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HORTUS  149  (Spring 2024)
HORTUS 149 (Spring 2024)

Price (not including postage) 10.50

Extracts From The Current Issue
From the Editor’s introduction to
HORTUS 149, Spring 2024

Gardening, as many a gardener will testify, can be a lonely occupation. Working alone all day, and perhaps living alone, too, can pose problems. There’s only so much companionship to be gained from birdsong or headphones. Some gardeners, of course, like it that way, enjoying all the time in the world to indulge their own thoughts without someone else’s interference. No such worries on a recent Sunday when we invited a dozen chums for bacon butties and banter while helping clear an acre or two of fallen wood and brambles. We were in a hurry to tidy the ground before the sea of bluebells showed themselves. Snowdrops were already flowering by the thousands, but everyone kept to narrow paths for fear of treading their delicate blooms. Hand and chain saws buzzed, a bonfire was lit and trays of food and steaming drinks were ferried hither and yon. It was a joyous and convivial day made all the more productive by kind February weather...

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‘Tradescant’s Diary’
by Hugh Johnson

9 November 2023: Back home from two weeks in fire-scorched California. How glad I am to live in England’s moderate, rarely dramatic, climate. The Mediterranean climate has its points for holidays, but who wants endless sunshine, endless yearning for rain? Certainly not me. Why do so many sports originate – or certainly flourish – in Britain? Because there are relatively few days in the year when it’s not a pleasure to be outdoors...

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‘Our Garden Birds: The Pied Wagtail’
by Adam Ford

The pied wagtail is one of the most recognisable of all our garden birds. Widespread, it can be found in town and country, its busy behaviour attracting attention; quick, nimble and lively, it dashes about a lawn, field or carpark, with a light ‘buoyancy’, foraging for insects, changing direction at great speed to catch an unwary fly. The long tail, energetically bobbing up and down gives the bird its distinctive name...

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‘A Green Field in My Heart’
by Lilee Cathcart

I sat on the wall outside the house where I grew up, picking spent petals off a climbing rose. Beside me, a wisteria vine clotted with blossom half hid the window. It was late May in what had been a great year for the hawthorn, so my father said, pointing down the road to the white froth edging the fields. As spring seeped into summer, I thought ahead to autumn, of the rose red with hips, and the wisteria, long past its bloom, dripping with green-felted pods. Seed set to ripen and drop, though I would not be there for the harvest...

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by Ben Probert

Looking back at the gardening world of the nineteenth century, it must have been quite an exciting time. A plethora of new plants from far-off places encouraged a new culture of experimentation and the sharing of ideas triggered a bright age of horticultural invention. Growing exotic plants not suited to our climate sometimes war- ranted the building of extensive glasshouses, heated with the latest in boiler technology. Labour and materials were comparatively cheap then, so it was possible to build great glass palaces to horticulture without losing your fortune...

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‘The Bricks of Sissinghurst’
by Richard Claxton

I grew up in Sevenoaks, a town held somewhat under the shadow of Knole House, with its park, woodland and golf course. Sponsored walks with my primary school and the annual town bonfire and fireworks in November meant that Knole, as the seat of the Sackvilles, was ever-present in the background of my childhood, a time when I had very little interest in gardens or gardening. When I was about fifteen, and a bored adolescent one school summer holiday, my mother dragged me with her to meet a friend at Sissinghurst. It must have been July, mid-eighties. I remember very little of the gardens themselves; the planting and the design of them were lost on me...

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‘Jardinage de Noel’
by Adam Heppingstall

The winter months are not always kind to a garden that is designed to shine in warmer times. The plants that are the stars of the aestival show are harshly cut back to prepare them for their time in the limelight. They are like redundant actors, resting up for the winter, shorn of their face paint; blandly idle, waiting for the call. This can lead to a dull period when the hard preparatory work is done, but when there is little to inspire or excite. Yet, there is something cathartic and rewarding in paring back, restraining the garden, so that it can unleash itself come Easter...

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‘Personal Memories of Munstead Wood’
by Judith B. Tankard

The recent announcement that Gertrude Jekyll’s famed house and garden at Munstead Wood are now part of the National Trust portfolio is welcome news indeed. Munstead Wood joins the Trust’s Lindisfarne Castle in Northumberland as an outstanding example of Jekyll’s collaboration with Sir Edwin Lutyens, yet on a considerably different and more personal scale. One wonders what Jekyll would have thought of the Trust’s acquisition of her house and garden, given Vita Sackville-West’s reservations about Sissinghurst becoming part of the Trust (thankfully ignored by Nigel Nicolson)...

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‘By Plants United: Jean Rasmussen, Plant Hunter ’
by Patricia Cleveland-Peck

I met Jean Rasmussen towards the end of her life when she was living in retirement in Eastbourne. She remembered her plant-hunting days with her husband Frank Kingdon Ward with great clarity and pleasure. ‘I went to school in England but lived with my parents in India’, she told me. Her father, Sir Albert Sortain Romer Macklin was a high court judge in Bombay. ‘I was no good at maths but better at languages. I didn’t have any particular interest in plants but I must have had a yearning for adventure. The year before I had been in Kashmir and made quite a longish trek of four hundred and fifty miles or so with the Norwegian Consul and his wife, something I’d enjoyed. I met Frank in 1944 at a lunch party in Bombay. A friend said he was going to lunch to meet an explorer. “Oh lucky you,” I said. “I wish I could meet an explorer.” He arranged an invitation for me and I sat next to Frank. I liked his sort of life.’

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‘A Garden of Desire: Horticulture in the Kamasutra’
by Naman Chaudhary

Vatsyayana wrote the Kamasutra in third-century India to instruct urban men, women and courtesans in the art of living well. Poetic yet crude, practical yet unimaginable, his compositions are treatises on lifestyle, courtship, gestures, types of love, successful seductions, mending broken relationships and sensuous sexual acts. What remains unnoticed, when the reader hastily skips to the saucy chapters, are the topics of horticulture...

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‘Mean Green Mother from Outer Space:
Plants and Gardens in Science Fiction’
by Marta Mcdowell

It is a mild day in early June. A hundred tasks beckon from my New Jersey garden while I look through the window into a grey-orange haze. Ominous. A miasma of wildfire smoke and particulates from Canada has roosted on the north-east from Boston to Washington and beyond. The ‘Madame Isaac Pe?reire’ roses on my trellis, desperate for deadheading, will have to wait. A friend texts, ‘It’s like living on Dune’. As I have spent several months reading stacks of science fiction in search of gardening and plant motifs, the day’s atmospheric phenomenon reeks of life imitating art. It is a tangible reminder of climate change...

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‘From the Home Patch’
by Tom Petherick

It must be very difficult for young gardeners and growers coming into the horticultural industry to choose a cultivation technique or methodology at the start of their career. Attitudes and practices have changed beyond recognition. It was ever thus, but now we have the spectre of climate change looming down on us and that is holding the whip hand. Remember the time when we dug heavy clay soils in winter to let the frost break up the clods? Try that now and see how quickly you get cancelled...

‘Digging with the Duchess: Pond Life’
by Sam Llewellyn

‘I’ve measured it from side to side. ‘Tis three feet long and two feet wide. Wordsworth,’ said the Duchess.
‘You measured it,’ I said, not mentioning that this is the most boring line ever written by an English poet, but fixing my eye on the pond. ‘With a tape measure?’
‘By eye,’ said the Duchess. Her tone was haughty, and I recognised it as the one she uses when she will respond to contravention by heading for the gin. So I decided that resistance would be futile, and kept the eye fixed on the water feature, and said nothing, and felt settling over me a large soggy blanket of gloom...

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Book Review
England’s Gardens: A Modern History
by Stephen Parker
reviewed by Catherine Beale
Conversations in Garden History: New Research, New Ideas, New Approaches
edited by Pippa Potts
reviewed by Brent Elliott
Napoleon: A Life in Gardens and Shadows
by Ruth Scurr
reviewed by Patrick Bogue
Botanical Short Stories: Contemporary Writing about Plants and Flowers
edited by Emma Timpany
reviewed by Becky Tipper

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To Stand and Stare: How to Garden While Doing Next to Nothing
by Andrew Timothy O’Brien
The Essential Tree Selection Guide
by Henrik Sjo?man and Arit Anderson
by Tony Kirkham, illustrated by Katie Scott
Rare Trees: The Fascinating Stories of the World’s Most Threatened Species

by Sara Oldfield and Malin Rivers
by Marchelle Farrell
The Star-Nosed Mole
by Isabel Bannerman

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Painting Edo: Selections from the Feinberg Collection of Japanese Art
at Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Mass.

reviewed by Sukie Amory

Index to HORTUS Volume Thirty-one, Numbers 141–144 (2022)

If you're lonely when you're alone, you're in bad company.
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-80)

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HORTUS 150 Summer 2024
will be published in June

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