Background history of plants used in Theobalds Palace


The pond at Cedars Park

Vision 4 Growth obtained information from various sources, including Broxbourne Council, RDF Garden Services, Seed Harvest Organisation, Aid 4 Disabled and Clockhouse Nurseries.  The following list of flowering plants were grown and/or introduced by botanists and gardeners who are recorded to have worked at Theobalds Palace between c.1570 and 1640, or were closely associated with its owners, namely Sir William and Sir Robert Cecil, James I and Charles I.

Click here to find more about the individuals who developed the gardens.

Sources of historical reference for plants

Here is a list of sources used in developing a comprehensive study of plants used within Theobalds Palace.

Sources of historical references

Ideas, information and plants were all exchanged between these leading plantsmen of late sixteenth and early seventeenth century England. Theobalds was one of the most important gardens of the day and a link between the five men and their activities. Using their published herbals and plant lists is, therefore, a way of identifying the range of plants probably cultivated at Theobalds Palace in its heyday and helps us interpret botanical history.

  • Thomas Hill, The Gardners Labyrinth (1577)
  • John Gerard, Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes (1597)
  • John Parkinson, Paradisi in sole paradisus terrestris, or, A Garden of All Sorts of Pleasant Flowers … with a Kitchen Garden … and an Orchard (1629)
  • John Tradescant, Plantarum in Horto (1634) (available in P. Leith-Ross, The John Tradescants (2006))
  • John Tradescant, Museum Tradescantianum, or a Collection of Rarities preserved at South Lambeth neer London (1656) (available in P. Leith-Ross, The John Tradescants (2006))

Information on plant introduction dates has been sourced from the above, or from:

  • George Johnson, The Cottage Gardeners’ Dictionary (1857) – abbreviated to CG
  • Maggie Campbell-Culver, The Origin of Plants (2001) – abbreviated to MCC
  • P. Leith-Ross, The John Tradescants (2006) – abbreviated to PLR

Information on Parkinson was also sourced from Anna Parkinson, Nature’s Alchemist (2007).

A comprehensive guide to the development of a planting scheme for our 17th Century Disability Garden  

Here is a comprehensive guide showing how the gardens were designed.  Many of these plants are still in existence.