This section is from the book "A History Of Gardening In England", by Alicia Amherst. Also available from Amazon: A History Of Gardening In England.
John Gerard, or Gerarde, was born in 1545, at Nantwich, in Cheshire, and died in 1607. He was not only a physician, and learned " in simples," but also a practical gardener, and cultivated a physic-garden of his own at Holborn, then a suburb of London, where he lived. The first work he published was a catalogue of the plants in his garden,* which contained nearly eleven hundred kinds, both native and foreign. For twenty years he superintended the gardens of Lord Burghley, and dedicated his great work to this patron. Although the Herbal cannot lay claim to originality, yet Gerard, translator and adapter as he was, has left an indelible mark of individuality on his work. His notes on the localities of flowers are specially characteristic, as also the way in which he mentions his friends from whom he received presents of plants, or information about them.
* There is a unique copy of this work in the British Museum, reprinted and edited by I). Jackson.
Instances, such as the following, occur on almost every page : — " Ciprepedium Ladies' Slipper. I have a plant thereof in my garden which I received from Mr. Garret, Apothecary, my very good friend." " The golden Mothwort or Cudweed (Helichrysum) . . . being gathered before they be ripe or withered remaine beautiful long time after, as my selfe did see in the hands of Mr. Wade one of the Clerks of her Maiesties Counsell which were sent him . . . from Padua." " The finger Hart's tongue ... I found in the garden of Master Cranwick dwelling at Much-dunmow, in Essex, who gave me a plant for my garden." The friends, such as these, who assisted Gerard, are very numerous, and of most of them nothing further is known than the few words in which Gerard introduces them, such as "a Learned Merchant of London, Mr. James Cole, a louer of plants and very skillful in the knowledge of them." " Mr, Garth, a worshipfull gentleman, and one that greatly dilighteth in strange plants, who very louingly imparted to me" a Solomon's seal received from Clusius. The names of some people, however, occur so frequently, that we can gather more particulars about them. Thomas Hesketh is constantly referred to, as collecting certain plants chiefly in Lancashire and the North of England, and sending specimens to Gerard to grow in his garden. Thomas Edwards, of Exeter, was also a botanist, and collector of English wild flowers. Master Nicholas Lete, Merchant, of London, not only himself searched for flowers, both in England and France, but was so " greatly in loue with rare and faire floures and plants ... he doth carefully send into Syria hauing a servant there at Aleppo, and in many other countries, for the which, my selfe and likewise the whole land are much bound unto him." One of the plants he brought to this country was a cabbage "with crincly leaves" of a " blewish green." Gerard mentions also his procuring a yellow gillyflower from Poland, showing the extensive range of his collectors. Gerard also had a collector, William Marshall, whom he "sent into the Mediterranean," and who brought him from thence the seeds of the plane-tree, and plants of the prickly pear or " Prickly Indian Fig-tree".
Gerard. from title page of his " herbal," 1597.
James Garret, we know from other sources also, was a skilful gardener, and especially clever at growing tulips. He was a " learned apothecary of London," and a good Latin scholar, and was generous in imparting knowledge and giving plants to both Gerard and Clusius. It would be tedious to enumerate all the friends referred to by Gerard, as they are very numerous, and the list of these helpful friends could be greatly added to by looking into the 1633 edition where Johnson's acquaintances are as prominent as those of Gerard. It is refreshing to see the way in which these old herbalists wrote to each other, and helped one another. Johnson, even more than Gerard, worked in harmony with other botanists and physicians, and they went expeditions together in search of rare flowers. Johnson wrote some Latin tracts descriptive of some tours he made with friends in the South and West of England, and constantly in the Herbal references to his rambles with other collectors occur. In writing of a kind of grass he says :—" I never found this but once, and that was in the companie of Mr. Thomas Smith and Mr. James Clarke, Apothecaries of London, when riding into Windsore Forest upon search of rare plants".
Thomas Johnson was born at Selby, in Yorkshire, but was himself an apothecary of London, and had a shop on Snow Hill. It was in this shop on Snow Hill that the banana was first exhibited in England. Johnson received the bunch of fruit from Dr. Argent, who got it from Bermuda. Gerard had only seen a pickled specimen sent from Aleppo. Johnson hung the bunch up in his shop until it ripened. He says: " Some have judged it the forbidden fruit ; other-some the grapes brought to Moses out of the Holy Land." He was the most eminent botanist of the time, and obtained some distinction as a soldier. He joined the army to fight for the Royalist cause, and died from wounds received at Basing in 1644. The most important of Johnson's friends and assistants was John Goodyer. He noticed for the first time many native plants, and his knowledge of botany must have been very considerable, from the way in which he is referred to by both Johnson and Parkinson. Thomas Glynn, and George Bowles, were two other collectors, whose names should not be altogether forgotten.
Ralph Tuggy is another name not often remembered, and yet, from frequent references to him, he must greatly have helped the progress of gardening. Johnson mentions Tuggy as if he was almost as well-known as Parkinson or the Tradescants, and his garden at Westminster contained many plants then very rare. He was especially famous for his pinks and carnations, and auriculas, and it appears that his widow kept up his garden after his death, which occurred before 1633. Johnson described some eight hundred more plants than Gerard, and added many woodcuts. The total number in the completed Herbal was 2717, and the number of pages in this ponderous folio reached over 1600.