Sandra Lawrence’s fascinating memoir, Miss Willmott’s Ghosts, traces the remarkable life of the legendary eccentric trail-blazing, green-fingered heiress, Ellen Ann Willmott: the mastermind behind Brentwood’s Warley Gardens, who famously booby-trapped her prize plants and sabotaged rivals’ gardens.
Part of our The Pleasure Garden day at Hylands House on Sunday 18 June.
About the book – Miss Willmott’s Ghosts
The beguiling story of one of Britain’s most remarkable horticulturalists…
Ellen Ann Willmott was a remarkable woman whose achievements in horticulture, botany,
landscape architecture, photography and more, should have made her one of the most well-known trailblazers of her age.
Yet, both posthumously and within her lifetime, she instead became known as a bitter, cantankerous and eccentric miser, and her reputation has been forever stained by the image of her maliciously seeding other people’s gardens with thorns.
The beginnings of this prickly myth can be traced back to her conspicuous absence at what should have been the pinnacle of her career: the Royal Horticultural Society’s inaugural Victoria Medal of Honour Award ceremony, at which she was due to be one of only two female recipients.
Universally interpreted as the rudest of snubs, nobody has ever stopped to question why Ellen wasn’t there, or if she was really as difficult and mean as she has been portrayed ever since.
Sandra Lawrence has been granted unparalleled access to her archives, and with it has uncovered the secrets behind this thorniness. This is a book with it all: gossip, sisters, rivalry, squandered inheritance, forbidden love, bad marriages and, at the heart of it all, trailblazing talent.
‘Lawrence has done an excellent job of recreating this eccentric gardening guru’s life’ – The Times
‘My pick for gardening book of the year is this pageturning life story of Ellen Willmott’ – The Sunday Times
‘Sandra Lawrence tells her story with brio and affection’ – Daily Mail
‘Simply brilliant and a joy to read’ – The English Garden
About the author
Sandra Lawrence is a freelance journalist and author, writing, over the past 20-odd years, hundreds of articles; for all the broadsheets and over 60 magazines and journals. She specialises in heritage and garden writing.
Sandra is the author of 14 non-fiction books for adults and children, on a variety of subjects, ranging from history via myths, legends and folklore and quirky heritage.
Sandra was shortlisted for GMG Journalist of the Year, 2018-19, for a series of three longform essays in Hortus about the Victorian Kitchen Garden; she was also shortlisted for the SLA’s Information Book Award in both 2018-19 and 2019-20.