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Shades of Green

My Life as the National Trust’s Head of Gardens

Shades of Green contains lessons learned over a quarter of a century of managing, renewing, and caring for the gardens of Great Britain’s National Trust. By the time author John Sales was appointed as the Head of Gardens in 1971, the National Trust already possessed an eclectic range of gardens and designed landscape parks, and was starting to acquire many more, sometimes with great houses and estates but also standalone gardens, due to their value as significant repositories of history, important plant collections, unsung works of art, and reservoirs of disappearing expertise.

Sales tells the story of his firsthand experience of fifty of these garden sites during a crucial time of transition from private to corporate ownership, a process that was sometimes smooth, sometimes difficult, but always fascinating.  Above all, he captures the pleasure of working with an extraordinary range of people from all walks of life and levels of understanding, including former owners, expert committees, dedicated staff, and the gardeners themselves.

336 pages | 250 color plates | 6 1/2 x 9 1/2 | © 2018



"The key words in this history of the rich experiences of author John Sales are managing, renewing, conserving, and caring for the gardens of Britain's National Trust. Beginning in 1971 with his appointment as head of gardens, Sales brought a wealth of knowledge based on hands-on as well as academic preparation to his position. This book offers a personal history of Sales' experiences with 50 sites—less than a third of the total number of gardens owned by the National Trust. Sales oversaw the transitions of each of these gardens—cherished contributions to British culture—from private to corporate ownership. Some transitions were smooth, others less so; the stories of his interactions with the individuals involved make for fascinating reading. Beautifully illustrated, Sales' book is a welcome history of some of Britain's most celebrated gardens, and the descriptive details provided will enlighten anyone interested in the management of gardens visited by the public and maintained for their aesthetic pleasure. . . . Recommended."


"Here's a book that will restore your faith in the National Trust; life members should be given a free copy. John Sales, the trust's head of gardens for 25 years, sets out his experience of helping to turn its gardens into the world-class collection they are today. If you enjoy big gardens, you should read it. We owe this wise and unassuming, but determined man so much. It's also on luxuriously heavy paper--I bet the trust would disapprove."

The Times

"[A]n exceptional new book…I recommend it to all garden visitors, garden historians and connoisseurs of the human race. . . . It is written with winning modesty and quiet humour but it throws a fascinating light on the vexed questions of garden ‘conservation’, the aims of the National Trust and the nature of gardening for the long term."

Robin Lane Fox | Financial Times

Shades of Green is a testament to Sales’s incredible tenacity and clarity of vision, and his wisdom, charm, and wry humour shines through its pages.”

Gardens Illustrated

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