Women and Gardens


This weekend will seek to document, explore and debate the pioneering contributions made by women to the development of gardens and landscape design from the medieval period to the present.

New and exciting research will be presented to illuminate the roles of women as designers, educators, campaigners, working gardeners, writers, botanists and artists and to explore the rich and varied possibilities from combining gender history and garden history. 

There will also be an afternoon coach trip to Waterperry Gardens on the Saturday. Please note: the cost of the coach is included in the tuition fee for the course. There will be much standing and walking over uneven ground. Please come with suitable footwear and be prepared for all weathers.

Held in association with The Gardens Trust.

 The Gardens Trust logo

This course will close for enrolment 3 days prior to the start date

Programme details

Friday 2 June 2023

6.00pm: Registration (for those who have booked for dinner)

6.30pm: Dinner

7.45pm: Registration (for those who have not booked for dinner)

8.00pm: ‘From Gardens to Green Infrastructure: Brenda Colvin and the Women of the Welfare Landscape’ Luca Csepely-Knorr 

Brenda Colvin (1897-1981) and her collaborators had a major impact on shaping post-war landscapes in Britain, as designers, educators, campaigners and advocates. This talk will discuss the influence of garden design on Colvin's practice and philosophy, and on the wider network of women who helped create the landscapes of the Welfare State.

9.15pm: End of day

Saturday 3 June 2023

8.00am:  Breakfast (residents only)

9.00am:   ‘Women’s Writing and Constructions of Gender in the Medieval Enclosed Garden’ Liz Herbert McAvoy

Images of enclosed gardens are everywhere apparent in medieval literature - from biblical narrative, to secular love lyric, to adventurous romance tale. This session, however, will engage with its representation in literary works written by, for or about women in order to demonstrate the powerful, gendered dynamics inherent to this multivalent space, a gendered representation that often afforded women more agency than traditional representation normally permitted.  

10.00am: 'Frances Garnet Wolseley (1872-1936): A Life in Garden and Land' Twigs Way

This talk will examine Wolseley’s founding of the Glynde School for lady gardeners, her contacts with Gertrude Jekyll and other designers of the period, her wartime work in agriculture and later market gardening, and her lesbianism in the context of the unmarried status of many of the women associated with garden schools of the

11.00am:  Coffee/tea

11.30am:  '“The Redoubtable Miss H.”: The Story Behind Waterperrry Horticultural School’ Catherine Horwood

Waterperry Horticultural School, established in 1932 by Beatrix Havergal, became a highly regarded women’s college in the mid-20th century. This talk will trace its origins through the life of Beatrix Havergal, from her strawberry sales in the Oxford Market to her lifelong determination to improve the status of women gardeners.

12.30pm:  Break

12.45pm: Depart for Waterperry Gardens for afternoon tour led by Rob Jacobs and Ruth Todd

Packed lunches to be eaten on the coach – these are provided for those who have booked and paid for them in advance.  Please bring your own packed lunch if you wish, and outdoor footwear suitable for walking and clothing for all weathers.

4.30pm: Arrive back at Rewley House (approx.) - free time until dinner

6.30pm: Dinner

8.00pm: ‘"An Almost Impossible Thing”: Pioneering Professional Women Gardeners’ Fiona Davidson

This talk will focus on the boom in female horticultural training that took place from the 1890s to the outbreak of the First World War. This research was prompted by finding a letter in the RHS archive that showed that the RHS had refused a scholarship to a Miss Harrisson who came top in their examination in 1898. Fiona Davison tracked more than 500 women who took the RHS examination to find out if Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker was right when he said that it was ‘an almost impossible thing’ for a woman to garden as a career. This talk will focus on six women who exemplify the challenges, ambitions and achievements of this remarkable generation of female gardeners.

9.15pm: End of day

Sunday 4 June 2023

8.00am: Breakfast (residents only)

9.00am: ‘Nineteenth-Century Women as Botanical Collectors: Exploring the Gardens of Woodfield, Spencer Wood, and Château St. Louis’ Kimberly Glassman

From across the Atlantic, Canadian women of the early nineteenth century
botanised for both leisure and science. Today, the plants they collected can be found in the world’s most famous botanic gardens. This talk will look at how a network of women living in the small town of Sillery, Québec in the 1820s made botanical history by helping William Jackson Hooker, the first Director of Kew Gardens.

10.00am: ‘Jane Loudon: Author, Editor, Influencer' Rachel Savage

The career of Jane Webb Loudon (1807-1858) is all too often overshadowed by that of her husband John Claudius Loudon, leaving the impression that she did indeed owe him ’all the knowledge of the subject she possesses’. By examining some of her key publications, this talk explains her legacy as a knowledgeable botanist, best-selling gardening writer and ground-breaking magazine editor including the role she played in influencing, championing and challenging women’s roles within the garden, the home and wider society.

11.00am: Coffee/tea

11.30am:  ‘Waving Goodbye’ David Marsh

David will draw together some of the main themes that emerge during the conference and add some additional stories of previously overlooked women, including those who really did wave goodbye.

12.30pm: Break / bar opens

12.45pm: Lunch and course disperses


Description Costs
Tuition fee £185.00
Friday dinner £24.30
Saturday dinner £24.30
Saturday packed lunch £8.00
Single B&B Friday and Saturday nights £190.00
Sunday baguette £6.10
Sunday hot lunch (3 courses) £16.50


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Prof Luca Csepely-Knorr


Professor Luca Csepely-Knorr is a chartered landscape architect and art historian. She is Research Chair in Architecture at the Liverpool School of Architecture and is leading the AHRC funded Women of the Welfare Landscape project. 

Prof Liz Herbert McAvoy


Liz Herbert McAvoy is Professor Emerita in Medieval Literature at Swansea University and Honorary Senior Research Associate at the University of Bristol.

Dr Twigs Way


Twigs Way is a garden historian, writer and researcher. Twigs is fascinated by the past and intrigued by the role of fowers, gardens and landscape in art and culture of all kinds. Her talks and books refect that endless curiosity with themes of symbolism and meaning, class and gender, art and literature. Much of her research has concentrated on the roles played by women in all forms of garden and plant related spheres, including work on Jemima, Marchioness Grey and her daughter Amabel (of Wrest Park), and Frances, Viscountess Wolseley. Twigs is an accredited Arts Society lecturer and her history of the Chrysanthemum in art and culture was published by Reaktion in 2020 and she is working on a biography of Frances Wolseley.

Dr Catherine Horwood


Dr. Catherine Horwood is a social historian and author of Gardening Women: Their stories from 1600 to the present (Virago), Rose (Reaktion), Potted History: How houseplants took over homes (Pimpernel Press) and Beth Chatto: A Life with Plants (Pimpernel Press), which won European Garden Book of the Year in 2019.

Ms Fiona Davison


Fiona Davison is Head of Libraries and Exhibitions at the Royal Horticultural Society and is fortunate to manage the RHS Lindley Library and its outstanding collections. Her book ‘An Almost Impossible Thing’ will be published by Little Toller Books in 2023. She has curated many exhibitions on the topic of garden history and is the author of ‘The Hidden Horticulturists’ which was published in 2019. 

Ms Kimberly Glassman


Kimberly Glassman is a PhD researcher at Queen Mary University of London and Kew Gardens investigating the history of transatlantic exchanges of knowledge between Canadian and British female botanists. Kim currently serves as the Postgraduate Representative for the Centre for the Study of the Nineteenth Century and its Legacies at QMUL and has been selected to organise the next PGR Symposium for the British Association of American Studies (BAAS). She has published in the Litinfinite Journal (2021), The Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies Journal (2022) and The Holotipus Journal (forthcoming 2023). Kim is also the Outreach Coordinator for the Faculty of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford.

Rachel Savage


Rachel Savage’s interest in garden history started over fifteen years ago whilst working as Head of Marketing for the RHS. Since then she has gone on to complete qualifications in horticulture, garden design and an MA in Landscape History at UEA. A trustee for the Gardens Trust she has also contributed to Norfolk Garden Trust’s publications on Capability Brown and Humphry Repton. She is currently finishing her PhD exploring house and garden design and the gendering of space in the nineteenth century.

Dr David Marsh


Dr David Marsh is a trustee of the Gardens Trust and oversees their on-line programme. Recently appointed an honorary Senior Research Fellow by the University of Buckingham he writes a weekly garden history blog which you can find at https://thegardenstrust.blog and lectures about garden history to anyone who will
listen to him.

Dr David Lewis

Director of Studies and Chair

Dr David Frazer Lewis is an architectural historian whose interests include the architecture of modern Britain and the United States, the design of sacred architecture, and the Gothic Revival. Prior to joining Oxford's Department for Continuing Education, he was an Assistant Professor at the Notre Dame School of Architecture. He has experience in museums and heritage, as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Yale Center for British Art, and has worked for architecture firms in San Francisco and London that specialise in historic conservation. Dr Lewis holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, an MPhil from Cambridge, and a doctorate from the University of Oxford.

Mrs Jill Sinclair


Jill Sinclair is a US-educated landscape historian. She is a trustee of the Gardens Trust and the Historic Gardens Foundation, and teaches the History of the English Landscape Garden online for the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education.

Mrs Ruth Todd

Tour guide

Ruth Todd has an MA in Garden History from Birkbeck College, her dissertation being on Waterperry in the 18th and 19th centuries.  She researched nearby Rycote and Thame Park for the Capability Brown tercentenary for the Oxfordshire Gardens Trust. In 2016 she completed an oral history project about Mary Spiller. She has been a volunteer garden guide at Chiswick House since 2011.

Mr Robert Jacobs

Tour guide

Rob Jacobs has been the Horticultural Manager at Waterperry Gardens since 1993. The post is about bringing different elements and duties together, helping with unifying decision-making. He began as Waterperry apprentice working in all departments and then ran Waterperry nurseries.


Accommodation for this weekend is at Rewley House for Friday and Saturday night. If you would like to book a double or a twin room, please email ppdayweek@conted.ox.ac.uk.

Depending on availability it may also be possible to extend your stay: please enquire at the time of booking for availability and prices.

All bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.