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HORTUS  125  (Spring 2018)
HORTUS 125 (Spring 2018)

Price (not including postage) 9.50

Extracts From The Current Issue
From the editor's introduction to the Spring 2018 issue (HORTUS 125)
A flutter of plentiful small, pale canary-yellow fluted flowers bespangled a group of young Rhododendron lutescens here at Bryan's Ground in mid-December, destined to aunt their diminutive selves in succession for eight or ten more weeks - pausing only during the heavy falls of snow and overnight sub-zero temperatures on the run-up to Christmas. Brought down from altitudes above 6,500ft in its native western Szechuan and north-east Yunnan this rhodo's a toughie, and one seemingly well able to withstand the vagaries of our fickle climate. Discovered by Abbé David in the 1860s, it was first introduced to cultivation in 1904 by E. H. 'Chinese' Wilson (1876-1930) collecting for the British nursery firm Veitch, and again from botanical swag he hauled back to the Arnold Arboretum in Massachusetts (see HORTUS issues 112-115) on two subsequent expeditions. Bean (Trees & Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles, eighth edition, revised, 1976) says its display is sometimes spoilt by frost and that 'some plants are somewhat tender', noting, however, that Wilson's later introductions (from greater heights?) are hardier than his first. Perhaps ours have that later bloodline.

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From: 'Tradescant's Diary' by Hugh Johnson
10 October 2017: The Royal Horticultural Society has somehow got it into its head that our gardens should be 'havens for wildlife'. When I saw a fox hopping from the street over the wall into some- one's garden last night I wondered if this is what they mean. I'm not desperate to welcome urban foxes into my garden, and I can't picture any gardeners who would. The word vermin seems to have been bunny-hugged out of the language.
89.4 per cent of England, and 93 per cent of Britain, is rural (or at least not urban). In Wales the figure is 96 per cent, and in Scotland, of course, almost everything. The idea that large wild creatures be allowed, let alone encouraged to scavenge in our crowded towns is absurd. We will never get rid of grey squirrels, whatever the evidence against them. It is not easy to see how we will get rid of urban foxes either.

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From 'Of Gardens, Broad Rivers and an Unlikely Conversion: Villa Augustus, Dordrecht, The Netherlands' by Sophieke Piebenga
One of the best-known and best-loved poems in the Dutch language starts with a line which roughly translates as 'Thinking of Holland, I see broad rivers slowly owing through endless lowlands'. (Hendrik Marsman, 1936). It is a line which, having left my homeland some thirty-five years ago, I - and doubtless many of my fellow expatriates - recall with some regularity.
Rivers are what make the Netherlands and what shapes the landscape. There are two main ones, the Rhine (Rijn in Dutch) which comes down from the Swiss Alps; and the Meuse (Maas) which rises just north of Dijon in France. Upon entering the Netherlands, these two rivers divide themselves into numerous smaller rivers, forming one huge delta. In the middle of the Maas delta lies the town of Dordrecht. Surrounded by water, Dordrecht is in effect an island, and in this typically Dutch landscape of lowlands and river networks stands Villa Augustus, the base for this September's HORTUS tour of Dutch gardens.

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From 'Grief and Galanthus' by Jacqueline McKeon
My father died unexpectedly in the autumn of 2012. Asphyxia due to neck compression. Suicide. I was twenty-seven years old, and completely unprepared for a life without him. I was blindsided by grief and completely indifferent to the world around me. C. S. Lewis captured my feelings perfectly when he wrote, 'There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting.'
The winter following my father's death, I found myself walking around his property. Discussions were already in the works about selling, and I knew that it would be one of my last opportunities to spend time at his home, at the place where he died. My heart ached about saying goodbye.
His home was located on a private street called Contentment Island Road. A name that used to conjure up peaceful feelings, but now seemed ridiculously ironic considering the tragedy that took place there. The house featured a classic design with a white façade, black shutters, and a large cobblestone courtyard. The rear of the house faced east with a great lawn that swept down to Long Island Sound.

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From 'Keeping Faith with a Legend: Woottens of Wenhaston' by Barbara Segall
It is in the nature of being a plant enthusiast: you recognise that inevitable change is the order of things - you see it daily in your own garden, and feel it in your own enthusiasms. So when a charismatic plant specialist, such as Michael Loftus of Woottens of Wenhaston, dies at a relatively young age, it is a given that dramatic changes to the nursery's modus operandi will ensue.
But, following a period of calm handling of the company's fortunes by his widow Lizzy, with a staff of twelve at her side, a tour-de-force horticultural duo of Luci Skinner and Gillian Morris has emerged to take the nursery along a new route, yet retaining the verve, wit and horticultural vigour that were hallmarks of Michael Loftus' creation.
Loftus claimed his love of plants and gardening from his mother Prue (her maiden name Wootten is the nursery's name). He set up the nursery in 1991 on and around his own garden in Wenhaston and by 2012, the year of his death, he had extended the enterprise to around a dozen acres.

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From 'The Victorian Kitchen Garden: Part One: A Love Letter' by Sandra Lawrence
It is thirty years since the first airing of the seminal BBC television series The Victorian Kitchen Garden, a ground-breaking experiment in which an ailing walled garden was resuscitated for the cameras. Each episode trod a memory lane few remembered, yet somehow it got under the nation's collective skin, fomenting a sea-change in attitudes to garden history in thirteen short weeks.
'Lost' gardens of the formal variety, such as Painshill Park in Surrey and the Plantation Garden of Norwich, were, in the 1980s, slowly being rediscovered by enthusiasts but, with hypermarket shopping and mass production, home vegetable-growing had reached a nadir. The Victorian Kitchen Garden refired the public imagination. Where would all those walled-garden makeovers at National Trust properties be without it? All those heritage seed companies, selling kohlrabi and Ne Plus Ultra peas - both of which saw the light of day on the programme for the first time in decades? I'd argue even big-hitters like the Lost Gardens of Heligan would still be pretty obscure without the pioneering VKG.

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From 'Frank Miles: 'To Do Better than what Nature Does is One of the First Elements of Gardening' by Charles Nelson
George Francis (Frank) Miles is now remembered principally for his associations with two of the late nineteenth century's most memorable personages: Oscar Wilde and Lillie Langtry. By profession an artist, his work is now no longer fashionable. His portraits of young women, including Langtry, were lithographed and widely distributed during the 1870s and '80s, but his reputation has been greatly tarnished by sensational, unproven accusations of his involvement in serious crimes including the Jack the Ripper murders. His six-year friendship with Wilde lasted until the two men roomed together, first at 13 Salisbury Street, London, from late February 1879, then moving in August 1880 to Miles's house at 1 Tite Street (Keats House) in Chelsea. After Frank's father, the Revd Robert Miles, made it clear that the presence of Wilde in the house was not acceptable, Wilde left Keats House some time in late October or early November 1881, their friendship severed.

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From 'Cultivating Mary's Meadow: Juliana Horatia Ewing and the Redemptive Gardens of Childhood' by Judith W. Page
'Mary's Meadow', a story published by the beloved children's author Juliana Horatia Ewing just a year before her death aged forty-four, was destined to be among her most popular tales, at least based on some of the evidence of its afterlife. The story originally appeared in Aunt Judy's Magazine from November 1883 to March 1884, according to a later preface by Ewing's sister, Horatia K. F. Eden, published with other tales by the London Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and repeated in later editions (Mary's Meadow & Other Tales of Fields & Flowers, London, 1926). Not surprisingly, given Ewing's evangelical background, the story involves gardens and gardening in the context of religious life and culture. Specifically, Ewing sees the garden as a symbol of Christian redemption, with the responsibility of even the youngest gardeners to redeem the waste places and to make the world a better place. A precursor of (now) better-known tales such as Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden (1913 - see HORTUS 123), in which the garden is also linked to spiritual restoration, and an heir to the moral tales of Maria Edgeworth, such as 'Simple Susan' (1796) in which gardens and communal ground also play a central role, 'Mary's Meadow' directly engages several literary sources as Ewing presents her child-narrator Mary and her discovery of what gardens - and the notion of an earthly paradise - might mean.

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From: 'From the Home Patch' by Tom Petherick
Hugh Lovel made it rain. An ordinary enough statement in itself but during a fearsome summer drought in 1990 in Georgia and countless times since, Lovel made it happen. I came across his experiments while reading his A Biodynamic Farm: For Growing Whole- some Food (1994).
Having previously extolled the virtues of unusual by-products of the biodynamic discipline such as Thermo Max (which raises temperature as a frost protectant for crops) in these pages it comes as no surprise to me that there are rainmakers out there. Lovel is an American biochemist now living in Australia. He consults and lectures widely on biodynamics and organics and his excellent web- site Quantum Agriculture is compulsive reading. He is married to Shabari Bird, widow of Christopher Bird, joint author with Peter Tompkins of The Secret Life of Plants (1989), another vital piece of work and surely an essential component of any horticultural l brary. So one might say that the complexities of nature and the science that comes with biodynamics is second nature to one such as he.

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From 'Digging with the Duchess: Outshooting Farrer' by Sam Llewellyn

It is being a quietish spring at the Hope. The natural world, as usual at this time of year, is instinct with hope and joy. The daffodils, having stood with their noses in the air during weeks of snazzling frost and icy rain, ducked their heads and began to make like yellow bells with orange clappers. The cherries, which had been playing possum since they threw their leaves away in October, were detectably swollen in the bud. And the wild primroses seemed to be of the opinion that they had done their bit in the warm corners of the wood, and could now set seed and have a well-earned kip during the sweltering months to come. (Not very intelligent, your primrose, and notoriously weak in the weather-forecasting department). And the Duchess, living proof that every prospect pleases and only man (or in this case woman) is vile, has been pretty quiet, for her.
But it is said, and said truly, that after the calm cometh the storm. It broke one fateful morning when I was bunging in the traditional couple of rows of Arran Pilots, Good Friday being close at hand. As I shifted the bit of string from row two to row three I heard a harsh voice emanating, apparently, from the heavens. A raven? But the ravens only come down from the hills when the weather is cold, and it has been pretty clement lately. A cold hand, I tell you, clutched at my heart, and I experienced a pricking in the thumbs, as if something wicked this way came.

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Book Reviews:
by Alistair Watt

by Bettina Harden

by David Jacques

by Jim Endersby

by Leslie Anthony

by Gail Harland

by Richard Milne

by Tim Hubbard

by Anne and Michael Heseltine

by Claire Takacs

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HORTUS 126 (Summer 2018) will be published in May

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