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HORTUS  137  (Spring 2021)
HORTUS 137 (Spring 2021)


Price (not including postage) 9.50



Extracts From The Current Issue
From the Editor's introduction to HORTUS 137, Spring 2021
At the time of going to press (in early February) we are unable to say if our garden will open to the public in 2021. The coronavirus pandemic persists, discouraging many owners and potential visitors. Guest facilities at Bryan's Ground are best described as 'domestic', meaning that we must sometimes share with strangers such essentials as lavatories and a small refreshments space. Readers interested in visiting Bryan's Ground this year should keep an eye on our garden website: bryansground.co.uk




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From 'Tradescan't Diary' by Hugh Johnson
3 December 2020: Yesterday we stripped the sycamore: stripped it, that is, of all its annual vegetation, every yellowing leaf, every little twig, down to its bare skeleton. It's the annual maintenance of a big urban tree. It has to be sanctioned by the local authority, and the entire harvest of last year's growth has to be carried through the house, up the garden stairs, into the narrow hallway, round two corners, out of the front door and the front gate to a trailer in the street. It doesn't come cheap, but it's a great spectator sport.
Fergus is the team captain. His main striker is Blondie, the climber, a six-foot broad-shouldered athlete. He spent four hours up to fifty feet from the ground reaching out into the entire canopy with his (admittedly small) electric chain saw. You could mistake its sound for a hair-dryer. If he had left a single twig of this year's growth up there it would have started to take over as a new leader of the whole tree.
Fergus has two henchmen to collect the immense quantity of wood raining down from Blondie's operations. The vigour of an annually frustrated tree is astonishing: the longest 'twig', if you can use that word, measured fifteen feet by two inches in diameter. Blondie had to aim it, thick end first, through a gap in the lower branches onto a diminutive piece of paving, where it was immediately seized and dismembered with Fergus's knife-sharp billhook.
As I discover when I'm filling the council's canvas bags with prunings, you can t very little in unless you chop it ne. Bob and Alberto, the two assistants, were kept constantly busy for four hours chopping and carrying and packing the trailer solid. When Blondie finally swung himself down on his harness the tree was denuded: a great black sky spider





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From 'Our Garden Birds. No. 5: The Wren
by Adam Ford
Raindrops running down the windowpane distort and blur the garden scene. Yet despite the wet grey weather, movement in a nearby flower bed catches your eye as a tiny bird pops out from beneath a plant and quickly disappears again.
There is mouse-like activity in the business of this perky little brown creature with its jaunty cocked-up tail. The name 'Wren' can be traced back to Old High German and Old Norse, which both have the basic meaning of 'little tail'. The search for small insects, which constitute its diet, dominates its comings and goings from gaps in the log pile or from the dark hidden places beneath bushes.




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From 'Phoenix' by Alison Sparshatt
By the time spring arrives there is no time for considered thought, research, reection or inspired invention. As daylight hours accelerate and temperatures tentatively rise, a torrent of nursery work is unleashed. There are seeds to be sown, seedlings to be pricked out and hardened off, cuttings to be snipped, misted and rooted, plants in pots to be watered or shaded or potted on, and it will be already too late for anything that should have been done during the winter months. In spring lists are procrastinations - in the moment a job needs to be done it is dealt with - and, anyway, the weather always drives the activity for each day.





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From 'Doing Something with Their Hearts:
How the local farmers smiled to hear Victoria and Barney Martin planning to make their living from a single acre, when they struggled to make theirs from many hundreds of the same. And to render their proposition even more entertaining, they planned do it with cut flowers. But that was in 2012. Today the flower garden at Stokesay Court is a thriving business supplying shops and events florists in the Cotswolds, the West Midlands and London, where they also deliver flowers to a club so discreet that it doesn't even have a website. And as if it wasn't enough to produce flowers for two deliveries to London each week throughout the spring and summer, Victoria also sends out glorious bunches and bouquets ordered on- line. Surely even the most cynical of those farmers can't fail to be pleased by this unlikely success story.





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From: 'Quirky Quercus:
The Naming of the Lucombe Oaks' by Rosemary Lindsay
'There are two ways of becoming famous in the horticultural world. The first involves the acquisition of more specialised knowledge than anyone else; the second calls for a marked degree of eccentricity or showmanship. Alan Mitchell has both.' This is the opening sentence of an article in the Royal Horticultural Society publication The Plantsman (now rebranded The Plant Review) by Alan Titchmarsh. Alan Mitchell (1922-95), the eminent dendrologist, almost single- handedly measured and recorded every notable tree in the British Isles, a staggering total of 100,000, the foundation of the Tree Register of the British Isles (TROBI). Trees are regularly added and the total now exceeds two hundred thousand.





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From 'Blue' by Peter Dale
Blue is the most confused of colours. On the one hand it is the nirvana we are all seeking. It is 'blue-sky thinking', it is the infinity of the 'wide blue yonder', the colour of wide-eyed innocence, the 'blue riband' of travel, the 'cordon bleu' of cookery. But on the other, we'd rather not be feeling blue, we have mixed feelings about the melancholy of singing the blues, and a bruise, if it is not black, is always painfully blue. And then, of course, there is the paradox of a rhapsody . . . in blue!






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From 'Balancing Act: A Private Garden in Brittany' by Kirsty Fergusson
Every garden has a tale to tell - usually (in the West, at least) it's the story of a creative journey into designing with plants or planting to a design, revealing as much about the persuasions, the passions and prejudices of its creators as about the prevailing climate, soil and situation. The story of this one-and-a-half-acre plot, soon to reach its thirtieth anniversary, is a complex narrative informed by several histories, each worthy of cinematic exposure, that leaves none of its few and privileged visitors untouched. 'Good God!', cried a small American woman, clutching my arm, as we advanced into this particular garden, 'I'd say the man who made this had one hell of an ego!' Whether she spoke in terror or admiration it was hard to tell.




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From 'The Goddess and The Garden:
Mona Bismarck at Il Fortino' by Dale Headington
I have long been fascinated by Mona Bismarck. Cecil Beaton (never one given to unwarranted praise) called her a rock crystal goddess and wrote that she 'represented the epitome of all that taste and luxury can bring to flower', whilst 'her houses, her furniture, her jewellery, her way of life were little short of a tour de force'. A great friend of the notoriously acerbic photographer, she appears frequently in his diaries and was photographed by him on innumerable occasions over many years. She was universally acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful women in the world both in her own time and since, and many books have described her as one of the great icons of style of the twentieth century with her flawless beauty, her clothes, the immaculate decoration of her many homes and her fabulous jewellery collection. Few, however, make more than a passing reference to the one thing about which she was most passionate - the garden she created on the island of Capri.




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From 'Letter from an Antipodean Garden' by Amy Revell

I write this on the south coast of the North Island of Aotearoa, New Zealand, as my garden is buffeted by strong salt-laden winds from the north. We are coming into autumn just as the northern hemisphere is turning into spring. Here, my garden is lashed by the diametrically opposing forces of our two prevailing winds: the vigorous northerly that rushes down from the Equator and, alternately, the harsh southerly driving straight up from Antarctica.






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From 'On the Frontier: Finding Findhorn Faraway' by Christin Geall
Plants leave me speechless. Yes, they communicate by subtle yellowing, by flagrant leaf curl or by flowering before their time, but I have yet actually to converse with a plant. Some days I consider this a blessing: would I really want plants to talk back to me, to assail me with their rights and my responsibilities as a gardener?
In my twenties, I made a pilgrimage from British Columbia to Findhorn, an intentional ecospiritual community on the open coast of northern Scotland. I went in winter - not a great time for plants, but they were there, everywhere, in herb gardens, perennial borders, greenhouses, and raised beds. All this greenery in a landscape so severe, so chilled by North Sea air, that the plants seemed like a miracle. Which brings me to the spiritual part - the founders of Findhorn claimed to communicate with plants, to listen to devas.





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From 'Small But Perfectly Formed:
Darius Milhaud's Tiny Catalogue of Flowers' by Tim Longville
When composers - particularly, perhaps, nineteenth- and early twentieth-century composers - set to music words which dealt with plants or gardens, they often seem almost deliberately to have chosen words which were as vague as possible (and the author of which was as minor a writer as possible). Even when the writer was a major poet, the composer a major composer, the work at hand an acknowledged masterpiece and the poem on which the music was based named a specific plant, that plant frequently acted as no more than an elegant 'cover' for the real object of attention. A prime example: Gautier's 'Le Spectre de la Rose', as set by Berlioz in Les Nuits d'Été. Yes, there is mention of a rose in the poem. There is even mention of that prosaic necessity, a watering can. But the real subject of the poem and of the music is of course nothing so literally down to earth as either rose or watering can. Listen to Janet Baker or Lorraine Hunt Lieberson singing Le Spectre (both easily available on YouTube) and I guarantee while listening you will not be thinking about an ideal watering-regime for your favourite roses. So it is worth raising a small cheer for one of the few exceptions - a work in which the plants involved are properly centre-stage.





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From 'From the Home Patch' by Tom Petherick
Several plants will be coming into cultivation for 2021 on the Home Patch, some of which I have not grown for a while and others which I have never grown before, leaving me wondering how I managed without them.
A plant in the latter group is sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana). Completely different from pot marjoram, golden marjoram or oregano, this is a superior woody perennial with a sweet, musky flavour that is highly desirable, particularly when paired with brassicas. Turnip soup with sweet marjoram is highly recommended. It would be worth growing the small Milan Purple Top turnips solely for this dish




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From 'Digging with the Duchess: Archaeology' by Sam Llewellyn
It has been a dark old winter. For one thing the sun seemed un- usually reluctant to put its head above the parapet, and spent weeks sulking behind thick grey ramparts of cloud. For another, events in the wider world cast a dank grey shadow, and only mighty potations of ne vintages kept them at bay; preceded, naturally, by exercise. Not government-approved exercise, of course, but the sort of exercise known to dwellers in the Welsh Marches as Hortigym.
Hortigym normally means digging. But there have been times when the ground is too frozen or too squelchy to dig, and besides, the sward of green manure in the kitchen garden was so smooth and green that we did not have the heart to attack it. Luckily, there are the woods. Lately the New Glade has been planted with pheasants' eyes and primroses and foxgloves which show signs of appearing in their due season, so there is little to do in that quarter. In the deeper woods, though, there has been plenty to tangle with. And tangle is the mot juste.





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Book Reviews:
On Psyche's Lawn: The Gardens at Plaz Metaxu
by Alasdair Forbes
reviewed by Brandon C. Yen

Windcliff: A Story of People, Plants and Gardens
by Daniel J. Hinkley
reviewed by Matt Collins

Araucaria: The Monkey Puzzle

by David Gedye
reviewed by E. Charles Nelson



Books & ArtAmerican Book Notes
by Judith B. Tankard:


Garden Secrets of Bunny Mellon
by Linda Jane Holden

Uprooted: A Gardener Reflects on Beginning Again
by Page Dickey

The Making of a New England Garden

by Bill Noble

Garden Portraits: Experiences of Natural Beauty
by Larry Lederman

A Garden for All Seasons: Marjorie Merriweather Post's Hillwood
by Kate Markert

Gardens of the North Shore of Chicago
by Benjamin F. Lenhardt Jr.






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Index to HORTUS 133 to 136 (2020)


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HORTUS 138, Summer 2021 will be published in June


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