Alexander Marshal

Alexander Marshal (c.1620-1682) was one of a circle of gentleman gardeners, centred on London, for whom the cultivation of rare plants was essential to the study of the natural world. Their interest was stimulated by the previously unknown specimens imported to England from the Near East and the New World in the seventeenth century.

Over a period of thirty years Marshal compiled a ‘florilegium’ (flower book) of 154 folios recording plants growing in English gardens. Of the numerous species depicted, many are exotic newcomers; others are native plants. Although Marshal was not a professional artist, his florilegium - the only English flower book to survive from the period - contains some of the most beautiful plant studies in botanical art. The watercolours were not intended for publication or sale, but to be studied and enjoyed by his friends and fellow horticulturalists.

Marshal’s florilegium was presented to George IV in the 1820s.


Seville orange, purple crocuses, grass snake and caterpillar
Crocuses, liverwort, poppy anemones and jay
Hyacinths, Persian iris, Spanish daffodils and purple crocus
Crown imperial, narcissi and auriculas
Mourning iris, dragonfly and turban ranunculus
German flag irises, ranunculi and bluebells
Peonies, turban ranunculus and tulip
Velvet and other roses, pimpernel and forget-me-not
Honeysuckle, grey parrot, lupin, monkey and stag beetle
Common sunflower and greyhound
Macaws, dragonfly, crayfish, greyhounds and caterpillars
Passion flower with ladybirds, caterpillars and autumn crocus
Pomegranate flowers, toucan, frog, crane, macaw, monkey
Chilli pepper, sweet pepper, ginger and clary sage
Joseph’s coat and white-flowered bottle gourd