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HORTUS  138  (Summer 2021)
HORTUS 138 (Summer 2021)


Price (not including postage) 9.50



Extracts From The Current Issue
From the editor's introduction to HORTUS 138, Summer 2021
We . . . are on the move this year – permanently . . . Simon Dorrell and I have been at Bryan’s Ground for almost twenty- eight years, gardening eight glorious riverside acres in north-west Herefordshire around a 1911 Arts & Crafts house. Getting too old to look after our creation in the way we would like, yet young enough (perhaps – just) to embark upon a new adventure we decided to put the property up for sale in early April. At the time of writing we don’t know where, precisely, we will be going, but by the time you read these words we might well have uprooted ourselves, the dogs and many treasured plants. More, so much more, in the autumn issue.



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From 'Tradescan't Diary' by Hugh Johnson
3 March 2021: This time last year the world was holding its breath. The streets were empty. The skies were silent. In lockdown the only actor on stage was Nature, and Nature is never more active than in spring. There was little to do but watch the slow motion metamorphosis of a pinhead to a suggestion of a bud to a pregnant envelope, to its slow splitting to give a glimpse of colour, then un- furl or crack open, and petals to fill out like butterflies’ wings. I took my magnifying glass into the garden every morning, feeling like David Attenborough. Conditions were perfect for contemplation detached from time.
This time round the world outside is like a bud, peeping open to allow a tantalising glimpse of what’s to come, but nipped, as it were, by unnatural rules that tell it to go no further until authorised. The strain is showing. Sunny afternoons in the park don’t look very locked-down, and are all these cars joining the M4 on essential journeys?
There is a point of no return with opening buds. The petals they sheltered can be blasted, but the urge that opens them is irreversible.





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From 'Our Garden Birds' by Adam Ford
The blackbird is a thrush, a member of the worldwide passerine family of thrushes and chats, the Turdidae, including, among many others, song and mistle thrushes, fieldfares, redwings, ring ouzels and American robins. Members of the family are well known for their melodious songs. Our own blackbird developed and im- proved its wonderful singing long ago, from treetops high above the shadowed depths of European forests: clear penetrating notes evolved to pierce the wild woodland canopy, proclaiming territorial breeding rights.




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From ‘Black’ by Peter Dale
The most celebrated of all black flowers never actually grew in a garden. It was in a book. Alexandre Dumas’ 1850 novel The Black Tulip is set in Harlem at the height of the 1636–37 Tulipomania. Most of the story happens inside the city’s prison.
The whirligig of fashion – in plants, in clothes – spins on and on, of course. And, as always, brevity and ephemerality are its hallmark vocations. And, as always, we go on being fooled into mistaking change for truly new ideas, new products. But even in this relentless mutability there seems to be at least one dependable staple, one certain constant: failing all else – the polka-dot, the lime-rinse, the paisley-pistachio, you name it – the new chic is always Black. That ‘Black is always Fashionable’ is the perennially bankable mantra in the trade of the vertiginously unstable.







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From ‘At Home at Rousham’ by Francis Hamel
illustrated by the author
There has been a church and a small village at Rousham since at least 1086 when thirty-three men were recorded as tenants – not far off, as it happens, the current number – but it wasn’t until General Dormer commissioned William Kent to re-model the place in the late 1730s that people interested in gardens started to visit. The estate has stayed in the same family ever since and is currently under the benign and unintrusive management of Charles and Angela Cottrell-Dormer. Their policy is a simple one, keep it as it is.
The manor was originally built in 1635 as a modest house with three walled gardens to the south in which vegetables were grown and fowl roamed. There was and still is a farm, the shape and size of which has stayed more or less the same. The house, church and village sit on the gentle slopes of the Cherwell valley which steepen a little before they reach the river. The confluence of three small streams captured and manipulated by the garden design give the gardens their ponds, the rill and the cascades before their waters finally join the river and head south towards the Isis in Oxford.






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From ‘Benton End Revisited’ by Matt Collins
In the final week of August, on the crest of last summer’s rolling heatwave, I came with my wife Clemmie and six-month-old baby to Benton End in Suffolk, the house and garden once home to celebrated artist and gardener Sir Cedric Morris. Our relocation from London was a happy outcome of the turbulent pandemic, having, like so many others, surrendered hoped-for plans to the shifting sands of 2020. The intention had been to spend the summer months driving across Europe, taking advantage of maternity leave and a timely work break to introduce our new family member to the sunny peaks and pillowy meadows of northern Italy and beyond. But as infection rates rose and Continental travel appeared increasingly unwise, an alternative adventure was suggested by Garden Museum director Christopher Woodward, and we found ourselves escaping the city via the A12 instead, taking up residence in the cosy coach- house cottage at the entrance to Benton End. The transition from locked-in London to river-valley Suffolk was, by that time certainly, every bit as liberating as the sweep of an Umbrian hill town. We unpacked the car beneath the flightpath of nesting swallows; behind us, the enormous Tudor farmhouse afternoon-lit by sun- baked tangerine poppies. A victory lap of the garden revealed the seedheads of imperial fritillaries and feral alliums.






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From ‘The Education of a Walker’ by Caspar Giorgio Williams
In August last year I walked from London to find the final resting place of landscape architect Russell Page (1906–85) in the church- yard of St Michael and All Angels at Little Badminton, Gloucestershire. The idea sprang from a rereading of Page’s The Education of a Gardener in March, itself the result of my restorative walks through Regent’s Park in early spring during the first Coronavirus lockdown . . .
Planning commenced in May with invaluable support provided throughout by the Museum’s director, Christopher Woodward, and I started my own fundraising when those pandemic-related restrictions on personal movement were lifted in July.
Setting off a month later, on a drizzly Friday afternoon, I crossed Lambeth, Westminster, Kensington, Hammersmith and Chiswick. From Brentford I looked across to Kew, and walked through Syon Park, through Isleworth, Hounslow, Feltham and Bedfont. I passed Ashford in Spelthorne, and joined the Thames again at Laleham Reach, where I set up camp for the night.







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From ‘In Thibaut’s (Rosy) Footsteps’ by Paula Deitz
When June came during my early research visits to Provins, one of the great trading towns of the Counts of Champagne, I noticed that the path I took leading up the hill to the Ville Haute through the Porte Saint-Jean was overflowing with a kind of wild rose on either side of the road – deep pink semi-double blossoms around a circlet of golden stamens. As I made my rounds by foot that day, I saw them everywhere: in the old town bordering stone walls in narrow passageways, in glimpses of private gardens and against front stoops of the thirteenth-century terraced houses. Later, at the convent of the Cordelie?res, they edged the cross paths of the cloister green, and by the Le Durteint river, they grew in fields, masses of deep-green leaves with blossoms bobbing in the breeze. Even on the modern side of town, they blanketed a traffic island, roses glowing against the golden arches of a McDonald’s sign. My horticultural antennae were on the alert.




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From ‘A Morning Stroll around a Swedish Coastal Garden’
by Johanna Antonsson
I’m always tired in the morning. I let my sleepy feet down on the floor and walk over to the double doors opening up to the terrace on the south side of our house. I feel the moist summer air touching my face and bare legs. I close my eyes and breathe in the air – it smells of moss and forest. I can hear the birds singing and a little scratching noise . . . It’s not Svante, it must be the vole family living under the pine tree just a couple of yards from where I’m standing. I can hear my husband Bjorn in the kitchen. I turn my head and say, ‘I’m in the garden!’ and step outside.




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From ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ by Kirsty Fergusson

While the world we know has changed out of all recognition in the past year or so, here in rural south-west France, where land and life are dominated by the wine and cognac industry, nothing has altered the seasonal rhythms of the vineyards.
With time weighing heavily on my hands in the spring of 2020, I jumped at the chance to join a small band of similarly work- deprived individuals, for the six weeks of the relevage, the process by which the unruly new growth of the vines is lifted and trapped behind horizontal wires. As the weeks roll on and the growth in- creases, the job must be done in pairs, one on either side of a row of vines, wrestling the ludicrously ebullient growth with its snatching tendrils into upright positions so that the tiny, emerging clusters of flowers, followed by tiny grapes, are exposed and the tops and sides can be shorn of their straggling excesses. For a gardener, it seems to be extraordinarily rough handling for a plant, which goes against the grain.







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From ‘Hanna Rion and Her Wilderness Gardens’ by Ann Uppington
Hanna Rion was born on 11 July 1874 in Winnsboro, North Carolina. During the span of her life she was a musician, garden writer, novelist, collaborator on illustrated children’s books, plantswoman, artist, teacher, journalist and nurse. She published two popular books on gardening: The Garden in the Wilderness in 1909, which established her reputation as an author, followed by Let’s Make a Flower Garden three years later. She wrote for House and Garden and penned at least five articles for Gustave Stickley’s Arts and Crafts periodical The Craftsman between 1910 and 1913 as well as writing The Smiling Road (1910), a novel about local village life outside her garden. Let’s Make a Flower Garden is itself in part a compilation of several articles from The Craftsman, with extras added from The Ladies’ World and Suburban Life magazines . . .
The Garden in the Wilderness is in the form of a diary about the making of her garden in New York State, beginning on 26 March, ending on the day of the first snow, 25 November. In all there are fifty-two entries covering those months and although Hanna does not specify the year, a scattering of small clues throughout the text suggest it was 1906 or 1907. Each day has an illustration drawn by Hanna herself or her partner Frank Ver Beck, a well-known illustrator and teacher at the Arts Students League in New York City. Ver Beck was famous for his anthropomorphic bear books for child- ren and by 1894 was described by fellow writer Harold Payne in Munsey’s Magazine as the possible ‘artistic Aesop of his time’. Besides making bears, wolves and birds talk, it was claimed – jokingly – that he could animate any vegetable, including beetroot.






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From ‘From the Home Patch’ by Tom Petherick
The mowing machine has finally been mothballed. The paths through the garden up to the compost heaps and the polytunnel are well trodden enough to be permanent and the grass growth cannot keep up with the footfall. The small lawn by the house, which was the last bastion, is now cut by the scythe so there is no need for the thing any more.
I have never owned a strimmer and will never use a chainsaw again, being terrified of them and both clumsy and cavalier with machinery at the best of times. So now the Home Patch can loftily claim, along with its biodynamic certification status, to be fossil- fuel free. From little acorns, as they say.






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From ‘Digging with the Duchess: The Old Ways’ by Sam Llewellyn
The lark is on the wing, the snail is on the thorn, and the whole of Nature is smiling, unless you consider the Duchess part of Nature, a topic on which the jury is perpetually out. The Duchess has been finding plenty to be miserable about.
It started with a string of revelations in the Royal Family that led her to conclude that Duchesses are not what they once were, i.e., tough old besoms with coronets and stiff upper lips. She then went silent for a couple of weeks, sporting the oak in her rooms in the Tower, ordering piles of books from Amazon, and appearing only for lunches, which she ate with studied violence.
As the days became weeks I noticed that her choice of foodstuffs was changing. At the beginning, while still in the stiff-upper-lip phase, she chowed merrily down on large helpings of fine meats.





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Book Reviews:
Pollination: The Enduring Relationship Between Plant and Pollinator
by Timothy Walker
reviewed by John Akeroyd

Great Dixter Then & Now

photographs by Christopher Lloyd and Carol Casselden
text by Fergus Garrett.
reviewed by Rosemary Lindsay




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HORTUS 139, Autumn 2021 will be published in September

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