|Extracts From The Current Issue|
|From the editor's introduction to HORTUS 122|
|Early and late frosts are the bane of my gardening life, causing misery to many other people too. Hereabouts, unnervingly low temperatures can strike at anytime up to the end of May and again by mid-September. They're often reasonably benign, pushing the mercury a mere intimidating degree or two below zero, which most established plants can handle. But this year, after a kindly winter and a long warm spring, plants were well advanced by the first week of May. Then it struck: minus six degrees Celsius on two successive nights. I was away, in sunnier parts, but my fellow travellers - gardeners all, enjoying a leisurely tour of world-class gardens on Mallorca - had heard the BBC weather news; word spread quickly, providing us with the week's only worry.|
We were told that English vineyards had been almost entirely devastated and that a similar catastrophe aVected the Chablis, Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy regions of France, where growers lit candles and heaters among the precious vines and even utilised helicopters, hoping a downwash of air would help save valuable crops.
|From: 'Tradescant's Diary' by Hugh Johnson|
|My thoughts keep turning, as each excitement of spring bursts on us, cherries chasing magnolias, the grass a blue haze of speedwell, to a dear friend who had just made the garden of his dreams when he died, unexpectedly and unnecessarily, last October. |
He inspired me to be a gardener. He was the first friend I had who used Latin names for plants -which I originally thought was an affectation, until I too started repeating those mellifluous syllables Alchemilla mollis in my head and the whole absurd complexity of gardening germinated in my brain.
He loved planning gardens for friends; usually ambitious plans calling for builders. His own gardens were ambitious, too - certainly in the range of plants he grew and the awkward spaces he managed to grow them in. Finally in retirement he bought a house in Somerset and spent a year absorbed in building a formal raised pond for his sh, with a series of radiating arches and raised beds, in which he crammed all his favourite plants. Just now they are identifying themselves, their buds opening and shoots lengthening, beginning to claim the spaces he gave them. More raised beds are all ready, damp brown well-manured earth, ready for him to sow his vegetables and plant his fruit. I grieve for him and the beauty he will never see.
|From 'Perfectly Imperfect: Plant Nurseries in North-West England and South-West Scotland' by Tim Longville|
|What do you expect from a good nursery? Interesting and well- grown plants at sensible prices? Well, yes, of course. But are those basics in themselves enough to make a nursery memorable, the sort of place it's a pleasure to do business with and above all to visit again and again? Not for me, certainly. In nurseries as much as in gardens what I find most appealing is passion and personal commitment, however quirkily or imperfectly expressed. Unsurprisingly, such nurseries are often one-or-two-person operations and, almost equally often, ones which began as natural extensions of the owners' own (usually visitable) gardens. So actual visits are much more rewarding ways of dealing with them than doing so by email or post. (Business methods for which, anyway, they aren't always equipped.) What follows is a random sample of such interestingly individual operations in the part of Great Britain I know best, the north-west of England and south-west of Scotland. |
From 'Great Students, Great Plants, Great Dixter' (this extract by Lisa Häggqvist)
|Papaver somniferum 'Lauren's Grape' At first, large glaucous rosettes of soft sea-green leaves embrace the stiff erect stems, slowly rising. For weeks, the tightly-packed swelling flower buds face downwards, then suddenly take on the dramatic colour of deep wine-red and blackcurrant. When the green skin is shed a wrinkled silk skirt unfurls, transparent when backlit by the sun. For a couple of weeks in June, this poppy will dance in the summer borders of Dixter as playfully as Isadora Duncan would improvise. Its appeal, the heart-aching appreciation of passing fragile beauty. The wind takes its petals, leaving graceful seedpods to be reborn. Such is the life of an opium poppy. |
|From 'It's the Flowers!' by Susie Pasley-Tyler |
|When I first started gardening at Coton in 1991 I recall two theories about the June garden. The first referred to the 'June Gap' - early summer - when there can be a slight lull in flowering performance. The second was that English gardens were not worth photographing after the end of June, the view of one of our top photographers. So far as the gap is concerned, it is true that there can be a slight interval towards the end of May and the rst part of June before the summer display gets underway, but there is still plenty to choose from, and early summer foliage itself provides so many varied shades of fresh greens that the need for flower colour is not quite so pressing as it is later on. I would dispute the idea that late June marks the end of the high season in English gardens. Indeed, I would argue that if one is resolute in the early cutting back of hardy geraniums, nepetas, violas, et cetera. and selects roughly one third of plants to flower early and two thirds to flower from July onwards, the garden should perform better and better as summer progresses. So many early bloomers such as aquilegias, lupins, oriental poppies and hardy geraniums will only last for two to three weeks, whereas some of those flowering from July onwards will give many weeks, and sometimes months, of value. The introduction of New World salvias and the huge variety of dahlias now available have greatly enhanced gardening in high summer. |
|From 'Why Gardens?' by Tim Richardson |
|When people ask, usually in a tone of barely disguised incredulity, 'So, how did you get into gardens?' my reply tends to be, 'eighteenth-century poetry'. It's a good way of establishing my credentials as one of the most pretentious and least horticulturally knowledgeable garden writers around. It's also basically true. Sometimes people mutter, 'Ah, Pope', before completely running out of steam. Shenstone, Gay, Warton, Swift and Gray have just about faded from cultural consciousness, it seems. Perhaps it's understandable: the formulaic constructions, classical allusions and rhyming couplets of the poetry of the pre-Romantic eighteenth century often sound forced and mannered to modern ears. |
Nevertheless Pope was my gateway drug into the world of the Augustan verse, approached via Milton and 'Paradise Lost'. Initially I was intrigued by the title of Pope's early pastoral poem, 'Windsor Forest', because I was born and brought up near the Berkshire town of Wokingham, formerly 'Oakingham', which lies at the western edge of what remains of the forest. Pope had lived one village away from mine, at Bin eld, and in the poem he idealises this gentle landscape of soft valleys and quiet streams. He animates the beautiful nymph Lodona, who is turned into the Thames tributary, the Loddon, which ows through my village of Hurst
|From 'À la recherché: Le Donjon de Ballon Then and Now' by Kirsty Fergusson |
|When I was a postgraduate student in the early Eighties, I funded my part-time studies by working hard at selling postcards at the Courtauld Institute of Art, which at that time occupied a second oor perch, reached by a rattling old cage lift, in a quiet corner of Woburn Square. For three years, my eyes would rise from the book open in front of me to meet the implacable stare of Manet's barmaid in A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, or the soft, sad gaze of her neighbour, Cézanne's Man with a Pipe. The interruptions to receive payment for postcards were as occasional and brief as my silent conversations with those painted companions were long and frequent. I left that blissfully undemanding job a year or so before the collections were removed to their spacious new quarters at Somerset House beside Waterloo Bridge. News reached me in Paris, where a slightly more demanding position now occupied my days, that the rack of postcards had been replaced by a not-unsizeable gift shop where the staff wore uniforms and name badges. |
It comes to all of us, I suppose, to gasp at the years that lie between our present and an easily-remembered past. It was 1985 when I left the Courtauld - and over thirty years would elapse before I returned. It was the oddest sensation; there I stood again in front of Manet's masterpiece, giddy with the inequality of it: she hadn't changed one jot. Every last detail must have burned itself onto my retinae during those impressionable years of companionship and they sprang back with devastating and intimate completeness. For me, on the other hand, everything had changed - three decades of adult life encompassing changes of home and career, marriage, divorce, children, grandchildren had passed - and I looked at the bored, indifferent young woman in the black dress, and was thrown oV balance by the conflicting sensations of permanence and change. No wonder I abandoned art history for gardens all those years ago!
|From 'Antiquity Remade: Jardin Antique Méditerranéen' by Trevor Nottle |
|I recently led a small party of keen gardeners and garden-lovers to Montpellier in the south of France, close to the Mediterranean shoreline. A highlight of the tour was a visit to the Jardin Antique Méditerranéen at Balaruc-les-Bains on the Étang de Thau - a broad, shallow coastal bay. The garden is intended to replicate the mood and reality of a colonial Roman garden of some two thousand years ago. |
Imagined, created, and curated by Laurent Fabre the garden is remarkable for its serene atmosphere and spirituality. Each and every part, all connected and continuous, is both beautiful and a powerful evocation of an ancient Roman garden with its links to the landscape of man and the landscape of the gods. The garden is not modelled on a peristyle or atrium typical of a town house but on the more expansive and close-to-nature examples of the villa rustica - the country estate. In Roman culture such an establishment exemplified long-standing ideas of self-efficiency and independence, which were held as the essence of a Roman gentleman's status and dignity. It was, in its most frequent expression, a small farm. Such is the way of things that the most familiar versions of the villa rustica are the archeological remains of larger, more grandiose country villas such as those found at Oplontis, or those described by Pliny as the ideal retreats from the congested and busy cities. The Villa of Poppaea at Oplontis is a luxurious mansion by any standard with many refinements befitting the wife of an Emperor, in this case thought possibly to be the second, murdered wife of Nero.
|From 'Roses and Nightingales: The Gardens of Shiraz' by Katie Campbell |
|Shiraz is green oasis, set in the shadow of the Zagros Mountains on the old silk route between Asia and Europe. For Europeans the name might evoke the rich, dark, earthy wine made from the eponymous grapes, which once grew in the surrounding plains. For Persians however, Shiraz is indelibly linked to roses and nightingales - an association forged a thousand years ago by the city's two most famous sons, the poets Sa'adi (1207-90) and Hafez (1324-89) whose metaphysical verses - rather jauntily translated into English by Sir William Jones in the late eighteenth century - link secular to sacred love and earthly gardens to Paradise. |
Founded by the Achaemenids in the fifth century BC, subjugated by Islamic Arabs in the seventh century AD, Shiraz survived the thirteenth-century invasions of the Mongols under Genghis Khan, then Tamerlane, as its rulers chose to surrender rather than resist. In the following century Shiraz became the cultural centre of Persia, attracting philosophers, mystics, scholars, writers and artists. With its propitious setting, moderate climate and water supply guaranteed by snowmelt from the mountains nearby, Shiraz was also famous for its gardens.
|From 'Rage Against the Dying of the Lawn' by Charles Nelson |
| 'Lawn' and 'biodiversity': two nouns that are unlikely companions. After all, a faultless modern lawn is a ruthlessly maintained monoculture of one plant - grass. There might be a few different grass species but perish the thought that any more interesting plants from any of the other plant families, let alone mosses, should infest the space. Fed, doused and mollycoddled to velvety perfection, a well-kept lawn is held up as a horticultural masterwork, nay even a shining example of the gardener's art. There are annual competitions, sponsored by enterprises keen to ensure even more money is spent on lawns, for the 'best-kept lawn', and an All- England Best-Kept Lawn competition even found its way into a Harry Potter saga! Presumably after that young gentleman had achieved success with his mandrake (which demonstrates, I expect, my deep ignorance of the gardening skills of young Mr Potter). |
Our quite recently acquired lawn, as befitting any well-kept lawn, is an adjunct to our modest rural retreat, an artisan's cottage of at least a hundred and fifty summers. Whether the lawn has been there for that long is hard to determine, but it is a little unlikely. This back garden was surely used as a vegetable plot for many decades, supplying basic comestibles for a family in the one-up, one-down house - potatoes, at least - and it once also had an apple tree in the centre although only its weathered and decaying stump remains. It might just as easily have been a paddock grazed by a donkey and pecked over by some chickens: who knows?
|From 'The Tools of the Trade: Garden Implements: Part Five?Saws, Sieves and Daisy Grubbers' by Peter Dale |
|There's a long-contested issue lurking in the recesses of even the sunniest tool-shed: Is it to be power tools or hand tools? Do you rake up the leaves or employ one of those garden vacs? Do you cut your hedges with shears and a bill-hook, or do you use mechanical clippers - a barbering tool writ very large? Do you weed by hand or spray (imagine not just the small-scale hand-held mist-spray, but the pump-action back-packing, white overall safety-clad, masked moon-man)? Do you plod along behind a wheel-barrow or swan about in the cab of a truck . . . probably conducting a conference on your telephone? |
It's partly a matter of scale and economy, of course. The bigger your garden, the bigger your gardeners' wages bill. Machines are one way to reduce it. But it's also a matter of style, perhaps even of conscience. So rather than become too serious, we're inclined to make a joke of it. Usually a gender stereotype: it's Toys for the Boys (big noisy machines), or Trugs for the Trouserless (the ladies).
|From 'Unfussily Effective: Joan Loraine Remembered' by Tim Longville |
|By the time I met her in 2010, Joan Loraine (who died early last year aged ninety-one) was already well into her eighties and con ned to a wheelchair. Even so, she remained entirely in control of the remarkable woodland garden she had created over almost half a century at Greencombe, near Porlock on the north Somerset coast, with its atmospheric network of winding narrow paths through rarity-filled oak and sweet chestnut woodland. Though evidently frustrated that its steep and uneven terrain made it impossible for her any longer to get around it any longer, she seemed to have the position and current state of every plant in its three and a half acres vividly present in her mind's eye (helped by regular reports from her long-serving gardener Jon Grant). So I was given clear instructions about which plants in particular to look for when I went round its maze by myself and clear instructions as to just where each plant was to be found. And when I came back with descriptions of and questions about plants seen but unidentified she immediately knew which plants I meant, what their names were, where precisely I'd found them and where they came from in the wild. |
|From ''From the Home Patch' by Tom Petherick |
by Tom Petherick
|Winter and summer, the corvids are always the last to bed at night. Carrion crows are still cawing and jackdaws bobbing about long after the finches, warblers and thrushes, summer visitors and residents alike, have all turned in. They are such funny creatures the jackdaws; almost human in the way they go about their business. I see two of them, thieves that they are, pecking loose fur from the cow's backs while they lie in the meadow chewing the cud, entirely unperturbed. Our friends in Cornwall have a pet one that they reared from a fledgling. He has begun lying in wait by the cash point. Recently he pinched a hundred pounds out of someone's hand and flew up on to the roof of the King of Prussia pub to decide what to do with it. |
Herring gulls have odd habits too. In the late evening they y down from the moor above Buckfastleigh or the arable fields where they have been scavenging all day, to roost on the sea at night. We are only ten miles from the coast so they are still flying high as they pass over me in formation like geese while I scratch around in the garden as the gloom descends. It's a safety measure. They move from cliff to cliV, moor to sea. Occasionally I see a peregrine gliding purposefully high above, back and forth. Ravens do the same thing.
From 'Digging with the Duchess: On the Naming of Plants' by Sam Llewellyn
|It is good and hot now, at least some days. The cherries are on the trees, the lark ditto the wing, and the sun is shining through the pink wine on the table. There is in short a general sense that God in his heaven and all is right with the world. It has, however, been said and said truly by Robert Hunter, chief lyricist of the Grateful Dead, that when life looks like Easy Street there is danger at your door. It is hard to imagine that this aperçu did not come from someone who has spent time living with the Duchess. |
Take the other week. There we were, sitting on the terrace at the Stone Table and allowing the morning sun to infuse the system with Vitamin D, when she started to scowl at the wall of the house. I turned to follow her eye, because stone scowled at by the Duchess has a tendency to melt and run. No melting was yet evident, but the plant that scrambles up the trellis was looking apprehensive. 'That thing', she said.
'What thing?'?'White flowers. Smells. Glossy green leaves.''Trachelospermum jasminoides?'
'It is not getting enough water. Although,' said the Duchess,
with the smug look she gets when she has identified a sitting target, 'why people have to give plants these damn silly names is absolutely beyond me.'
|My Life with Plants by Roy Lancaster|
reviewed by Maurice Foster
Bawa: The Sri Lankan Gardens by David Robson
reviewed by Katie Campbell
HORTUS 123 (Autumn 2017) will be published at the end of September