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HORTUS  140  (Winter 2021)
HORTUS 140 (Winter 2021)

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Extracts From The Current Issue
From the editor's introduction to HORTUS 140, Winter 2021
A large grove of Rhododendron ponticum has been cut almost to the ground. We await man and machine to extract the stumps as deftly as a dentist pulling teeth. The circular evergreen mass extended some fifty feet across and from the oldest stumps in the middle it can be assumed there were, originally, only three plants – the present-day extent generated by a rhodo trick well perfected: layering. The grove – although that’s perhaps too polite a word for an assembly of such a fiercely invasive alien species – could be upwards of a hundred years old, so there’s no chance offending its begetter. As a friend commented, ‘the house breathes again’.

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From 'Tradescan't Diary' by Hugh Johnson
31 August 2021: I have just had two cataract ops (or ‘procedures’, to use the proper medical term), and I’m dazzled. Literally, if I rashly go out in full sunlight, but metaphorically most of the time. I realise that for years I’ve been lit by a mere forty-watt bulb. Now it’s a hundred. The procedures were four months apart, and I could scarcely believe that such a radical improvement could be so quickly and painlessly achieved. The first made me realise how there had been a yellow cast in that eye. It disappeared like a coat of old varnish from a painting. By shutting one eye I could admire the contrast. Now, with two eyes refreshed, I see the world unvarnished, and realise what I’d been missing.

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From 'Our Garden Birds: The House Sparrow' by Adam Ford
The humble house sparrow gives his Latin name passer (meaning sparrow) to that great realm of ‘song birds’, the passerines. More than half the world’s nine thousand species of bird belong to this category, sometimes also referred to as the ‘perching birds’. They are characterised largely by the form of their feet, having four separate toes, three facing forward and one directed backward. Of all the bird species on the planet, the passerines are the most recent to have emerged through avian evolution, with crows as their largest representatives.

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From 'Stirring Anticipations' by Alison Sparshatt
I brush the snow from the curved latch on the iron gate and push gently, into the liminal space of the walled garden in winter. The sky is low and close, a soft rose flushed pigeon grey, promising more snow later. All is muffled and swathed, Christo wrapped, virginal. I walk on the unseen grass, avoiding the perilous treacherous hidden paths and steps that will be frozen and slippery. The seedheads of Phlomis russeliana squat blackly on their tall stiff square stems, each white capped and delineated, miniature pagodas on sticks, stark Giacometti images of petrified motion. .

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From 'Our Garden Colours: Yellow' by Peter Dale
Winter – the hopeless months of December and January, the catalogue-consoled brief afternoons of March – these may be the best times to contemplate yellow. We’ve forgotten how tired we were of it in the previous July and August. We’ve forgiven the monopoly of yellows back then that saturated the borders everywhere: helianthus, dust-smudged yellow roses planted for some anniversary no one can remember now, chrome yellow fremontodendrons whose flowers abrade the eyes almost as much as the leaves irritate the skin and, worst of all, Hypericum calycinum, so much of it – and blooming all the way from June to October – that we want to reclassify it as a weed, even in its classy forms such as ‘Rowallane’, and its shade of yellow we want to re-name Gall Bladder Saffron. We have begun to wonder how we ever enjoyed the characteristic yellow-drenching of Klimt’s The Kiss, how we ever imagined it might be fun to travel in a Yellow Submarine, and then to draw grumpy lessons from the cycle of colours in a banana: beginning as a firm, confident green, it morphs into a meretricious yellow but only to end in a gone-off, suppurating brown, and all in the chastening span of a mere ten days.

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From 'Benton End Revisited, Part Two: Plants, Plants, Plants' by Matt Collins
With hindsight, I see that our arrival at Benton End, in late summer 2020, was more than a little fortuitously timed. I needed that seasonal lead in: the gentle getting-to-grips with the garden afforded by autumn’s comparative quiet, and the long evening reading hours of winter, to contextualise what followed in the brighter months of spring. To have been thrust straight in amid the vernal rush of re-emerging flowers might have risked undervaluing their significance. As it happened, I had five good months in which to prepare.
     What information I’d gathered during our initial months living in the little cottage opposite, I tried to summarise: Benton’s sixteenth-century manor house as home to Morris and Lett-Haines (partners, painters; artistic and social luminaries), a progressive art school and a sprawling garden of world-class blooms; the garden as it was then compared to its present condition – after forty years of private ownership – and the astonishing volume of influential figures that visited in its mid-century heyday. 

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From 'Crossbones: From Pleasure Grounds to Memorial Garden' by Katie Campbell
A poignant piece of guerilla gardening has recently grown up in a medieval burial ground, in the shadow of London’s landmark Shard. This uber-fashionable area was once a marshy wasteland known as ‘the Liberty’ since it was outside the city’s jurisdiction. Situated on the south side of the Thames beside London Bridge – for centuries the only bridge spanning the river – the district has long been associated with dissidence and transgression. A convenient resting place for merchants and pilgrims en route to the city, it hosted a plethora of inns, taverns and other travellers’ entertainments. Among the many artefacts unearthed by archaeologists are the six-sided dice introduced by the Romans, indicating that gambling had been practiced here since the Conquest.

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From 'Then and Now: The Gardens of the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition' by Richard Moore
A few years ago, I stumbled upon a lovely little park in the centre of London’s Shepherd’s Bush. I first became aware of it when poring over a map of the area and noticed a small plot of green, labelled Hammersmith Park, but what intrigued me most were the words ‘Japanese Garden’. I’d never heard of a Japanese Garden in Shepherd’s Bush, so I went to look. It lies tucked away behind the BBC Television Centre, just a stone’s throw from the Westfield shopping centre; an oasis of sorts where people can escape from the busy streets and the rush of shoppers close by.
     I have an interest in Japanese gardens. My wife is Japanese and we try to visit Japan at least once a year to see our family. Even before meeting her, I had a fascination with Japanese arts, history and culture, having been brought up around artists and craftsmen, and had always admired the craftsmanship of Japanese objects, as a great deal of people do.

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From 'The Canary Islands: Their Volcanoes and Flora' by Kathryn Bradley-Hole
Probably most of us think of the Canary Islands first as a destination for sun and surf holidays, particularly in winter, with agreeable temperatures and easy whale-watching; or perhaps as a comparatively nearby source of year-round bananas. For many, the islands make the perfect walking destination with landscapes as varied as any- where on the planet, ranging from sand-dune desert to subtropical palm groves; from misty mountain forests to pristine lava fields. Their dark, basalt mountains can appear shadowy and forbidding, traversed by terrifying hairpin bends. Yet the snowy peaks yield precious alpine flowers, whilst sun-baked fissures harbour tender sages and lavenders – less pleasingly perfumed than the Mediterranean ones, perhaps, but having medicinal and ornamental value locally. From a British perspective, the islands are a convenient four hours or so flight from cold Blighty, yet they transport us to a subtropical world utterly different from our own.
     I was reminded of the importance of their volcanic origins by the spectacular eruptions of Cumbre Vieja (‘Old Peak’ or ‘Old Summit’) on the island of La Palma, which began on 19 September 2021. The eruptions have clearly been a tragedy for many of La Palma’s inhabitants whose homes were destroyed by molten lava and ash, yet the process has made compelling viewing for nature-watchers. 

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From 'Summer Wanderings in Spain' by Thomas Rutter

In September of this year I took leave of London to seek sun in the south. . . . After a brief meander along the old riverbed, I eventually arrived at the Jardí de Monforte. Designed and built in the nineteenth century, the garden takes its name from the family who at one time called this immodest three-acre estate home. The garden has much to offer, not least the bounty of classical sculpture on display. Poseidon and Hermes were both present, as well as several nymphs, a boy calmly riding a swan and a serpent spouting water. Quite the assortment. In the parterre section of the garden, much is made of these sculptures, framed with low-lying box hedging shaped in a labyrinthine pattern. A garden of high maintenance, I am sure, what with so much formal hedging and so many egotistical sculptures to appease. To the side of the parterre garden, a pergola had been covered by the vigorous Bougainvillea glabra, a mass of pink flowers to walk under.

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From 'Once a Mali, Always a Mali' by Naman Chaudhary
Growing up as a young boy in Delhi, every Sunday when the mali arrived on his bicycle I would drop everything and help him garden. Surrounded by the hues of green, Deena watered the beds, dug up the weeds, sowed different seeds and later transplanted the seedlings using his forefinger and thumb as I muddled with a trowel behind him. He had trained a bush of red bougainvillea as a tree and considered it as his finest achievement. And while he spent hours tip-pruning its thorny shoots, he would tell me gardening stories. I remember once he said, wiping the sweat from his neck with the loose end of his dhoti, that he came from the caste of mali (gardener) and abided by the ancient rule where a man follows the trade of his caste. Gardening was all he had done in his life, just as his forefathers before him, right to the time of the first mali, who according to Deena gave a garland to Krishna..

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From 'Poverty & Plants: Gardens in Mary Mann's Fiction' by Tim Longville
Victorian writers of fiction are often still thought of as purveyors of a sickly mixture of sentiment and melodrama, Dickens, despite his genius, being a prime example. There was another strain in Victorian writing though: one that was harder-edged, more realistic and with less if any overt moralising. Dickens, because of his genius, is a prime example here, too. But striking examples of that harder edge can also be found in the best work of the prolific Norfolk novelist and short story writer, Mary E. Mann. (In a career of thirty years or so, she published thirty-eight novels and hundreds of short stories.) If Dickens – and Gissing later – shone a harsh spotlight on the realities of life for the urban poor, then Mrs Mann shone one on the lives of the rural poor. 

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From 'This is for You, Louis' by Clark Lawrence
'Let’s call him Louis, a paesaggista at La Macchina Fissa. I wasn’t even sure how to translate paesaggista, but I looked it up just now and found ‘landscape painter’ followed by ‘landscape architect’. Some artists who create landscapes (rather than painting them) have a bad reputation for being talkative know-alls. In their defence, their profession usually does involve many fields of knowledge (art history, architecture, history of gardens, botany, geology, hydrology – you name it, they have to study it) and the better they have learned their multidisciplinary trade, the more they have to teach, or preach.

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From 'From the Home Patch' by Tom Petherick
A long autumn tour of organic and biodynamic farms always reveals plenty of wisdom from professional growers to take into the following season. During the course of the year I travel the length and breadth of the country to inspect these places for compliance to their relevant standards. Whilst the audit is the purpose of each visit I rarely leave a place without having learned something new.
     In late August I headed to Scotland for twelve inspections. I began on the rich grasslands of south Dumfriesshire and wound up as far north as the Black Isle, home of the outstanding Poyntzfield Herb Nursery. On the way I encountered cattlemen, tea growers, rewilders, Goethean observationists, market gardeners and sheep farmers. The licensees come in all shapes and sizes and are united by a love for the land and tremendous ability to make things grow well.

From 'Digging with the Duchess: Retaming' by Sam Llewellyn
‘Rewilding,’ said the Duchess, laying aside her book. ‘Excellent thing.’
     We were sitting in the morning room hoping for a gleam of sunlight from the reflecting pool outside. The day had begun in the usual soothing silence, but I could tell my companion was getting edgy, and edginess soon leads to Statements. The trained observer could see by the contraction of the thickly-Biroed eyebrows over the root of the regal conk that one of these was on the way, expecting not agreement but refutation, which would be a match for the gunpowder trail leading to the pile of Guy Fawkes kegs she calls her mind. Sure enough, she said, ‘Well?’
     ‘Oh,’ I said, omitting a question mark and thereby hoping to defuse the situation. ‘Funny old weather we are having for the time of year – ’

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Book Reviews:
Tokachi Millennium Forest:
Pioneering a New Way of Gardening with Nature

by Dan Pearson with Midori Shintani. Reviewed by Katie Campbell

American Book Notes
by Judith B. Tankard:

Under Western Skies:
Visionary Gardens from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast

by Jennifer Jewel

Immersion: Living and Learning in an Olmsted Garden
by Nola Anderson

The Adventures of a Narrative Gardener:
Creating a Landscape of Memory

by Ronald Lee Fleming

Rosa: The Story of the Rose 
by Peter E. Kukielski

All About Flowers:
James Vick’s Nineteenth-Century Seed Company

by Thomas J. Mickey

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HORTUS 141 (Spring 2022) will be published in March

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