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HORTUS  147  (Autumn 2023)
HORTUS 147 (Autumn 2023)

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Extracts From The Current Issue
"From the editor’s introduction to HORTUS 147"

The umbrellas were out in June, locally the hottest and driest month this year. The word ‘umbrella’, remember, comes from the Latin umbra, meaning ‘shade’ or ‘shadow’, and it was for their protection against days of endless hot sunshine that I put them to use.
Just a few months before I had planted twenty or so young Japanese maples and the daily unyielding solar rays were taking their toll. Roots had not had time to delve into the soil to find any necessary moisture-rich holdings, resulting in a chronic watering regime to prevent scorching. But scorch some of them did, especially the paler-leafed varieties and those with yellow or ‘golden’ foliage (Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’, ‘Moonrise’, ‘Autumn Moon’ and A. palmatum ‘Katsura’ and its kin). The truly red-leafed varieties (A. palmatum ‘Corallinum’ and ‘Ginko-san’) also suffered badly. Out then came the umbrellas for the month’s final few days when I thought they could take no more stress.

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From ‘Tradescant’s Diary’
by Hugh Johnson

Kensington smells of the Confederate jasmine that has become a signature climber on its garden walls. The name was given to Trachelospermum jasminoides because it grows south of the Mason Dixon Line, the frontier of the Confederacy in the American Civil War. In this street it lushes out so far from a garden wall that you have to make a detour round it. Its variegated form scrambles over the little balustrades across our garden, while I cut off shoots three feet long.

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‘Our Garden Birds: The Tawny Owl’
by Adam Ford

We nudged each other in bed, whispering ‘Did you hear it?’: the distant hooting of an owl somewhere in the deep spaces of local woodland. It was autumn and the nights were drawing in. We waited, interrogating the silence. After a time, the lonely hooting continued, paused, and then suddenly was close. ‘It must be in our apple tree!’. What a gift.

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‘East Comes West:
Woody Asiatic Plants at Harewood’s Himalayan Garden’
by Trevor Nicholson

In a shady woodland glade on the north bank of the lake at Harewood House in Yorkshire a lone white rhododendron stands out from the lush green understorey. As we walk towards it, past ancient yew and beech trees, a warm, westerly breeze picks up, carrying the deliciously sweet scent of its flowers towards the Himalayan Garden.
Rhododendron auriculatum is a late-flowering species from eastern Sichuan, western Hubei and eastern Guizhou in China, and was Princess Mary’s favourite member of this remarkably diverse genus; the large, lax trusses of up to fifteen white, funnel-shaped, scented flowers are held above handsome, mid-green foliage. The botanical epithet of the species is derived from its having auricles (lobes or ‘ears’) at the base of the leaves.

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‘A Rich Tradition: A Spotlight on Chrysanthemums – Again’
by Malcolm Allison

Not long ago, a customer of mine who was born and brought up in Trieste told me that she always associated chrysanthemums with her late husband. The young Englishman had arrived to collect her on their first date, bearing a bunch of chrysanthemums like great footballs on strong stems. The maiden and her family were much taken aback, for in Italy chrysanthemums are indubitably the flowers for a funeral. We do not have such strong cultural associations in this country, but chrysanthemums are sadly unfashionable. This is a great shame I feel for, as garden plants, they have many good qualities: they are tough, they flower for a long time, the flowers come in a range of shapes and colours, they make excellent, long-lasting cut flowers and certainly the single varieties are a useful late food source for pollinating insects.

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‘In Praise of Older Plants: Cherished Familiars Not Forgotten’
by Ben Probert

One of the great advantages of being in the south-west of the UK is that you’re never too far from a really good plant collection. Although I’m not based in the mild wilds of Cornwall, I am lucky enough to be around an hour from such great gardens as Trewithen and Heligan, and I can venture further down to Caerhays or Trebah with relative ease. For some reason the gardens of Devon haven’t quite achieved the lushness of the Cornish gardens, despite receiving reasonable rainfall and despite there being plenty of hardy plants that would take the place of the more tender offerings found in Cornish gardens.

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‘The Matsumae Cherry Blossoms: Masatoshi Asari:
The World’s Foremost Cherry Creator’
by Naoko Abe

About 420 miles due north of Tokyo as the crow flies, far removed from Japan’s major population centres, lies a depopulated port town called Matsumae. There, more than ten thousand cherry trees from two hundred and fifty varieties bloom each spring in arguably the world’s most magnificent sakura (cherry tree) park.
Situated on the southern tip of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost major island, Matsumae isn’t linked to Japan’s shinkansen (bullet train) system and can only be reached by car or bus. The park itself stretches about one and a half miles from the seafront into the mountains that overlook the Tsugaru Straits, and it encompasses a feudal lord’s castle and his residence. Each May, millions of delicate cherry petals create multicoloured canopies over miles of meandering paths and fields before the blossoms eventually fall to earth in snow-like blizzards. There are few more breath-taking sights.
The park is the creation of one man – the world’s foremost living authority on cherry trees, ninety-two-year-old Masatoshi Asari. This former primary school teacher, renowned sakura researcher and Second World War historian, has dedicated almost seven decades of his life to growing and creating many of the world’s most distinctive and diverse cherry blossoms.

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‘Granny and the Curé: The Other French Garden Style’
by Angelica Gray

It may seem a little strange that a formal, religious sounding garden style (jardin de cure is a curate’s garden) is enjoying such a popular comeback as the ultimate relaxed and carefree way to create a modern garden but this is largely because it lends itself to new ideas while evoking an idealised past. Rather like an Arts and Crafts garden in Britain, it has the heft of history but is also able to accommodate contemporary thoughts on ecology and biodiversity, it encourages freedom of expression and adapts well to differing plot sizes and climate conditions. Everyone in France today will have a personal vision of a curate’s garden, however, they will agree it should include colour and scent in an exuberant mix of plants providing sustenance to both body and spirit: a place where nature thrives, with little intervention, as if by magic.

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‘Not Just Flowers: Rediscovering the Island Gardens of Dominica’
by Paul Crask

In Dominica, the cultivation of crops around the place you live has been common practice since colonial times when enslaved workers would be permitted to grow food in designated provision grounds within French and British-owned estate lands. These grounds would become known in patois (French Creole) as jaden - gardens. For many years beyond emancipation (1834) and well into independence (1978), the farming of food crops – especially bananas and ground provisions – in gardens or on larger farms, was the prevalent way to exploit a precious allotment of land.
In the late 1980s, when world trade rules removed preferential subsidies from small island producers, the banana boom came to an abrupt end, resulting in poverty, unemployment, and a host of social ills. Homesteads and farmlands were subsequently abandoned, the agriculture sector went into freefall, and the island began the seemingly inevitable transition towards the Caribbean mono-culture of tourism.

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‘The Flowers of the Moon: The Night Gardens of Northern India’
by Naman Chaudhary

In the Gangetic plains of India, on the farm where my grandparents live, the cool of the evening that follows the day’s scorching heat transforms the atmosphere. At sunset, the household emerges from the darkened rooms of the haveli. Water is sprinkled in the courtyard. The temple lamp is lit. After the food is prepared in the open and eaten, my grandparents place their charpoys on the burnt grass, tuck the mosquito net tied from thin bamboo poles under the bedding and fall asleep in the night garden.
Surrounded by tall lime-plastered walls, the haveli’s two gardens are wider than they are long, some of their length taken up by a well at the far end that irrigates them. A bricked path acts as a partition in the centre. In the part facing east are beds of seasonal vegetables: aubergine, pepper, okra, chilli and tomato in the summer, and radish, cauliflower, spinach, carrots and peas in the winter. Beyond rises the baag, a dense foliage of trees that fruit at different points through the year: jamun, mango, litchi, pomegranate, bael, sapodilla, guava, pear, and a tall papaya. Here, closer to the haveli, also stands the old neem tree (Azadirachta indica) and under its heavy canopy the cattle are tied during the day, after they are washed at the well.

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‘Making sense of a Garden: Part III – Touch’
by Peter Dale

It’s that first, definitive prohibition: Don’t Touch. But (and much to the point, though we don’t want to own up to it) the primal impulse is really the contrary: what we are really driven to do is precisely that very thing, to touch. Seeing, smelling, taking a photograph, are all very well, but some things irresistibly invite a connection with that fundamental sense of touch, of feeling, of something ‘Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart’.
Usually we don’t actually feel joy, or gratitude, or the excitement of anticipation. Most emotions are not really felt, or sensed, ‘in the blood’ as Wordsworth has it. For the most part, feeling is only a figure of speech, an attempt to carry over an impression, a sensation, into a wished-for conviction. It’s not like feeling pain. That’s real enough. And, strangely, that physicality is sometimes transferable: you can feel for someone else – sympathy. You can even feel into them, share their anguish, their distress – empathy. But (and even more strangely) this feeling ‘in the blood’ – feeling vicariously for other people – seems largely confined to negative emotions, negative sensations: grief, disgust, abhorrence.

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‘ The Seventh Sense: Ghosts in the Autumn Garden’
by Rod Madocks

The smoky wings of an English autumn usher in a time for ghosts. They like to visit as the light dwindles. A conker fell from the misty air this morning and bounced off my car bonnet with a loud donk. I’ve no idea from where it came. The nearest horse chestnut tree is three gardens away. I took it that it was someone knocking, attempting to communicate through the diaphane, maybe a being from the past asking to be let in. The vaporous murk seemed to thicken and lie on the garden as the day wore on; the fume fed by a bonfire somewhere. The first heart-shaped leaves of the limes have turned yellow although the flame lilies still blaze in the greenhouse. Dissolution coils back to density then releases again and the angels of autumn come robed in saffron and chestnut. It’s been a week since the autumn equinox and the days are beginning to cool. Rich sweet scent from the hidden elaeagnus flowers and a thick drenching acid smell from the mahonias.

‘From the (New) Home Patch’
by Tom Petherick

A friend is saving up to buy a couple of acres of wooded hillside in Portugal where he plans to restore a ruin, live off-grid and follow permaculture principles. He is a competent forager, a decent grower and an expert on fungus. He has plenty of tools to help him live the dream. He is also young, not long out of university, and full of energy. Furthermore, he and his girlfriend want to live in a community, run courses and generally live lightly on the earth.

‘Digging with the Duchess: Governance’ by Sam Llewellyn

It has been a weird year at the Hope, and all right, just about everywhere else. Temperatures in the greenhouse bottomed out at nearly -8°C, the spring was delayed by strike action, and summer arrived with the coolth of a fever patient’s brow. The pelargoniums and salvias froze, the carrots refused to germinate, and the potatoes seemed to have borrowed their growth hormones from the peas, which failed to happen at all. Blackcurrant growers, meanwhile, moaned that the heat had been too much for their crop, as while the lowest temperatures would certainly be familiar to dwellers on the moons of Saturn, the year’s average temperature had been too high. After a while the despair reached the point when mooching around the policies at the Hope was like inhabiting the less hilarious type of Russian novel, and it was decided by popular vote to relocate for a while.

Book Reviews
Why Women Grow: Stories of Soil, Sisterhood and Survival
by Alice Vincent
reviewed by Katie Campbell

A Fenland Garden: Creating a Haven for People, Plants and Wildlife
by Francis Pryor
reviewed by Charles Nelson

What We Sow: On the Personal, Ecological and Cultural History of Seeds
by Jennifer Jewel
reviewed by John Akeroyd

A Garden from a Hundred Packets of Seeds
by James Fenton
reviewed by Rosemary Lindsay
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HORTUS 148 (Winter 2023) will be published in early December

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