About me

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Lecturer and SpeakerAuthorBroadcasterConsultant Designer

'Elizabeth Crisp Rea Award 2017' - The Herb Society of America
Finalist for 2014 Reference Book of the Year Award by Garden Media Guild – ‘RHS Herbs for the Gourmet Gardener’
Nominated for 2012 Inspirational Garden Book of the Year Award by Garden Media Guild – ‘Impressionists in their Gardens’
‘The Gertrude B. Foster Award for Excellence in Herbal Literature 2011’ – The Herb Society of America
‘Ambassador’ for Garden Organic – Nominated in July 2007 for wide-ranging work for the organisation.
Suffolk Magazine – Selected as one of the 50 most influential women in Suffolk in 2007 and 2009
Winner of 2001 Radio Broadcast of the Year Award by Garden Media Guild – New Shoots, Old Tips
Member of the Garden Media Guild - Liveryman in the Worshipful Company of Gardeners - Past Chairman of the Herb Society

Lecturer and Speaker

Nationally – TAS – The Arts Society (also in Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and New Zealand), the Royal Horticultural Society, a part-time Tutor and Course Director for the University of Cambridge ICE, The Royal Horticultural Society, The National Gallery of Scotland, The Landmark Trust, Suffolk Record Office as well as specialist societies and clubs.

Internationally - France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, USA and Japan as well as for Ciceroni Travel in France and Italy, Martin Randall Travel in France, Noble Caledonia around the Mediterranean and Canary Islands, and Viking cruises in the Baltic.

For a selection of my topics please see "Lectures and Tours" and "Lecture Topics".


2015 Water Lilies and Bory Latour-Marliac, the genius behind Monet’s Water Lilies
2014 RHS Herbs for the Gourmet Gardener
2012 Impressionists in their Gardens
2011 Monet at Giverny (first edition 2001)
2008 Follies of Europe – Architectural Extravaganzas
2008 Why do Violets shrink? Answers to 280 thorny questions on the world of plants
2006 The not so little Book of Dung
2005 Victorian Gardens
2004 A Zest for Herbs also published in the USA as The Romantic Herb Garden
2004 New Shoots, Old Tips
2001 Icons of Garden Design

Water Lilies and Bory Latour-Marliac, the genius behind Monet’s Water Lilies

Water lilies are inextricably linked to the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome, Egypt and the Far East, where they were highly valued, just as precious metals or gemstones, their properties were thought to be medicinal, spiritual and purely aesthetic; they have been represented in architecture, printed textiles, religious paintings and illustrations, cited in mythology, folklore, mysticism and the creative imagination.

This volume meticulously records our enduring love affair with the most beautiful and exotic of plants, the water lily rising from its murky depths to colourful floral perfection. waterliliesThis is a comprehensive and detailed account of harnessing and translating their beauty for more northerly climes. A task undertaken with gusto, passion and devotion by Bory Latour-Marliac (1830-1911), long before Mendel’s work was known he engineered daring water lily couplings with consummate skill, meticulous care and acute observation. His previously unrecorded letters have provided new insights into his science, friends and customers. His finest hybrids were propagated, cultivated and launched across the world, in turn these hardy colourful water lilies inspired generations of gardeners, nurserymen, artists and writers to create the words and images that flow through our culture today.

The words Monet and water lilies are an immediate association. Not only did Monet’s plants come from Latour-Marliac's nursery to embellish his water garden at Giverny but it is highly likely that the concept was inspired by the man. As the twentieth-century dawned, Latour-Marliac’s hardy coloured water lilies gave rise to the development of specialist nurseries and growers across Europe, North America and Australia. Historic, Impressionist, commercial and contemporary, the good news is that Latour-Marliac's nursery thrives today, owned by Robert Sheldon, an American who shares the great man's passion for water lilies and water gardening. Caroline Holmes has navigated primary sources, delved the depths and brought eminently readable light to the history, science, networking and sheer pleasure of Latour-Marliac and his legacy.
Published by Garden Art Press

RHS Herbs for the Gourmet Gardener

Finalist for the Garden Media Guild ‘2014 Reference Book of the Year Award’ Few things are as satisfying as herbscultivating plants for your own kitchen, and more and more of us are discovering the delight of preparing, eating and preserving homegrown food. For this growing band of gardener-cooks, RHS Herbs for the Gourmet Gardener is the indispensable guide on what to grow, cook and eat. Within its pages lies a cornucopia of old and new, seasoning and seasonal herbs. Alongside familiar varieties are curious lesser known options that explore a world of colours and tastes, both subtle and sensational.

Each herb has its own listing, with short headings providing easily accessible information on climate, size, origin, history, cultivation, storage and preparation. Practical growing tips, fascinating facts, nutritional information and delicious recipes are interspersed with feature spreads on topics such as herbes provencales, edible herb flowers, topiary, herbs at night, propagation as well as historic settings and uses.

Beautiful watercolour and engraved botanical illustrations are supplemented with practical diagrams throughout to ensure a feast for the eyes and the table.
Published by Quid Publishing

Impressionists in their Gardens

Shortlisted for Garden Media Guild ‘2012 Inspirational Garden Book of the Year Award’

An exploration of gardens through the senses of the Impressionists from three continents – Europe, North America and Australia - enjoying the essentially similar pleasures of the garden, but engaging with the light from their skies in order to create very different sensations. The enclosure of the garden acts like a picture frame showcasing a living canvas that exudes the individuality, vision and taste of its tenants, their family, friends, lifestyles and, in the simple words of the greatest Impressionist and gardener Monet, providing motifs to paint. impressionistsThe book takes up two themes the Garden as Canvas and the Living Canvas: using paintings, old photographs and modern images, the story starts at the horticultural source - the nurseryman Latour-Marliac at Temple sur Lot, then Monet at Giverny; American Impressionists at Old Lyme, Cos Cob and Appledore in the USA; Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead Wood and beyond; the Heidelburg School and Frederick McCubbin at Fontainebleau in Australia; and, chronologically last but not least, Renoir at Les Collettes.

These gardens and others associated with the Impressionists are further illustrated in nine themes: Through the garden gate; Plants as Paint; Food for Love; Rest and Relaxation; Harnessing the Light; Sound Sensation; Impressionist Children; Fur, Fowl and Flutter; and finally Capturing the Light. Gloriously illustrated they appear between the chapters in an exhibition format. The book closes with Impressionists from the three continents meeting on the battlefields of World War One and its aftermath.

Caroline Holmes’ travels have enabled her to take this unique approach, as a garden historian and gardener she understands how weather has shaped and formed the earth’s sublime topography and how the control of the human hand is beautifully displayed in its fine crafted gardens, observed and colourfully captured by these artists. Join her in the garden for the great pleasures of solitude and sociability; food and friendship; sound and scent; cool shade and balmy warmth, not forgetting glorious colour.

Published by Garden Art Press

  • … is a delight for art and garden lovers Our Australian Gardens
  • … the final part made me cry. …
  • As a theatrical production – Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk and Emporium, Brisbane, Australia:
    • … hugely enjoyed your unique, interesting and entertaining theatrical extravaganza … Bravo, O Queen of the Boards. You were a triumph and it was fabulous.
    • … What a fun evening it was at the Theatre Royal. Informative (I’d no idea there were AUSTRALIAN impressionists!) colourful, entertaining and with an outstanding piano performance of music that fitted so well. … The whole event lifted the spirit …

Monet at Giverny

2001 listed by Evening Standard in Art Books of the Year

Claude Monet spent the last forty-three years of his long life at Giverny, creating the paintings and gardens for which he is now revered. This beautifully researched and designed exploration of the gardens considers the creative intelligence behind Monet’s passion for painting and plants. It shows the artist as a consummate plantsman who composed his garden with an Impressionist’s care for colour and form, and then re-interpreted the landscape’s moods in paintings of glorious abstraction. monet

Over 140 illustrations, including paintings, engravings and garden views from Monet’s lifetime and today, reveal how he shaped the physical world to create his private domain. Drawing upon Monet’s own voice and those of his contemporaries and offering a wealth of horticultural detail, this book provides a fascinating insight for anyone who loves the artist’s work.

'Is there room for another book on Giverny? Read this for its fascinating detail about all aspects of life in 19th century France (water lily hybridisation, the helpful advent of oil paint in tubes, treatment for cataracts) as well as for the astute comments on, for instance, Monet's use of perspective in relation to Le Notre's. The picture captions are a volume in themselves.' Historic Gardens Review

'If you love your garden and obsess over colour then you'll adore 'Monet at Giverny' … This beautifully illustrated book portrays Monet's outstanding plantsmanship, his obsession with gardening and colour as well as a wealth of horticultural detail.' Essential Water Garden

'In this beautifully illustrated paperback … Biographically incisive, it shows the artist as a consummate plantsman …' Country House and Home

'This is at its best about his plantings - the new Japanese clematis varieties, the exchange of foxglove seeds with fellow-painter Gustave Caillebotte, and the municipal council's worries about the health hazards that might arrive with foreign aquatic plants' The Guardian

Follies of Europe – Architectural Extravaganzas

Summer 2008 Number One Best Seller under Art and Architecture

Inspired by Nic Barlow’s stunning photographs, the book traces the sheer folly of these architectural eccentricities in their development across Europe through Allegory and Fantasy, Classicism and Grandeur, folliesRomanticism and Innovation to Modernism and Individuality. Follies ranging from the Renaissance initiation theme of the Château de la Bastie d’Urfé through to the cutting edge IM Pei Pyramid near Marlborough.

Available in French as Folies et Fantaisies Architecturales d’Europe
Available in German as Von Lustschlössern, Tempeln und Ruinen

Published by Garden Art Press

This superb book leads us through dreams made flesh by the rich, powerful and eccentric. … Love and lust may also be themes running through Bomarzo, north of Rome. The landscape of gargantuan statues, a gaping Mouth of Hell (complete with dining table), gods and goddesses has never been satisfactorily explained. Caroline Holmes’ excellent narrative outlines a plausible thesis Gardens Illustrated

Caroline Holmes tells us in this new photographic study of European follies about the Revd David Edwards of Stancombe Park in Gloucestershire, who built a ‘Lost Domain’ of tunnels and temples to dally with his gypsy lover, the tunnels being narrow enough to stop his portly wife from following him through. Them. … Holmes’s short and piquant user-friendly texts accompany all the sites … World of Interiors

Not all of the 62 buildings described in this lavishly illustrated and highly entertaining book conforms precisely … but many are gloriously strange … The Art Newspaper

Why do Violets shrink? Answers to 280 thorny questions on the world of plants.

Pithy answers to 280 wide-ranging questions on plants from the Garden of Eden to Mars in nine challenging chapters: Back to Roots; Myths and Legends; Extreme Plants and Record Breakers; Mating and Dating; Purposeful Plants; Naming and Shaming; Peculiar Pests and Beneficial Beasts; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; and On this Planet and beyond. violets

Violets shrink from the clumsy attentions of pollinating bees, self-pollination being a tidier option. Plants’ flourishing patterns of sight and sound, with kaleidoscopic records and realities, are explored, questioned and answered. The plant’s green loving constituent, chlorophyll, attracts iron essential for our well-being. How many pioneers died discovering that toxic is the filling of intoxication. Plants don’t do makeovers, they vividly and vibrantly survive, tenaciously evolving in hostile conditions.

Globally native plants have colourful legends with a core of truth. Wheat and maize are winners in the ancient myths stakes, plants with purpose, outstripped in consumption by rice. Flowers orchestrate sophisticated PR campaigns and even offer theme park rides to pollinators. Insect intelligence is measured by tongue length and pollinating bats curl away their prodigious tongues when not in use. Beneficial beasts have spread plants lured by the scent of sexual encounters or as incidental transport for wind-blown pollen. Plants help our love lives: the scent of jasmine can make you more alluring and roots and shoots can pep up your vitality. Plants are used for shelter, medicine and making money.

Thornproof and thought provoking, plants have been probed from root-hair to exotic bloom, seed to fruit, on earth and in moondust.
Published by The History Press

The not so little Book of Dung

Had rave reviews dung
‘This is a serious read for anyone interested in soil’
‘This is a book for all the family, even members not yet reading will thrill to the colour photographs of the dung beetle’.
‘… definitely a ‘bottom up’ view of history. The topic may have a stercoraceous stench but the prose is fragrant and a thoroughly enjoyable read’.

Translated into Korean 2007
Published by Sutton Publishing, now The History Press

Victorian Gardens

A picture led book to inspire gardeners seeking Victorian style gardens fromvictorian grand designs to profitable plots. Traditional nineteenth century schemes explained, including Caroline Holmes own ‘Victorian Artisan’s Garden’ designed for Garden Organic.

Published by Schiffer Books www.schifferbooks.com


A Zest for Herbs

Written to inspire readers that there is more to herbs than green leaves with gorgeous photographs.zestcombo
The Sunday Telegraph Book of the Week 23 May 2004
Eastern Daily Press Book of the Week 8 May 2004
The Evening Standard Book of the Week 5 May 2004

Published by Mitchell Beazley in the UK, and as The Romantic Herb Garden by Rizzoli in the US

'Ostensibly a gardening tome, because horticulture is Holmes's vocation, this beautifully written volume deserves a place on the shelf of any serious cook who is keen to understand about herbs.... However, it isn't only the mouth-thrilling flavour of fresh herbs or the delicate petals of edible flowers that Holmes appreciates. She revels in eye-pleasing aesthetics, heady and diverse scents, medicinal properties, aphrodisiac effects and romantic connotations.' The Scotsman

'In her latest book, The Romantic Herb Garden … she suggests planting a beautiful bouquet of complementing plants such as peonies, lilies, mint, and geraniums in the same area of the garden. Add color and warmth to your garden with foliage. Golden-leaved herbs and shrubs and yellow and gold flowers such as French marigolds will give a garden eye-popping colour. The Blade, Toledo OH

' The author … aims to change attitudes and bring herbs back into the forefront of garden design. … Her book is not a step-by-step instruction manual on how to grow and propagate herbs; … it leans towards the design element and, with beautiful photography and descriptions of gardens the world over, would be equally as appealing to the armchair gardener as to those who like to plan ahead for precise shape colour and scent.' The Index Magazine

'Shows how we can incorporate this sensual ideal into even the smallest town garden, as well as our urban lifestyles' The Evening Standard

'A feast for all senses … You can touch, taste, smell and eat Caroline Holmes' fantastic selection of herbs for beds and borders' Gardens Monthly

'This book not only discusses the many ways you can use herbs, but looks at these plants either as a backdrop to - or indeed star of - any garden scheme. It details imaginative ways to plant herbs successfully in your garden … ' Aberdeen Press and Journal

'Gardening books are aplenty in bookshops these days, but if you want some inspiration for your little piece of garden paradise, look no further.' Suffolk Magazine

New Shoots, Old Tips

oldtipsSifts the humour from the humus in the quest for valid historic garden advice, based on her award-winning BBC Radio Four series.

Published by Frances Lincoln in agreement with the BBC

'This anthology of gardening writing, which stretches from as far back as Genesis, is an ideal loo book. Dip into it for advice on almost any topic, from budding and grafting to beds and borders. It sets what we do today in its historical context' Daily Telegraph

'Occasionally it is good to get away from the nitty-gritty of gardening … and wander off into historical attitudes and anecdotes … Everyone has an opinion here, from Noah to George Bernard Shaw, from 16th century suspicions concerning aubergines to the number of bedding plants required each year to demonstrate that a garden belongs to a duke … there are no colour illustrations, but … plenty of black and white ones - advertisements, plans, cartoons and photographs' The Times

Icons of Garden Designgardendesign

Is one of Prestel's Icon series. Caroline wrote the introduction on the history of garden design, placing the 79 iconic gardens featured in a broader context.

She wrote 19 profiles as well as helping to select the international contributors.

Published by Prestel Translated into German, Russian, Czech, Hungarian and Polish.


2006   1001 Gardens you must see before you die – contributed 51 profiles
2006 Symbolism in 18th Century Gardens – The Influence of Intellectual and Esoteric Currents, such as Freemasonry – contributed A Rose by Any Other Name? An Introduction to the Symbolism of Plants and Planting

Articles 2010-2017

2017 Herbs 'Seeming and savour - herbs and fruit'
  Herbs 'Behind the label - Greeks immortalised in herbs'    
2016 Herbs 'Herbs in a Brownian landscape - Croome Park'
  Landscape History Review ‘A Shakespearian Botanical’
  Herbs 'A Green Wedding’
2015 Landscape History Review ‘The Wildest Place on Earth’
  Herbs Rosemary
   Herbs Beyond the Leaning Tower – Pisa’s Orto Botanico
   Herbs A Taste of Ballymaloe
 2014  Landscape History Review ‘Petrarch’s Two Gardens’
   Herbs Scotland’s Lost Lavender Fields Parts 1 and 2
   Herbs Rose tinted Sponges
   Herbs Well Connected Herbs - a taste for refined horticultural and culinary pursuits
   Herbs Coriander - a herb by any other name
 2013  Herbs A bouquet of herbs and gardens in the Dordogne
   Herbs La Roche Jagu – Sleeping Beauty’s excellent herbs

 December 2012

 The English Garden Garden History series – Tudor
 2012  Herbs ‘And lilac spikes of bergamot, as thick as any weed’ Celia Thaxter and her garden of delights on Appledore
 June 2012  The English Garden Wood Farm, Sibton
 2012  Herbs Keats and the summer garden - the Basil green …as by magic touch
 17 March 2012  Financial Times World of Wall Craft
December 2011 The English Garden Glorious Gardens – Winter Warmer
2011 Herbs Giardino dei Semplici, Florence
2011 The Flower Arranger Impressionist Improvisation Spring
2011 Herbs John Gerard – Herbaris, Plantsman and Plagiarist
2011 Herbs Thomas Johnson – plant hunting on the heights of Hampstead in the seventeenth century
January 2011 The Garden The Water Lily Magician
15 December 2010 Country Life Decking the Halls

Broadcaster - Video, Television and Radio

2017 UK Countryside Tours 'Telling the Stories of England' Watch
2013 BBC Great British Garden Revival on the history of front gardens
BBC Gardeners World Specials
2009 Women and Gardens in which I looked at the importance of Tudor and Stuart ladies, housewives and weeders in the domestic garden.
2008 Cottage Gardens when I outlined how the Victorians rediscovered the joys of more naturalistic gardening and the saving of cottage plants – it won the Garden Media Guilds Television Award.
2008 Presented a series on BBC Radio Four - A Sunparched Country - for which she travelled around Australia interviewing people at the vanguard of innovative, practical adaptations to the new reality of climate change. They included architects, landscape designers, horticulturists, soil geologists, aboriginal weather forecasters, communities and home gardeners.
2007 Researched and appeared in the video accompanying the Dig For Victory exhibition at the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms.
2004 Co-presented with Alan Gray the series Glorious Gardens for Anglia, Meridian and Channel Islands TV which was filmed throughout Anglia and South-eastern England.
and 2001
Devised and presented two BBC Radio Four series 'New Shoots, Old Tips'. First series received the Garden Writers' Guild 'Radio Broadcast of the Year Award 2001'.
2000 Devised and presented the series 'Imperial Gardens' for BBC Radio Four, produced by Culturewise.
2000 Presented garden history strands for Anglia TV's Inside and Out
1999 Advised and appeared on a garden history series Gardens of the Millennium produced by Meridian TV and the History Channel.
1998 NHK (Japanese National Broadcasting) filmed a 50 minute programme (broadcast in Japan in July 1998, repeated in 2001) on Caroline's work and lifestyle in her gardens, house, office and surrounding countryside.

Other BBC Radio 4 contributions have included the series Gardens of Italy, Gardens of France and Gardens of Spain 2004-6, produced by Just Radio.

1990’s Dozens of inserts for Woman's Hour produced by Corinne Julius.

Also act as an occasional commentator on plants for the World Service.

Watch me now as I am and as I was

2009 Engraved on my Heart: a new garden for Calais www.mfreeth.com/movies/13.html

1990’s www.cookingtipstv.com/v/110,healthy-edible-flowers-from-garden-to-plate/html

Consultant Designer

Specialising in evoking historical, artistic and symbolic references. Private commissions range from evoking the Tudor, bringing in the landscape, modernising a walled garden, defeating bindweed and general encouragement.

Public commissions include:

Notre-Dame-de-Calais, Calais, France

Notre Dame de Calais is the sole example of an English Perpendicular church in Europe, it has been restored by the Association pour la Mise en Valeur du Patrimoine Architectural du Calaisis (AMVPAC). I designed gardens in Tudor Renaissance Humanist style – emblematic knot, cloister and orchard that encompasses the newly restored church.

Work on the gardens started in the autumn of 2012 and was officially opened in September 2016. Although enclosed it represents a tranquil part of the urban scheme to ‘green’ Calais. The designs encapsulate the Virgin Mary’s paradise and the court of Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon and the Princess Mary, their faith and fashion. The gardens also draw on the symbolism within the church to create a circular walk without that is spiritual, intellectual and physical as well as looking and smelling good. It fits well into the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 2020.

Watch how the designs were conceived for Notre Dame de Calais in ENGLISH VERSION Engraved on my Heart: a new garden for Calais www.mfreeth.com/movies/13.html and on VERSION FRANCAISE Gravée dans mon Coeur: un nouveau jardin pour Calais www.mfreeth.com/movies/12.html

High House, Essex

In 2007 High House was selected as the location for the Royal Opera House’s new Production Campus for the Performing Arts. An integral part of the future development and construction of the site is the provision of a series of outdoor spaces for a range of purposes including performance, informal meeting space, café area etc. Caroline has designed a traditional meadow and seventeenth century inspired knot, kitchen garden and quincunx orchard around house and barns. Her design for the Performance Lawns and Operatic Borders attempts to emulate a musical sense of exposition, development and recapitulation, slow moving harmonies arpeggiated with fast moving dots of plant colour. The gardens opened in 2011.

The Alnwick Garden, Northumberland

Researched and devised the planting for the 'The Poison Garden' in The Alnwick Garden in Northumberland – one of Europe’s largest and most innovative creations. Prepared guide notes which became the base for the accompanying book. A fatal attraction that continues to draw in huge public interest. The plantings and concepts were the subject of an address I gave at the Herb Society of America’s Annual Meeting in 2005 and at the Illinois Specialty Crop Conference in 2007. Permission to Poison remains one of the most popular choices for my talks.

Yalding Organic Gardens, Maidstone, Kent

I designed the first six in the chronology of gardens at Yalding Organic Gardens. The Medieval Garden incorporates three: the twelfth to fourteenth centuries are illustrated in the Apothecary Garden's regular chessboard design; the fifteenth in the contemplative and symbolic Paradise Garden; the sixteenth in the herb and box Knots and HDRA insignia.

William Cobbett Cottager's Garden

Re-creates Cobbett's Cottage Economy and English Gardener as well as horticultural views taken from his many pamphlets. Cobbett was greatly influenced by his frequent journeys to the States whose cultivation of corn particularly pleased him.

The Victorian Artisan's Garden

Displays the growing technology and availability of spare funds for formerly inaccessible luxuries such as greenhouses, cloches and annual bedding plants to the average householder.

The Gertrude Jekyll Edwardian borders are adapted from her 'Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden', taking garden styles back to a more natural drifting of height and colour.

'The creation of the historic gardens at Yalding' has been the subject of a London Royal Horticultural Society, Michigan Herbal Associates conference and Toledo Botanical Garden programme.

The gardens are currently closed but the Friends of Yalding Organic Gardens has been formed with the aim of trying to secure a sound and sustainable future for the Gardens. Their website is www.foyog.org



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