Charles McIntosh was born at Abercairney in Perthshire where his father, John, was head gardener. Charles duly succeeded him, before moving to undertake similar responsibilities at the greatly more extensive grounds of Taymouth Castle, where he continued to develop his knowledge of forestry, orchard, kitchen-garden and hothouse management.
By 1825 he had taken charge of the grounds at Stratton Park, Hampshire, home of the banker Sir Thomas Baring. Whilst there, he contributed to the first issue of Loudon's Gardener's Magazine, redesigned the gardens at Pengethley in Herefordshire, laid out and planted the newly created pleasure gardens and conservatory attached to the Colisseum in The Regent's Park, and compiled and had published his first major work of two volumes: The Practical Gardener and Modern Horticulturalist.
McIntosh's energy and intelligence brought him to the attention of Prince Leopold (subsequently the first king of the Belgians) and for 10 years he made great improvements to the grounds adjacent to the royal residence at Claremont House in Surrey. Leopold took McIntosh to Belgium where he remodelled the gardens at Laeken.
In 1838 McIntosh returned to Scotland to undertake his greatest role, that of head gardener to the immensely wealthy Duke of Buccleuch, whose palace gardens at Dalkeith McIntosh updated and modernised to great effect - not least the vast range of productive hothouses that were amongst the most extensive in the UK. It was here that he wrote his major work, The Book of the Garden (also in two volumes), which remained in print long after his death.
Upon his retirement in 1858 McIntosh continued landscaping and improving the villa residences, parks and gardens of the gentry and nobility in Scotland and England. He was an active corresponding member of the Royal Horticultural Society, and also those of The Caledonian and Massachusetts.
Charles McIntosh never set out to emulate such figures as Lancelot Brown or Humphry Repton, but remained at the cutting edge of contemporary horticultural techniques about which he wrote extensively; perhaps his greatest area of expertise being that of hot-house design and heating.
He was known to Queen Victoria and could count among his friends John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843), Professor John Lindley (1799-1865) and Sir Joseph Paxton (1803-1865). Like Paxton, McIntosh gained the trust and confidence of those whom he served and throughout his life contributed greatly to the scientific and practical advancement of his profession.
He died at his residence in Murrayfield near Edinburgh in January 1864. McIntosh also received a fulsome obituary in The Gardener's Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette of 16 January 1864, in which he was referred to as a 'Veteran in the ranks of horticulturalists...who had occupied a prominent position in the horticultural world'.
- Charles McIntosh The New and Improved Practical Gardener and Modern Horticulturalist (1828-29, 2 vols) London
- Charles McIntosh Flora and Pomona (1829-31) London
- Charles McIntosh The Flower Garden (1838) London
- Charles McIntosh The Greenhouse, Hothouse and Stove (1838) London
- Charles McIntosh The Orchard (1839) London
- Charles McIntosh The Book of The Garden (1853-55, 2 vols) London
- Charles McIntosh The Larch Disease (1860) London
Contributor: Jonathan Cass