Sandra Lawrence on Ellen Wilmott

Author of ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghosts: the extraordinary life and gardens of a forgotten genius’, Sandra Lawrence sheds more light on the intriguing plantswoman and her garden at Warley Place.

Ellen Wilmott

Ellen Ann Willmott; plantswoman, botanist, author and admired gardener, was one of the great personalities of British gardening. Willmott’s thirty acre garden, Warley Place, near Brentwood in Essex was once one of the most beautiful and interesting of English gardens. At Warley, she grew over 100,000 different species and cultivars of trees, shrubs and plants. Sadly, Warley lies silent and despite the admirable work by a team of volunteers, the garden has sadly been forgotten.

Sandra Lawrence had access to new correspondence and diaries written by Miss Willmott that had never been seen by biographers, which formed the basis of her fascinating book. Miss Willmott’s Ghosts: the extraordinary life and gardens of a forgotten genius was published in May 2023 and due to the unparalleled access to her archives provides a truly intriguing illumination into Wilmott and the secrets behind this thorniness. A book that has it all; gossip, sisters, rivalry, squandered inheritance, forbidden love, bad marriages and, at the heart of it all, trailblazing talent.

Speaking to Ken Crowther of World Radio Gardening, Lawrence colourfully discusses Wilmott, her contribution to gardening, her tumultuous relationship with the RHS, her unknown but close associations with William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll, her role in the establishment of RHS Wisley, her garden and the many plants that have her name. Definitely a recommended listen.