Edward Augustus Bowles (1865 – 1954)
The gardens at Myddelton House in winter
Myddleton House and Garden, Bulls Cross, Enfield, Middlesex
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Edward Augustus Bowles was truly a man of many talents; he was renowned as an entomologist but his reputation today lies mostly upon his career as a horticulturist and plant hunter. He searched for plants mostly in Europe and North Africa, was a good friend of Reginald Farrer with whom he often traveled on his gathering forays, and helped to introduce innumerable new species and cultivars to British gardening; there are over 40 plants listed today in the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Plant Finder’ that are named after him. He was also an expert painter.
He gardened at Myddelton House, Bulls Cross, Enfield, Middlesex, England (open to the public) carrying on the work begun by his father. The book My Garden in Spring is, indeed, dedicated to his father in typical humorous fashion: “To my father Henry C. B. Bowles who has so kindly and patiently allowed to experiment with his garden for the last twenty-five years”.
He was a member of the Royal Horticultural Society for over 50 years, including some 28 years as vice-president, and received its Victoria Medal of Honour in 1916. His interest in gardening was all-inclusive but he came to be thought of as the ultimate authority on the small bulbs such as Daffodils, crocus and snowdrops etc., again, many of these being named for, or introduced by him; references to him in the gardening literature of the time are extensive, particularly regarding these tiny horticultural jewels.
He wrote a number of books, the most notable being My Garden in Spring, My Garden in Summer and My Garden in Autumn and Winter. Reading the thoughts of eminent practitioners of any craft can always be instructive but Bowles was also an accomplished writer, making the task of learning from his expertise a pleasurable activity. (Two of them can be downloaded from archive.org).
I’ve formatted 5 chapters from his My Garden in Spring and will post them here as 5 separate posts. Keep in mind that many of the Latin names have since been superseded but you should be able to do an internet search with them to find the newer names for which the ones in his books should be listed as synonyms.
The first post, Early Irises, has considerable information on Iris unguicularis, a plant for which I have been searching, without success, for some years – if you can get your hands on one it will present you with blooms in the middle of winter, at least here in coastal British Columbia. Bowles gives lots of valuable information on its culture.
Read on then to encounter the prose of E. A. Bowles and to learn something about the smaller wonders of the horticultural world that are, now in early February, beginning to stir, soon to christen the gardening year with their brave and lovely flowers.