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HORTUS  129  (Spring 2019)
HORTUS 129 (Spring 2019)


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Extracts From The Current Issue
FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK
My fondness for blue-flowered rhododendrons emanates from an April visit made many years ago to Bodnant in north Wales where, in the Dell at that time of the year, R. augustinii and its kin illuminate a sumptuous swathe of shade-loving shrubs and lush ferns. I'm trying to replicate something of that beauty with, principally, small rhodos bought by mail order from Glendoick Nursery in Scotland, hoping also to add more through the generosity of the head gardener at a oriferous woodland glen in Normandy where they're self-seeding in great profusion.





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From: 'Tradescant's Diary' by Hugh Johnson
10 August 2018: Since I first went to Japan, in the autumn of 1976, there has been a part of my brain (on the right, I imagine) that manages to keep a sort of focus I learned on that visit. I went when I was writing my most ambitious book, The Principles of Gardening. The uber-pretentious title was not my idea, but it made me reflect: English gardening ideas are virtually unchallenged in this country, and admired round the world, but do they constitute 'principles'? I had already taken Arab, French, Dutch and Italian traditions into account (however summarily); what was missing was the Japanese (and indeed Chinese) view.







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From 'A Shipp of Hyancinths' by Angelica Gray
The sweet and spicy scent of a hyacinth is one of my favourite things. Ladies of the court of Louis XV loved them so much they wore them as close to their heart as possible, wedged in their cleavage. Each year, on the last weekend of March, modern fans get their thrills by making a pilgrimage to Waterbeach, in Cambridgeshire, where Alan Shipp, Britain's last hyacinth grower, keeper of the National Collection and owner of the world's largest collection of rare varieties, welcomes enthusiasts to his candy-striped world.
If you are lucky and the breeze is in the right direction you will be able to just follow your nose from the grassy field used as a temporary car park to the one-acre plot of strikingly black Fenland soil where Shipp has been growing hyacinths since 1985. There's nothing grand about the plot; it is a working space with an open barn, transformed for the day into a welcoming tearoom with a plant and bulb sales area. There are bits of interesting old farm equipment stashed to one side and some fallow land waiting to host the next crop of prettily belled guests. The body of the plot is filled with rows of blooms, arranged in blocks of colour, all labelled and of a multitude of variations on blue, pink, mauve, yellow and white. Their habit varies too, from tiny fine-foliaged beauties with deli- cate spikes bearing just a few fairy blossoms, to tall and thrusting varieties, crowned with tightly-packed flower heads and surrounded by large strap leaves. Everyone walks with their head down, intent on savouring everything these plants have to offer: but it is the scent that is the star attraction for me.





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From 'Eating our Greens' by John Akeroyd
Foraging has become fashionable in recent years. Though I've long 'grown my own', I've also actively gathered and eaten wild edible plants, many of them weeds in my garden and allotment. I don't style myself a 'forager' as such, but for many years I've enjoyed wild foods alongside conventional garden produce. It helps being a botanist, but the habit simply developed from extensive periods spent on and around the seaside, where so many crop relatives and other wild foods abound. In undergraduate days at St Andrews it was simple items like the tart fleshy leaves of scurvy grass from coastal rocks to add to salads. Then as a research student at Cambridge my PhD fortuitously concerned weeds on the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts. I rarely returned from the field without at least some glasswort or marsh samphire (also on sale on the Cambridge market fish stall) or maybe the dark fleshy leaves of sea beet. Research in Dublin kept me near the sea, and I've since rarely ventured far out of doors without one or more polybags for greens, berries, nuts, edible fungi or other treasures.






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From 'A Pleasure All Year Round: Holker Hall through the Seasons' by Hugh Cavendish

Nearly seven years have slipped by since I completed my one and only written offering about gardening at my old home, Holker in south Cumbria, a place that occupied so much of the energies of my wife Grania and myself over a period of nearly forty years. Grania was responsible for the numerous photographs in the book as well as much of the heavy lifting in the garden itself. I offer here the first of four articles describing, by seasons, the same garden but through oddly different perspectives; let me explain.
In 2014 we handed Holker - house, garden and estate - to our elder daughter Lucy and we moved to a property two miles away which required extensive alteration. We now look over the estuary of Morcambe Bay with the tides coming to within feet of our door. The estate is very varied and for as long as Lucy wants us, we continue to be involved; and the garden is one area where experience alone would suggest we might be of some modest use to her.
So, what has changed? It is her garden now and no longer ours. However, by a brilliant piece of good fortune, nothing we surrendered four years ago has given rise to even the smallest pangs of regret or sorrowful looking back. This has come as something of a surprise and a tremendous relief. To move from a place in which we had been so deeply and emotionally involved and over so many years (and in my case, crucially including childhood) could not, I believed, be entirely painless; I have been proved wrong.






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From 'A Journey Through Alsace and the Vosges: Four Gardens on the French Side of the Rhine' by Kirsty Fergusson.

Over lunch, entre la poire et le fromage, as they like to say, my French neighbours were enthusiastic when I mentioned I was about to em- bark on a trip to Alsace and offered the kind of travel advice that I have become accustomed to receiving while living in a country whose regional identities are largely constructed around the pleasures of terroir and table: 'Oh! The choucroute! Yes, sauerkraut. Mais c'est un must - what do you mean, you don't like it? Oh là là, c'n'est pas possible . . . and of course, you'll have Reisling and you can NOT leave without pairing a Gewürtztraminer with Munster cheese . . . and don't forget to try a kugelhopf . . .' My British friends listened politely to the litany of gastronomic experience and then, (with equal predictability) offered an alternative response to the region, 'Hmm: bit of an identity crisis there, perhaps . . . not sure if it's German or French, although obviously it IS French, er, now . . . Oh, come on! Alsace absolutely symbolises what the European Union stands for . . .' We had swerved onto dangerous territory, and I was still getting funny looks about the sauerkraut, so I mentioned that the purpose of my visit was to look at gardens. This drew a puzzled silence while the table mulled over the prospect of what kind of garden might take root among the gold and green vineyards, the half-timbered houses dripping with red and pink pelargoniums, and the once embattled western banks of the Rhine.





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From 'Across the Rhine: Three Riverine Gardens' by James Foggin


It's surprising how the past catches up with you. Thirty years ago I was sitting in a prefabricated classroom with condensation dripping down the single-glazed windows, numb from the emissions of both gas heater and history teacher. The words 'Louis XIV devastated the Palatinate' flitted through the poisoned air, found a crevice in my consciousness, slipped in and built a nest. They've been there ever since. Very occasionally I would chant them quietly to myself, the intervening years having robbed them of all meaning. Until a few months ago when I walked through the gates at Schwetzingen. There I learned that one of the consequences of Louis's devastation of the Palatinate was the existence of the very garden I was visiting.
There has been a castle on the site at Schwetzingen, near Heidelberg, since the fourteenth century. Destroyed during the Thirty Years War, it was rebuilt and destroyed again during Louis's devastation. What we see today is the result of works undertaken during the middle of the eighteenth century after the Treaty of Rijswijk relieved Louis of his territories on the right bank of the Rhine. Carl Theodor, Prince Elector of the Palatinate, chose Schwetzingen as his summer retreat where he could discard his robes of office and take on the role of patron of the arts, a true Prince of the Enlightenment.









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From 'The Delight in Common Objects: Garden and Plants in the Life and Letters of Mary Russell Mitford' (Third and concluding part.) by Tim Longville

Through the rest of the 1840s Miss Mitford's health continued to worsen (she seems to have suffered above all from some extreme form of arthritis - rheumatoid arthritis, perhaps) and she wrote much less, being content, once freed from her father's expensive demands, to live largely on her Civil List pension. Interestingly, however, the 'spring of her watch' didn't break as she had prophesied: she didn't immediately die; she didn't even collapse into apathy. Indeed, not only did she live for another thirteen years but some of the letters she wrote in those years are as lively and as full of love for the natural world and for the plants growing in what she once described to Miss Barrett as 'that great nosegay my garden' as those she had written to Sir William thirty years before.




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From 'A Crash Course in Gardening' by Sophie Beveridge

Seven years ago my husband and I moved into my grandmother's half of the house she shared with my parents. Both house and garden required a lot of work; my grandmother was in her late eighties when she died and had not done much in the garden for many years. Unfortunately my father's side was in no better shape (although he now has a gardener once a month, and progress is slow but steady). What we took on was pretty daunting: three-quarters-of-an-acre of chalky Cotswold near-wilderness, south-facing but steeply sloping, the vast majority of it beds rather than easily-maintained lawn







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From 'A Birthday in the Park: A Royal College of Physicians Celebration' by Rosemary Lindsay


A celebration took place last year at the Royal College of Physicians in London to mark the five-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the college and the four-hundredth of the Pharmacopoea <Actinic:Variable Name = 'sic'/> Londinensis. A spectacularly beautiful book was published by the college to accompany these events: a new version of The Illustrated College Herbal: Plants from the Pharmacopoea Londinensis of 1618.
An uncompromisingly modern Grade I listed building in a quiet leafy corner of Regent's Park, the college headquarters was de- signed by the architect Denys Lasdun (1914-2001), probably best- known for his loved-or-loathed design of the National Theatre on the South Bank, which has sparked much controversy since it was built in 1976.








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From 'David Austin, 1926-2018' by Michael Marriott
David Austin was born on 16 February 1926 in Albrighton, Shropshire, where he lived for nearly all of his life. He was born into a farming family and that, initially, was his way of life. However his grandmother and her gardener encouraged an early interest in plants and gardening and later, at boarding school in Shrewsbury, he found a copy of Gardens Illustrated which further ignited his passion for flowers.
Roses did not capture his attention at first; most of them at that time could be characterised as a few blooms at the end of bare stems and were planted in very unimaginative ways. His sister Barbara changed his perception, though, by giving him a book on Old Roses by Edward Bunyard, which inspired him to buy a small selection. He soon realised how beautiful roses could be.





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From 'From the Home Patch' by Tom Petherick
Spring can be overwhelming. The dull blanket of a dark and dreary winter is a hard comfort to part with when suddenly there are daffodils everywhere and even sunshine. There must be a part of the human that still needs to hibernate until the days begin to stretch out. Certainly it does not feel like there is much haste to make in the garden while cold, wet soil is on offer through March.
It does not stop the enthusiasm of the early risers though. Every spring we ask has anyone ever seen better snowdrops, or hellebores or even blossom on the blackthorn? Significant claims are being made in Cornwall about the size and colour of flowers on Asiatic magnolias, so perhaps this year is indeed exceptional - again






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From 'Digging with the Duchess: Timberrrr!' by Sam Llewellyn
The Hope, where we live and have our being, has sat since the fourteenth century on a sort of platform of land hacked out of the rolling hills of northwest Herefordshire. At the western margin of the policies, overhanging the steep edge of the platform, the potholier-than-thou drive and a Primitive Methodist chapel, is a beautiful grove of wild cherries, Prunus padus, which in season transform the place with their blossom into a sort of junior Alps. Your cherry, however, is a short-lived tree, and this lot were planted during the last big makeover of the place, in 1919. They have put on a foot a year, and are now authentic forest giants.
I should say were, not are.?Wait for it . . .




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Books Reviewed:
A Little Book of Latin by Peter Parker
reviewed by John Akeroyd

The Master Gardener: T. R. Garnettt of Marlborough College,
Geelong Grammar School, The Age and The Garden of St Erth
by Andrew Lemon
reviewed by Christine Reid







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The Editor's Quarterly Book Bag:
A Landscape Legacy by John Brookes

The Irish Garden: A Cultural History by Peter Dale

Rose by Catherine Horwood

Forest: Walking Among Trees by Matt Collins


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Index to HORTUS

Numbers 125-128 (2018))
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HORTUS 130 (Summer 2019) will be published in June

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