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HORTUS  126  (Summer 2018)
HORTUS 126 (Summer 2018)


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Extracts From The Current Issue
From the editor's introduction to HORTUS 126
Beth Chatto's death at the age of ninety-four on 13 May brings an era in which writing gardeners (a breed distinct from run-of-the-mill gardening commentators) flourished from the mid-twentieth century on nearer to a close. Though different from, Beth nevertheless belonged to a group of distinguished British luminaries of broad appeal that included the likes of Rosemary Verey (d. 2001), Graham Stuart Thomas (d. 2003) and Beth's close friend and sometime collaborator Christopher Lloyd (d. 2006). While several of her eminent octogenarian and nonagenarian contemporaries survive her it is unlikely that we will see such a coterie again - men and women whose reputations are cemented by books (enduring books of both a practical and inspiring stripe), and not by the many - equally worthy - whose rank is increasingly, lamentably, occasioned by broadcast or social media of an ephemeral mien.
What happens to a noted garden such as Beth's when its only begetter leaves behind her mortal coil? I am assured by Dr Catherine Horwood, author of a forthcoming biography of Mrs Chatto, that the future of the garden is safe. 'For several years now, it has been managed by her granddaughter, Julia Boulton, and it is on a firm financial footing. Julia has a strong team supporting her with David Ward as Nursery Manager and Åsa Gregers-Warg as head gardener. In addition, three years ago, the Beth Chatto Education Trust was set up to further Beth's passion for educating all, young and old, about plants and ecology.' Her garden at White Barn House now has a busy timetable of schools visits, Royal Horticultural Society training courses and other vocational activities housed in a new building opened officially by Beth last year.



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From: 'Tradescant's Diary' by Hugh Johnson
19 January 2018: The feral jasmine cascading over the wall from next door, blending indistinguishably with the thick hydrangea and ivy, is starting to flower as though it were at home in its Burmese forest. Does it have no thermometer? Hellebore buds are pregnant; a shy primrose has just opened one eye; the grassy spikes of 'tommies' [Crocus tommasinianus] have appeared and the king of snowdrops, Galanthus elwesii, has reached its commanding seven-inch height. It's all quite late, it seems to me, even the winter cherry, even our December-flowering camellia - except the uninvited jasmine. Though yesterday minuscule points of incipient buds (I need a lens to see them) appeared on Clematis alpina - than which nothing looks deader. We are fifteen minutes to the good of the shortest day. Plenty of action soon. News from Kensington Palace, though (which makes me sound like a Royal Correspondent). Work has started on a new garden in front of Queen Anne's fabulous Orangery, Hawksmoor's most elegant London building. The central alley of boring and massively overgrown evergreens; yew, holly and laurel, which was its only feature, is being abolished. Todd Longstaffe-Gowan has designed a formal layout, again around two parallel lawns, with flowerbeds and trim little topiary. Rather in the style, I imagine, of the parterre at Hampton Court. Diggers have arrived: daily excitement to come.





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From 'A Collector's Paradise: Carolside, Scottish Borders' by John West
The late 1940s and early '50s must have been the golden age for young boys with a leaning towards collecting. My own interest wasn't drawn to just the writing down of steam engines' numbers or ticking off the maker and model variant of buses. I remember that military cap badges and aircraft recognition postcards were easily and regularly obtained. A wide range of exotic-sounding cigarette packets like those for Pasha, State Express, and Passing Cloud could be literally picked up for nothing, as well as those of the more common Woodbine and Navy Cut brands. Then there were the cigarette cards themselves and foreign postage stamps to be collected and exchanged. The advantage of these latter items was that they could be put neatly into albums for repeated enjoyment and convenient study.
Somehow, as I grew up I left behind this interest in collecting and in time my thoughts turned to gardens and gardening. A parcel of plants from my parents led to a particular love of old roses, and eventually to membership of The Historic Roses Group. In the course of many garden visits I met a number of old rosarians who had also acquired the collecting bug, but in their cases they were filling their gardens with roses of a certain family or breeder or period of introduction. Such collections are a wonderful resource for anyone interested in the development of the rose or of particular families of roses, and give the visitor an opportunity to see varieties that may not be otherwise encountered. The gardeners themselves generally become a valued source of specialised knowledge, and there can be benefits to horticulture in conserving both the plants and the knowledge of old and currently less-popular varieties. However, it has to be admitted that in the case of some collections, the neat rows of individual specimens have more in common with my schoolboy stamp album than a pleasure garden.




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From 'Woodland Gardening with Acid-Loving Plants' by Kenneth Cox
The term 'woodland gardening' can cover a wide range of gardening styles and practices: planting a pinetum or arboretum, 'improving' a patch of woodland by naturalising bulbs, encouraging wild flowers or simply making paths through it or planting a garden with shrubs and perennials. For the purposes of this article and my book Woodland Gardening, I narrow the definition somewhat. Most plants grown in classic woodland gardens require moist but well-drained, friable acidic soil with plenty of organic matter. The woodland garden is planted in or at the edge of woodland or trees in a broadly informal or naturalistic arrangement and typically consists of three layers: the canopy and backdrop of trees; the mid layer of shrubs; and the understory or woodland floor layer of perennials and bulbs. Plants used are predominantly exotic and include rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, magnolias and hydrangeas, underplanted with woodland perennials, ferns and bulbs. Though many famous woodland gardens are large, this gardening style is also suitable for smaller and urban gardens, and a small corner of a garden can be transformed into a woodland garden using existing or newly planted trees, underplanted with shrubs, bulbs and perennials. Some of the best known examples of this style in the UK include Exbury, Caerhays, Bodnant, Inverewe and Mount Stewart.
Most woodland gardens have been created in 'maritime temperate' or 'oceanic' climate zones, which mainly occur on the western sides of continents, typically poleward of Mediterranean climates, and are moderated by oceans, characterised by changeable, often overcast weather with relatively cool summers and winters. In western Europe, such climate zones occur in coastal regions from Norway all the way south to Galicia in north-west Spain and the mountains of the Azores and Madeira. In North America, the Pacific north-west has a maritime climate while the east coast has a more continental climate, colder in winter and hotter in summer but still boasting many fine woodland gardens, often dominated by magnolias or deciduous and evergreen azaleas. In the southern hemisphere, the maritime temperate zone includes central coastal Chile, most of New Zealand and parts of coastal south Australia, around Melbourne and most of Tasmania, parts of the country influenced by Antarctic winds and currents. Many of these characteristics are, not surprisingly, shared by regions where many Asian woodland plants are found wild, in the richly forested parts of the Himalaya and those of the mountains of Japan, south-west China, north Vietnam and coastal Korea.





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From 'What Becomes of the Under-Appreciated: Reflections of Strobilanthes' by Tim Longville
My title's parody of Jimmy Ruffin's 1967 R&B or soul hit, What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted? may provoke anti-populist classics-loving irritation in some and nostalgia in others, while my next sentence may provoke an unfortunate outbreak of pop-psychology in almost everyone. Even so, I'm happy to confess that I've always had an interest in the under-appreciated in the world of horticulture, whether the under-appreciation is of particular gardens, of particular gardeners or, above all, of particular plants. Indeed, one of the enduring mysteries of gardening in supposedly garden-and-plant-besotted Britain is the number of plants with obvious and unusual virtues which nevertheless are seldom seen in British gardens and which are even more seldom offered by British nurseries. A perfect example of that sort of inexplicable omission is the genus Strobilanthes. (At this point I should try to deflect criticism by emphasising - not, I daresay, that it needs emphasising - that I write as a gardener not as a botanist: and as a purely or impurely amateur gardener at that. So my descriptions of particular plants are brief and impressionistic.) What, after all, could be more usefully attractive than plants (members of the Acanthaceae though there's nothing obviously acanthus-like about them: indeed, to the casual eye they look more like some of the more vigorous hardy salvias) which are tough enough to cope even with dry shade and root-infested soil, vigorous enough to cover a considerable area with good-looking weed-suppressing foliage (many of the species indeed are so substantial that they hover happily in the Debateable Land between shrub and herb) and which produce, at an unusual time of year for a shade-loving plant (in the UK, generally from late summer into and through much of the autumn), a profusion of striking tubular flowers in one of an almost infinite number of shades of blue though there are also species with flowers in white and pink?




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From 'Gardening for Nocturnal Fragrance' by Peter Loewer
In the late 1500s Christopher Marlowe wrote the following lines for his poem 'The Passionate Shepherd to His Love':
...............................And I will make thee beds of Roses
...............................And a thousand fragrant posies
Some two hundred and seventy years later, in 1860, Ralph Waldo Emerson published a book of personal essays entitled The Conduct of Life, in which he said, 'I wish that life should not be cheap, but sacred. I wish the days to be as centuries, loaded, fragrant.'
The first is a declaration of love, the second a philosophy of life. Both reflect on one of mankind's five primary senses - smell.
There are idioms galore associated with odours of all sorts, including a few that are not complimentary, for example, 'It smells to heaven' (Shakespeare), 'Begin to smell a rat' and 'The smell of burning fills the startled Air' (Belloc). And for every ill smell, there are dozens of proverbs, axioms, and clichés linked to pleasant memories often involving flowers.
My personal journey into fragrant gardening began in 1975 when early every spring a mimeographed catalogue arrived by post at the General Store, in Cochecton Center, New York State. Here was my eagerly-awaited connection to the gardens of England through the seed collector's catalogue of Major V. F. Howell (Firethorn, Oxshott Way, Surrey), wherein I found descriptions of plants listed in his Special Subscribers' List (only available in small quantities), featuring species I had never dreamed existed. Among the seeds chosen in my first year of contact with the Major, were those of the night-blooming daylily (Hemerocallis citrina).





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From ''The Victorian Kitchen Garden: Part Two, Chilton Revisited' by Sandra Lawrence
Clever photography in The Victorian Kitchen Garden hides two secrets. The first is splendid: Chilton, the country estate used for the BBC's classic 1987 experiment, which recreated a traditional walled garden under the benevolent eye of retired head gardener Harry Dodson, actually boasts two walled gardens, one butting against the other. The second, well, let's park that one for now . . .
In many ways the story of the Chilton estate, near Hungerford, is a familiar one. Starting life as a sixteenth-century Wiltshire hunting lodge it enjoyed various owners and was remodelled twice, once by Sir John Soane. It even shifted county by edging a few feet east into Berkshire when the current Palladian-style mansion, designed by William Pilkington, was built in 1800. The Gardener magazine wasn't wild about the new house, describing it in 1834 as 'a cube in the modern manner with rather modest earthworks round it'. The gardener's house, on the other hand 'has a much finer aspect'.
No expense was spared in the double walled garden, with hothouses, pineapple lights, cold frames and show-houses, all heated by a state-of-the art boiler, much admired by The Gardener. The Victorian age was not, however, a happy time for the house, constantly bought, sold and remodelled until one particularly free-spending owner died after a massive building spree, leaving large debts.






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From 'Carved from the Jungle: Sigiriya, Sri Lanka's Landscaped Jewel' by Katie Campbell
In the fifth century AD, while Britons were waving off the Romans from their wattle-and-daub huts, an extraordinary example of town planning was being constructed in the small island kingdom of Sri Lanka, off India's east coast. Known as Sigiriya or 'lion rock', it encompasses one of the world's earliest landscaped gardens, and remains to this day among the most elaborate and best-preserved examples of first-millennium urban design. An elaborate palace complex was built on the summit of the eponymous rock, and in the jungle around its base a large rectangular plot was cleared for ramparts, moats, walls, paths, ponds and pavilions, all set out in a strict grid pattern. What is notable in this precocious example of urban planning is that pre-existing natural elements - caves, boulders, slopes and streams - were incorporated into the design, adding an organic element to the strict symmetrical layout.
Long before Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka in the third century BC, local people worshipped nature, imbuing trees, rocks, still pools and running water with divinity. Eight hundred years later this early reverence had evolved into a healthy respect and to this day Sri Lankan architects are known for their willingness to accommodate nature, often incorporating significant natural features into the most rigid of formal designs to create spaces of extraordinary spiritual as well as aesthetic pleasure.




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From: 'Reading in the Garden' by Judy Kravis
Not far from where I live there is a large grey stone house by the river with an old garden of spreading trees and lawns. From the walk on the other side of the river, mostly used by fisherfolk, you can see a faded white garden seat at the edge of the lawn, just short of the rampage of riverside plants. Did I once see a hat and a half-read book on the seat, the reader absent for some reason? Or was that, to my mind, a necessary completion of the scene? At any rate, I can't walk by without seeing the hat and the book and sensing the absent reader.
'There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we believe we left without having lived them, those we spent with a favourite book . . . Who does not remember, as I do, those books read during the holidays, that one used to take and hide, one after another, in those hours of the day that were peaceful enough and inviolable enough to be able to give them refuge.'
Marcel Proust's essay 'On Reading' was written in 1905, the same year Einstein published his theory of relativity. Though one was a novelist and the other a scientist, both were poets of time and space. Einstein did not learn to read until he was seven; Proust knew how to read, we can imagine, as soon as he opened his eyes.





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From 'It's Time, It's Time: Gregory Long and The New York Botanical Garden' by Marta McDowell

There are days when time seems to stand still at the New York Botanical Garden. Founded in 1891, this 250-acre garden in the heart of the northernmost borough of New York City is set among ancient rock formations and encircles the last remaining old-growth forest in the metropolitan area. On this chilly, wet mid-April afternoon even the advancing spring seems to have stopped in its tracks.
But time is not motionless for Gregory Long, CEO and the William C. Steere Sr. President of The New York Botanical Garden. Vibrant, energetic, with penetrating blue eyes and a quick wit, he seems ready to launch into the next endeavour, a conductor lifting his baton to ready the orchestra. He does not seem like someone ready to retire. But retire he will, six weeks from this interview. At the close of June after twenty-nine years of service, he will turn over the reins of the Garden to his successor, Carrie Reborra Barratt.
We are sitting in his conference room on the second floor of the Watson Building, the functional modernist 1970s addition to the original Beaux-Arts museum building that has graced the north end of the Garden since 1901. 'The New York Botanical Garden's origin story has a close connection to Kew,' Long recounted. American botanists Nathaniel Lord Britton and Elizabeth Knight Britton, inspired by the magnificence of the collections on a visit to Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 1888, returned to New York City charged with the desire to establish a similar institution. It would be a green and glittering jewel to add to the cultural crown of this growing urban centre. Backed by the likes of financiers Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, and William Vanderbilt, and in partnership with city and state governments, the New York Botanical Garden was established in 1891.
Building public-private partnership has been part of Gregory Long's contributions to the Garden. The performance and growth of the Garden during the nearly three decades of his stewardship has been stellar. Name a measure - the quality of the display gardens, library, herbarium, research, not to mention fundraising, volunteering, and audience development - the place has prospered since his arrival in 1989. Long said, 'The many aspects of the Garden are as varied, marvelous, and intricately interconnected as are the species of the plant kingdom.'
Those many aspects have seen significant change under Long's leadership. So many of the individual gardens have been restored or built during his tenure that listing them would seem like an itinerary for a visit of a day or a week. He stared out of the conference room windows toward the Steere Herbarium and, beyond it, the Pfizer Plant Research Laboratory, two of the buildings added during his watch. Long remembered, 'When I got here, I'd take a golf cart around the Garden and think, "This place is too big. Carnegie and Morgan bought too much land". Now I think, "we could use more space".' He particularly mourns the parts lost in the 1950s.







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From 'From the Home Patch' by Tom Petherick
In the absence of a warm, dry spring this year things got off to a very laboured start in the kitchen garden. However, as gardening is a long game I take heart from all the good that arises from a properly cold and wet winter.
To begin with, hardy plants go properly dormant. This feels right; its lack in recent protracted autumns and warm winters is something I have felt uneasy about for a long time. It is comforting but unusual to see the ground covered in snow and to know that herbaceous and shrubby types, as well as fruit bushes and trees, are deep asleep and untroubled. There is something about deep snow that our souls recognise. Everything changes, as though the sound of nature has switched to a different frequency.
Then there is the old adage that pests and diseases get knocked back by cold conditions. I don't really have any evidence to back this up. In fact, snails seem happy in their slumber in odd corners and a dig around in the compost heap reveals blobs of white slug eggs fattening and ready to hatch. Everyone seems to have given up digging the soil to allow the frost to break down heavy clay, so that doesn't happen either. Time was when, a bit like ploughing, vegetable patches were dug and killer grubs were picked up by following flocks of robins and thrushes.



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'From: Digging with the Duchess: Poisoning Canaries' by Sam Llewellyn
Anyone who has read the minutes of the meeting of the Hope Policy Committee held earlier this year may remember that it was decided that we should spend some time on a botanical expedition to the Canary Islands. This was a bold decision, taken in the face of previous experiences not altogether positive. Among the cloud forests of La Gomera, for instance, we once took a pre-Sunday-lunch walk on which we got lost. This became apparent as we moved from handhold to handhold on the sheer face of a ravine. Far below, a flock of birds fluttered above a waterfall. I pointed out to the Duchess that this was perhaps the last flock of real canaries in the wild, and she told me to shut up, and we carried on climbing. We did get back in time for lunch, but on Monday, not Sunday, having lived during the interim on gofio, parched maize meal moistened with thin soup, and slept under a tree.
We tried again on Tenerife, selecting a hotel that turned out to be wrapped in chilly and impenetrable cloud. Above the clouds we strolled among black pine trees growing out of rust-red lava, inhaling great draughts of sulphuretted vapour from a pair of fumaroles known as the Devil's Nostrils and contracting a cough that has never really left us.




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Books Reviewed:
Shades of Green: My Life as the National Trust's Head of Gardens
By John Sales

Gardens of Corfu
By Rachel Weaving

Secret Gardens of East Anglia: A Private Tour of 22 Gardens
By Barbara Segall

Paradise Gardens: The World's Most Beautiful Islamic Gardens
By Monty Don

Dahlias: Beautiful Varieties for Home and Garden
By Naomi Slade

The Remarkable Story of Extra-Petalled Blooms
By Nicola Ferguson

Pasley: Memories of Anthony du Gard Pasley
Edited by Emma Isles-Buck



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HORTUS 127 (Autumn 2018) will be published in October

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