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La Mortola

in the footsteps of Thomas Hanbury

Alistair Moore



7.6×5.1in • 19.5×13cm

240 pages

index included

ISBNs: 1860111408 • 9781860111402

Cadogan Guides • 2004

In 1853, 21-year-old Thomas Hanbury made the long sea voyage from England to war-torn China, as the Manchu Dynasty began to crumble.  In Shanghai, a city beset by rebels, greed, vice and opium, Hanbury carved out a great fortune and by 1867 he had acquired a small, dilapidated palazzo in the Italian Riviera village of La Mortola.  It was here, over the next forty years, that Thomas Hanbury was to create the Giardini Botanici Hanbury, known as La Mortola, still one of the most beautiful and foremost botanic gardens in the world.

Thomas Hanbury remains one of the outstanding figures of 19th-century horticulture - his legacy includes the gift of the gardens at Wisley to the Royal Horticultural Society - yet, little generally is known about this Quaker philanthropist and lover of plants who was decorated by both the British and Italian governments.  In a compelling book, gardener and writer Alasdair Moore traces Thomas Hanbury’s remarkable life and passion for horticulture, examining how a young man from Clapham, London, not only formed the finest private plant collection of his generation, with over 5,000 rare and exotic plants from Africa and Asia alongside native Mediterranean flora, but came to have Italian streets named in his honour.

With unique access to Hanbury’s diaries and family documents, and drawing on his own gardening expertise and knowledge of La Mortola, Moore follows in the footsteps of Thomas Hanbury; from his formative years in Shanghai to his life in Italy as that nation was reborn and Thomas battled to create his superlative garden.

Table of Contents


La Mortola: Giardini Hanbury

Shanghai Bound

Topside Galah

Foreign Devils

Riviera Robinson Crusoe


A Garden in Italy

The Pitiful Want of Water

The Taint of Opium and Fruit of Shanghai

A Decorated Father

Inveni Portum...

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