980 Audrey Le Lièvre’s carefully researched biography is a fascinating account of a woman who was hugely respected in her day and who left an enduring mark on the horticultural world.
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