George Claridge Druce

As far as I was concerned, until a few days ago, ‘Claridge Druce’ was a hardy geranium (indeed, I have heard it referred to as ‘Clarice Druce’, though not ‘Clarice Drudge’). Then I came across his name as the author of some articles on Ulmus plotii in a box of offprints on elm that I was sorting through in one of my volunteer roles, and started looking things up …

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The Stones of Lecce

I think it is safe to say that 2022 was not a good year for the vast majority of people worldwide. My own issues will definitely sound pathetic by comparison with those of most people, not least the entire population of Ukraine and the women of Afghanistan and Iran, but it goes to explain my feeble output of blogs during the year (feeble in number, that is, rather than content – at least I hope so).

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Thomas Spratt, R.N.

I discovered the other day that Thomas Able Brimage Spratt (1811–88) donated seven items of archaeological interest to the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1853–4. I knew him as the author of a two-volume Travels and Researches in Crete (1865), which was on our list to reissue in the Cambridge Library Collection, but which unfortunately missed the boat, so to speak. On further investigation, he turns out to have been a very interesting man, but before I get on to him, I must share a brief though lurid portion of the biography of his father, James Spratt (1781–1853), a hero of Trafalgar.

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Posted in Archaeology, Bibliography, Biography, Botany, Classics, History, Museums and Galleries | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

William Crump and Others

23 October 2022 was Apple Day @CUBotanicGarden, and after the glorious warm sunlight of the day before, it was a bit disconcerting to be walking down Bateman Street to the back entrance, poised to take my place with my knife and slicer behind the apple-tasting benches, in a torrential downpour. Would anyone turn up in this weather? In fact, there was an excellent turnout, and people queued heroically with their umbrellas up or down, depending, to get inside the marquee, taste samples and buy bags of historic varieties of apples, which are not often found in shops or supermarkets these days.

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More Palazzi

I have remarked in the past that for a person of my advanced age and  personal taste, the chief reason for being in Venice during the Biennale d’Arte (and this applies even more to the Biennale d’Architettura) is the opportunity to get (for free) inside palazzi that are not normally open to the public.

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Posted in Art, History, Italy, Museums and Galleries, Uncategorized, Venice | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The First King over the Water

On 1 August 1714, Queen Anne died, and as a result of the Act of Settlement of 1701, her second cousin George, Elector of Hannover, became king of Great Britain. Some factions were already yearning for ‘The King over the Water’, aka the Old Pretender, aka Francis Edward Stuart (1688–1766), son of James II and his second wife, Mary of Modena (she whose hairstyle was transformed upon her arrival in England; and then of course there was his son, Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart (1720–88), aka the Young Pretender, aka Bonnie Prince Charlie, who in surviving portraits is not very Bonnie), and the death of Anne, ‘the last Stuart’, only intensified this trend.

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According to the National Geographic Society, a drought happens when: ‘Below-average precipitation affects the amount of moisture in soil as well as the amount of water in streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater.’ Alternatively, the United States Government says it is ‘a deficiency of precipitation over an extended period of time (usually a season or more), resulting in a water shortage’. Then again, the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology takes the view that ‘there is no generally accepted definition of exactly what a drought is’, and helpfully explains why. All I know is that there is definitely a drought in my garden (and indeed in the rest of East Anglia). The last time it started to rain, about three weeks ago, I rushed out to bring in the washing: the rain had stopped again before I had finished doing so.

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Another Botanic Garden

Coudeberg, Pierre

Coudebergus, Petrus

Coudenberch, Peeter van

Coudenberg (Petrus)

Coudenberg (Pierre)

Coudenberg, Pieter

Coudenbergh, Peter

Coudenberghe, Peeter van

Coudenberghe, Peter

Coudenbergius, Petrus

Coundenberg (Pieter)


Koudenbergh, Pieter

are all the alternative spellings I have so far come across for this person:

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Posted in Belgium, Bibliography, Biography, Botany, Gardens, History, Museums and Galleries, Natural history, Printing and Publishing | 6 Comments

Plant of the Month: July 2022

Three or four years ago, I bought a Phygelius capensis (Cape fuchsia or Cape figwort) at Cambridge market. It performed extremely well, and when I revolutionised the garden layout in January 2021, it was one of the plants which (to the eternal resentment of my spine) I carefully dug up and kept. When I replanted it, I divided it into three, planting one into each of the three central beds in the ‘new garden’, and eighteen months later all of them are taking off like rockets and I suspect I will need to divide them again in the autumn. (Anyone who lives near and wants one, give me a shout!) It actively seems, like Verbena bonariensis, to appreciate the incredibly dry soil we have suffered in East Anglia for the last two years, though I also hope it likes the thick mulch I give it every autumn.

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Two Duchesses (Part Two)

For those who are still with me, we now go back in time to look at the life and travails of Maria Luisa of Bourbon-Parma (1782–1824), queen of Etruria, duchess of Parma and duchess of Lucca. Her father was Charles IV of Spain and her mother Maria Luisa of Parma (a formidable lady, accused of poisoning her daughter-in-law, Princess Maria Antonia of Naples and Sicily, who in fact almost certainly died of tuberculosis).  She had thirteen siblings, including an elder sister, also Maria Luisa, who died in 1782 at the age of nearly five, and several others who died in infancy; her mother also had ten miscarriages. As was the custom of the time, such children as survived to their teenage years were married off advantageously, often to members of the wider family: her sister Maria Amalia (1779–98) was married to her own uncle, twenty-four years older than her, and died after giving birth to a stillborn son at the age of nineteen.

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