The Guardian, 22 December 2007: The creation of the English garden in the 18th and 19th centuries is often associated with the "great men" involved: garden designers such as William Kent, Lancelot "Capability" Brown and Humphry Repton. But Toby Musgrave has written a revisionist history of a forgotten profession: that of the head gardener. These were the people who actually laboured to grow thousands of annuals, who mixed secret recipes of manure to create verdant lawns, and who engineered fountains and lakes.
Life as a gardener started at about the age of 12, and apprenticeship usually lasted as many years. To learn their trade, boys washed flowerpots or stoked the boilers in the hothouses for more than 10 hours a day, six days a week, while studying the latest horticultural publications in the evenings. One Andrew Turnbull, for example, learned every night some 50 new plant names, in order to be allowed to work in the flower garden. Most of the apprentices and gardeners lived in abysmal conditions. Some of the so-called "bothies" were, as one horticultural writer complained, "very uncomfortable hovels" - cold, gloomy and unsuitable for human habitation. The wages were also low, even compared to other badly paid trades, and worst of all the boys had to bribe the head gardener with an annual "fee" to take them on at all.