The ornate glass conservatory at Chiswick House was completed in 1814 and is home to over 30 camellias. It’s the 6th Duke of Devonshire, William Spencer Cavendish or ‘the Bachelor Duke’ - easy tiger, who we’ve to thank for the camellias. The ‘bachelor’ brought them in along with an elephant - no joke, to entertain Queen Vic, Russian Tsars and other poshos gadding about in West London.
All this before running off to Chatsworth with one of the gardeners; the gardens started off the career of massive garden hero Joseph Paxton. After getting his hands - and knees dirty here, Paxton went on with the Duke to be the Head gardener at Chatsworth. Oh, and then he designed Crystal Palace - the original one with all the glass.
The camellias range from bright whites, through to lipstick reds; with all the pinks, candy stripes, paint brush flecks, crumples, ruffles, and bursting buds in between.
The age of the camellia is measured by the girth (!) and it turns out that quite a few remain here from the Duke’s time. For the floral wordsmiths the names are pretty awesome too: ‘Elegans’, ‘Grey’s invincible’, ‘Pompone’, ‘Betty Fox Saunders’...
The jewel in the show’s bushy crown is ‘Middlemist’s red’; plant hero John Middlemist stumbled back to blighty with this bush in hand in 1804. What a dude.
There is a small but very tempting shop once you reach the end of the conservatory so you can add another bush to your own plant hoard.
Camellias aside it’s worth coming to Chiswick House just for the gardens; they are free, big and neoclassical - another one for the period drama lover.
The house and grounds were knocked out by architectural dons William Kent and the lord of the Chiswick manor himself Lord Burlington, known at the time as ‘Apollo of the Arts’.
CAMELLIA: THE DEETS
Fancy a cuppa? The camellia is from the same family as our sacred tea bags, the ‘Theaceae’ family. Check your bush before you put that kettle on; tea is traditionally made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, the camellia we normally grow here is Camellia japonica.
HOW CAN I CAMELLIA?
Pot it. Lollipop it. Hedge it. Bouquet it. Or just let it be a big blousy tree.
Aciiid House Lover
GETTING YOURSELF TO THE SHOW
Free And Easy
Chiswick House is by the Thames Path
LET ME IN?
Careful, the conservatory is open 10am - 4pm, Sunday - Thursday.
CLOSED on Fridays
The house is open at the weekends if you like your neoclassical architecture too.