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HORTUS  128  (Winter 2018)
HORTUS 128 (Winter 2018)


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Extracts From The Current Issue
FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK
In November Simon Dorrell and I marked our twenty-fifth anniversary
at Bryan's Ground - a quarter of a century (half a century
in double-harness terms) dedicated to the remaking, remodelling,
elaboration and considerable enlargement of a garden first laid out
when the house was built in 1913. (First impressions and a plan of
the garden as we found it appeared in Hortus 29, Spring 1994.)
Our arrival in 1993 coincided with a fortuitous light covering
of soft snow, transforming our immediate three-acre formal surroundings
into a blank canvas. By drawing lines in the snow we
quickly decided on the shapes and sizes of new principal vistas and
enclosures, initially giving each of the ground floor rooms of the
house a garden of its own framed by yew hedges, in keeping with
the property's Arts and Crafts bearing. By Christmas we had chosen,
sourced and taken delivery of thirty apple trees of thirty individual,
culinary, cider and (mostly) dessert varieties, a selection representing
cultivars known to have been bred around the beginning of the
twentieth century, to have been raised locally (Herefordshire is
deep-rooted pomona country) or were personal favourites. They
were planted in two grids of fifteen trees in lawns flanking the main
drive - replacing a previous orchard whose ghostly remains were
visible from a series of indentations in closely-mown frosted turf.





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From: 'Tradescant's Diary' by Hugh Johnson
10 August 2018: I suppose if there is an opposite to gardening, or
rather an occupation as diVerent as it could be, it is sailing. What
the two have in common, though, is of course their dependence on
the weather. Both take their cue from it; absolutely depend on it
for their functions. To gardeners and sailors weather is existential.
Having just been blown about the Solent, on glorious days of blue
skies perfect for admiring roses, I'll admit to being torn between
the two. If sailing wins this time it is its added spice of excitement,
the commotion of competition, the regatta rush of crowding boats
in touching distance rounding buoys in churning water, setting a
new course, the pull of the spinnaker and the rushing foam astern.
Cowes Week brings together eight hundred boats, from dinghies
to towering yachts and catamarans that slide along like skaters.
Thousands of sailors speaking their strange language. It is an
alternative civilisation. This August the garden, in contrast, is immobile.
Cocooned in trees the air barely stirs. The burning sun
makes shadows too dark to penetrate. Streams have dried to an
inaudible trickle. The suspense is palpable: when will it rain?
It is the time of hydrangeas; those dowdy pink knobs that clash
happily with orange montbretias in dusty front gardens by the
sea, and deep in the woodland the majestic domes, purple or skysapphire,
nestling in deep-green leaves. Their name suggests water,
although it seems Linnaeus was just fooling about with the Greek
for a water jar they supposedly resemble. They certainly appreciate
moisture in the soil. More important is its acidity - and much less
easy to adjust than textbooks suggest. I have taken cuttings of a
truly sky blue one and grown them in compost identical to the
parent, only to achieve a washed-out mauve. You see Hydrangea
'Annabelle' everywhere these days; such an eruption of foamy white
that without support it collapses in a heap. Now I've taken to planting
the rather more realistic H. paniculata: no Fra Angelico colours,
but eventually something approaching a small tree. In fact the
arborescent version on a three-foot trunk, an explosion of pinky
panicles, makes one of the great summer eye-catchers.







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From 'A Beauty - or a Beast? Pollia Japonica'
by Tim Longville
Pollia japonica is a hardy herbaceous plant which eVectively provides
a lush, jungly eVect at low levels of shady woodland areas, yet it is
seldom seen in British gardens and only three nurseries here are
currently listed as stocking it. In the wild it can be found as groundcover
in damp areas throughout many forests, not only in Japan,
as the species name suggests, but also in Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam
and parts of China. It would be easy to imagine that it's a miniature
hedychium, since the dark-green, glossy leaves, on upright
stems usually to around eighteen inches tall, look very like those
of a ginger and even appear in ginger-like whorls or spirals. However,
its mid-summer panicles of individually short-lived but collectively
striking and very un-ginger-like white flowers soon remove
any illusion of ginger-ness. It is in fact a spiderwort - a member of
the Commelinaceae - and those striking white flowers are followed,
in late summer and autumn, by equally striking fruit, which begin
white and then turn blue.
The blue of Pollia japonica's fruit is quite vivid but it pales into
insignificance compared to the colour of the fruit of its African
cousin, P. condensata, the marble berry, which has been described as
having 'the most vivid blue of any natural biological material' -
and is, as the common name suggests, so hard that the berries have
often been strung together and turned into necklaces and bracelets.
The Japanese common name of P. japonica, by the way, is yabumyoga,
because the leaves do indeed resemble those of myoga, the
Japanese ginger, Zingiber mioga.





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From 'Plants That Die Beautifully'
by Lorraine Harrison

My earliest encounter with honesty was in its dried and papery
form in my grandmother's house in the early 1960s, when I was four
or five years old. As a dried seedhead it was very popular in Victorian
times, appropriately enough as my grandmother's home felt
very Victorian indeed. In her two-up, two-down terraced house a
few miles from Manchester's city centre, wall-mounted gas lights
still gave out their ghostly glow (I can recall the rush of their irregular
hissing sound all these years later). An entire wall of the
back room was engulfed by the blackened coal-fired range which
my father said produced the very best Yorkshire pudding he had
ever tasted. The front room, or parlour, housed a piano, along with
a chaise longue stuVed with hard horse-hair from which a cloud of
dust rose every time my brother and I jumped vigorously up and
down on it. The only other dim memories I have from this long-lost
world are images of Louis Wain's cats (books or possibly framed
pictures, I'm unclear) and a vase of dusty honesty. Then of course
I had no idea that these strange semi-transparent slippery white
discs had anything to do with flowers. The very notion would have
seemed so odd. Perhaps it is this oddness that still attracts me to
dying plants today. How can a beautiful familiar flower or leaf transmogrify
into something so utterly other, something often so twisted
and extraordinary and drained of colour, in a matter of a few short
weeks? The notion is strange indeed






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From'The Pleasure of Manavilins:
Graham Stuart Thomas in Ireland'
by Charles Nelson

'Ireland, its people, gardens and its countryside have always
beckoned me', wrote one of the greatest gardeners of the past
century, '{but} whether anybody told me to go west when I was a
young man, I cannot say.' Westwards he came, even to the very
edge of the land where the Atlantic breakers have pounded the
flaggy shore for millennia, grinding carboniferous limestone into
cliVs, pavements and pebbles: The Burren. He wanted to see one of
the floral wonders of this archipelago, the mingling of the Arctic-
Alpine flora with what we used loosely to call the Mediterranean
flora: spring gentian, maidenhair fern, mountain avens, Irish orchid.
The more usual purposes of his visits to Ireland were horticultural,
advising, or simply admiring gardens.
For more than two-thirds of the last century, Graham Stuart
Thomas was influenced by the gardens and gardeners of Ireland
and he, in turn, certainly influenced the progress of Irish gardening.
His first contact with a gardener from Ireland seems to have been
with Tom Blythe, nephew of G. N. - 'Great Northern' - Smith, son
of the famous Tom Smith of Daisy Hill Nursery in Newry, County
Down. In October 1927, Blythe arrived at the University Botanic
Garden in Cambridge as an unpaid student gardener. At that time,
Graham, a Cambridge native, was also a student there and they
became 'fast friends'. When Tom went home, he would often send
Graham 'little boxes of rare flowers' such as rhododendrons, tantalising
plants that flourished in the 'softer' climate and acid soil of
north-eastern Ireland. These boxes whetted Graham's enthusiasm
for plants that he could not hope to grow in the alkaline soil and
more rigorous climate of Cambridgeshire.





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From 'The Secret Hiding Place:
What Sparks our Passion for Garden Design?'
by Andrew Wenham

Woburn Abbey grounds have numerous lakes set between the
village and deer park, the most accessible being Upper Drakeloe
Pond, or 'the lake' as we used to call it. A great source of tadpoles,
fish, and excitement; from an early age, we explored it voraciously.
The lake is still encircled by wonderful mature cedar of Lebanon
trees, with marvellous low-hanging branches for climbing and
bouncing on. Adventures too numerous to mention happened here,
but framed in us a sense of wonder and connection with the landscape
and being in outdoor places. These adventures were set against
the opening up of the Abbey grounds to Woburn Safari Park, where
magical creatures (sea lions in the water, monkeys on an island)
were being introduced. Who knew what might be found?
Our house being large and a vicar's income little, we had various
lodgers (both human and animal), who worked as rangers in the
safari park. Our menagerie of donkeys, goat, dogs and cat had to
cope with other more occasional visitors, either orphaned or injured,
rescued by the rangers, including a Soay lamb, who was found,
run over, with its back legs broken and was bottle-fed back to health,
and 'Colonel Blimp', a poorly male baboon who would pick through
our hair to groom it. He would bark and 'wahoo' every morning.
This would be enough for any adventure-thirsty boys, but the
purpose of writing this is to tell of somewhere else, another lake, a
hidden lake that to us became known as the 'Secret Hiding Place'.
I should say at this point, given the reverence in which we hold the
space, that I have my brothers' authority to talk about this, as it
has been nearly fifty years.
.





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From 'Gardens of São Miguel, The Azores'
by Isabel Soares De Albergaria


The great historical legacy of the gardens found today on São
Miguel is a direct result of nineteenth-century competition among
a few gentleman farmers. On this small North Atlantic island,
37.7°N, 25.5°W, men like José do Canto (1820-98), José Jácome
Correia (1816-86), Duarte Borges da Câmara Medeiros (1799-1872)
and his brother António Borges (1812-79) devoted their lives to the
ideals of agricultural and industrial progress, botanical collecting
and the design of gardens and parks. They led a true revolution of
vascular plants in the Azores during the 1800s, when more than
four thousand new taxa (including species, subspecies and cultivars)
were introduced into their gardens, in contrast with the dearth
of native flora, which did not exceed seventy-two endemic species
and a hundred and twenty-eight native species. We know exactly
how and where these plants came from. They were brought in
sealed boxes containing seeds or packaged inside so-called 'coYns',
ordered from the famous nurseries of London, Paris, Ghent, Brussels
or Liège - Robert Osborn, Hugh Low, James Veitch, R. Silberrad,
Vilmorin Andrieux, Louis Van Houtte, Jacob Makoy, Jean Jules
Linden. Others arrived from Rio de Janeiro, Algeria, Sydney or
Cape Town.
To assist them in the task of acclimatising and designing the
plans for the new gardens, these Azorean men hired gardener designers
from London, Paris and Liège. George Brown, Peter Wallace,
Alexander Reith, François-Joseph Gabriel and others were willing
to cross the Atlantic to gain experience and seek advancement in
a career that became more demanding and competitive by the day.
There, they encountered diYculties, but also an immense vegetative
potential that rendered the gardens enormous greenhouses
in open sky, a true paradise for ornamental horticulture.








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From ' Letter from Iceland'
by Rosemary Lindsay

The words Iceland and gardening might not spring to mind as a
likely pairing. We have long been encouraged to visit Iceland by our
friends Michael and Halldóra, whose mother was Icelandic. They
are our next door neighbours in London and spend much time living
in Reykjavik and know the country well, our perfect guides. Some
years ago their friends Hannes and Thorunn were visiting English
gardens and came to ours. It was a surprise to hear about their
garden in Keflavik, near the sea and the international airport for
Iceland. They said we would be very welcome to see their garden if
we were ever in Iceland.
I had come across a reference to the Botanic Garden in Akureyri
and it was this that finally prompted us to plan a trip to Iceland
in September this year. Is this the most northerly botanic garden,
at latitude 65.6826 N? Apparently not; the Arctic-Alpine
one in Tromsø on the far north west coast of Norway lies at 69.6492
degrees. The Reykjavik Botanic Garden, also on our list, lies at
64.1466 degrees. And whilst on the subject of numbers, Iceland is
the most sparsely populated European country with a population
of 337,780, about the same as CardiV, and 96% urban, mostly in
Reykjavik. The country is roughly half the size of England.




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From ' By Man or By God? Torrecchia Vecchia, Lazio'
by Katie Campbell

Torrecchia Vecchia is the newest entry in the canon of 'must-see'
Italian gardens. Located forty miles south of Rome, in the heart of
the ancient Etruscan empire, it is an achingly romantic garden,
rising from a pastoral landscape, framed by the volcanic foothills at
the base of the Apennine mountains. Though unashamedly influenced
by the dreamy gardens of Ninfa nearby, Torrecchia Vecchia
is very much its own place: where Ninfa is nestled into the valley,
Torrecchia Vecchia is perched on a rocky outcrop, drawing in spectacular
views of the surrounding hills. Where Ninfa is essentially
flat and enclosed, Torrecchia Vecchia undulates, with vertiginous
ledges, steep inclines and wind-sculpted groves tilting landward
from their precarious footings. And where Ninfa is defined by water,
Torrecchia Veccchia has only one single stream, small, artificial -
though utterly natural-looking - cascading out of the rocks.
The garden sits in the midst of a 1275-acre estate which was purchased
in 1992 by the newspaper magnate Prince Carlo Caracciolo
- founder of La Repubblica - and his wife Violante Visconti, niece of
the film director. They had bought the property to help out a friend
and intended to sell it immediately, but decided on a whim to visit
their purchase and were instantly enchanted by the landscape of
noble oak forests, lush green fields and wild flower meadows. When
they came upon the ruins of a medieval village, the spell was complete.
A conglomeration of old tower houses, as its name suggests,
Torrecchia Vecchia is built around a twelfth century castle. Through
the Middle Ages it had housed half a dozen popes and later was
home to such illustrious families as the Borgias, Borghese, Conti,
and the Caetani of Ninfa fame.







divider 9
From 'The Garden off the Dining Room:
Emily Dickinson's Conservatory'
by Marta McDowell


Emily Dickinson was an accident, for me at least. This particular
accident took place two decades ago on a chance visit to the Dickinson
Homestead, a museum in Amherst, Massachusetts. I learned
from the guide that Emily Dickinson was a gardener. Here was her
garden, stretching down the hill from the house. In her father's
study, a facsimile of her album of pressed plants lay on a table.
Nearby was a framed photograph of her conservatory. It was hung
on the wall next to a window, a window that had replaced the door
that used to open onto a modest glass room with shelves of her
potted plants. The conservatory itself was long gone.
When Dickinson's father, Edward, remodelled the brick mansion
in 1854, he added the conservatory along with a portico, cupola,
marble fireplaces and other stylish details. Carpenters and masons
had tucked the conservatory into the southeast corner of the house,
between dining room and study. Built over the exterior walls and
encompassing some of the dining room windows, Dickinson called
it her 'garden oV the dining room'. At just six feet wide and seventeen
feet long, the small space could make do with passive heat
from the house.







divider 10
'From the Home Patch' by Tom Petherick
Every spring and autumn biodynamic gardeners and farmers across
the world gather together to make what are known as 'the preparations'.
Most often shortened to 'preps', they comprise two spray
preparations used on soil and crops and five preparations that are
put into compost heaps: oak bark, nettle, chamomile, dandelion and
yarrow. The eighth prep, valerian, is sprayed over a finished compost
heap once the other five are inserted. The ninth and final one,
equisetum (horsetail), is a stand-alone prep used for fungus control.
I prefer to give the preps their names because the numbers that
are often used to identify them, BD500 to 508, were given merely to
obfuscate inspectors of the original Weleda factory in Arlesheim,
near Basel in Switzerland back in the late 1920s. That factory remains
there to this day. An English equivalent is found in Ilkeston,
Derbyshire, standing on a dozen or so biodynamic acres of garden
filled with the plants used to make Weleda products. Claire Hattersley,
who is brilliant at explaining biodynamics to the layman, has
run it for twenty years.




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From 'The Gardens of Bunny Mellon'
by Linda Jane Holden
A young Bunny and her father attended Lady Astor's party for
her son's twenty-first birthday at Clivedon. Apparently Bunny
made quite the impression because she was asked to slice the birthday
cake. She would have seen Clivedon's herbaceous borders in the
long garden, the splashing Fountain of Love and probably the giant
maze constructed of yew trees.
Lambert, like the Langhorne sisters, cherished the faded elegance
of Virginia's old plantation houses and the gardens of their youth
where the sweet aromas of box and magnolia gently wafted over a
pleasant tangle of decay and the faded elegance of a war-torn south.
To recreate this feeling of timelessness at Albemarle, Lambert
covered the façade of the house with kiln-warped brick that was
white-washed and left to 'weather'. There was a colonial-style
bowling green and a formal garden anchored with Mt Vernonstyled
pavilions. A narrow strip of lawn at the front of the house
was planted with creeping bent grass (Agrostis). The long drive was
lined on both sides with transplanted apple trees.
Bunny wrote about the apple trees in Raphael's later (1990) Oak
Spring Pomona:

Children often find their symbols of stability and peace among
the daily presence of things they love. For me they were apple
trees. The driveway to our house was lined with apple trees.
Leaving early in the morning for school and returning in the
afternoon they were always there to welcome me. I knew their
shapes by heart. Spring came with blossoms and wild violets
that crept into the grass around them, followed by summer's
heavy shade and autumn's red and yellow apples. Winter had a
magic way of creating blue shadows on the snow that moved with
the sun.





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From 'Hedges and Hedge-layers'
by Charles Elliott
I have to say that my first real awareness of hedges was not a happy
one. It occurred about forty years ago when, as an American tourist
driving through Somerset, I was advised to admire the beautiful
scenery. The trouble was that the scenery, beautiful or otherwise,
was pretty much invisible. Hedges, rising inexorably on either side
of the narrow road, totally obscured everything except themselves.
It was like driving down a narrow gorge roofed by a bleak grey sky.
At the time, I was mildly annoyed. Not now. I am no longer
troubled by hedges. It took no more than a few years of living in
Britain for me to learn to appreciate their peculiar virtues. A garden
may indeed be a lovesome thing, God wot, but I now recognise
that a sound, thick, well-clipped hedge matches it for utility, practicality,
and, yes, maybe even beauty. It likewise represents an
extraordinary amount of hard labour.
Where I grew up in southern Michigan, hedges weren't much a
feature of life. Of course there were a few of them - clumps of barberry
at a street corner, the odd stand of privet along a boundary.
But they were the exception. As in most American towns, openness
was what people wanted - plenty of lawns, plenty of street trees,
and clear sight lines into the neighbour's parlour. In the country,
wire fences prevailed. The idea of penning oneself - or one's livestock
- inside a six-foot green barricade would have seemed slightly
perverse.



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From 'Digging with the Duchess: The Exterminating Angel'
by Sam Llewellyn
In the autumn we looked out of the window and observed that it
seemed to be raining, and that the wind was blowing violently in all
directions. We had just visited the excellent Picton national collection
of Michaelmas daisies in Colwall, near Malvern, and there
was something peculiarly dispiriting about watching several hundred
quids' worth of Aster novi-belgii performing cartwheels in the
yard before they landed in the pond, where the heron used them for
a raft from which he could harpoon the remaining goldfish.
I was leafing through Cahiers du Cinéma in front of a smoky fire
when I saw an advertisement for a film festival: a real one, lively, in
a place where the browsing and sluicing would give us strength for
the cinematic ordeals to come, not to mention the howlings and
freezings of winter at the Hope.
I metioned it to the Duchess. She said, 'Where is it?'
'San Sebastián,' I said. 'Quite close to Biarritz.' (You will observe
my cunning. It is one of her favourite notions that she used to nip
down to Biarritz to play whist or snap or something with the Prince
of Wales, not the present one, of course, but the one before that or
even, when she is really misty-eyed, the one before the one before
that).
'Hmm,' she said. And there it was, settled




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Books Reviewed:
TRAVELLERS IN OTTOMAN LANDS: The Botanical Legacy
edited by Ines Ašceric-Todd, Sabina Knees,
Janet Starkey and Paul Starkey.

reviewed by Tim Longville






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