Anne de Courcy

Gardening’s bad girl: the genius – and malice – of Ellen Willmott

The passionate plant collector grew many prize cultivars, but bobby-trapped her bulbs with explosives and sowed an especially invasive weed in her rivals’ gardens

Ellen Willmott c. 1894. [Berkeley Family and the Spetchley Gardens Charitable Trust]

In October 1897, the grandees of the Royal Horticultural Society gathered to bestow their highest award, the Victoria Medal of Honour, struck to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, to 60 of gardening’s greatest luminaries. For the first time, these included two women. One was Gertrude Jekyll, known by all as the Queen of Spades; the other was the 39-year-old Ellen Willmott.

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