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HORTUS  141  (Spring 2022)
HORTUS 141 (Spring 2022)

Price (not including postage) 10.50

Extracts From The Current Issue
Sharp-eyed readers will notice that we have changed our printer. For the past ten years Hortus has been produced by the exception- ally superb Graficascems, in the Basque region of Spain. We bid them farewell, reluctantly, tearfully. They have upheld our pro- duction values supremely. Sadly, Brexit has imposed import duties and transport costs that we cannot afford, urging us to seek an alternative on home ground. None of us expected that our search would end so close to home. Gomer Press is situated in Llandysul, just twenty miles from our gates. First established in 1892 and begun as a general store, the company remains in the same family to this day.

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From the editor's introduction to HORTUS 141, Spring 2022
From ‘Tradescant’s Diary’
by Hugh Johnson

We left our farm in the Bourbonnais, the centre of France, sixteen years ago, having sold it to an Anglo-French couple who have since become good friends. Which means they keep us up to date with local news, and sometimes send us photo- graphs. We haven’t been back to visit for three years, so the latest batch have come as a wonderful surprise. Autumn colour was one theme in our planting – though the main thrust was more oak woods (with generous grants from the French government). The Auvergnat flora (we were on the fringe of the Auvergne) had little to offer in autumn. You might be lucky with a spindle going red, or a field maple a cheerful yellow, but bocage, the landscape of field and hedge and copse familiar in Normandy, is generally sombre. No fireworks.

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From 'Our Garden Birds: The Swallow'
by Adam Ford
I have a lovely leather-bound book published in 1735 (a birthday gift from Rosemary Verey) which makes some fascinating statements about the behaviour of swallows. With the end of summer, it asserts, they disappear from our skies, many of them to hibernate in ‘Caverns of the Earth’, even burying themselves in water.

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From 'Red Alert'
by Alison Sparshatt
True reds demand attention. I was uncertain how to use them in planting schemes, or not brave enough, not sure that I really even liked them, so I shoved them all together in a bed of their own behind the water tank where they wouldn’t be seen, and just used them as stock plants for propagation material. But they would be seen – boldly, stridently – right from the far corner of a one acre walled garden, so finally I’ve started to put them to work on their own where they won’t fight, muddy and diminish one another, but will instead each be given their red flag moment.

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From ‘The Glory of Bluebells’
by John Akeroyd

Bluebells are a national treasure and one of the great spectacles of Nature. Few sights evoke the mature English spring as much as do these showy and locally abundant wild flowers, one of few wild or garden plants that almost everybody knows. Their scented pools and splashes of blue – ‘wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes . . .’, to quote Gerard Manley Hopkins, a fervent admirer – make them special among even the attractive array of spring flowers. For, apart from those fortunate enough to enjoy extensive gardens or demesnes, we largely need to seek out bluebells in the wild. Carpe diem, for their glorious season is swift and fleeting, and the flowers vanish as the trees come fully into leaf and the spring flora retreats. And at a global level they are wholly restricted to Atlantic Europe, centred on the British Isles.

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From ‘Trilliums: From Wake-Robin to Stinking Willie’
by Sukie Amory

What is it about spring ephemerals that pierces the heart so? Persephone on steroids, they gladden our woodlands before the trees leaf out, set their seed, and then vanish underground as summer heats up, biding their time until they emerge once more to herald the spring. Their quirky nicknames signify the great affection we feel for them – squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis), Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) and yellow adder’s tongue or yellow trout lily (Erythronium americanum). But trilliums boast the best titles – rosy wake-robin (Trillium catesbaei), painted lady (T. undulatum), whip-poor-will flower (T. cuneatum), sweet Beth (T. vaseyi), yellow toadshade (T. luteum). Some are less flattering, like bloody noses (T. recurvatum) and stinking Willie (T. erectum), more auspiciously known as birthroot for the tea that Indigenous people brewed from its roots to ease childbirth.

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From ‘The Dreaming Earth:
A Glimpse of a Writer’s Garden in Spring’
by Rod Madocks

>!Winter abides. Its often still there deep into spring when you get those vast, pulpy crimson dawns in March when your fingers burn at the tips when weeding and the sickle moon brings hard frosts. Once, I found my April pond full of dead frogs, caught and frozen in the act of mating. Maybe winter never really leaves. You can sense it even on warm days, a certain ribboning of chill in the air that makes you shiver unexpectedly. Even in the mild spring sunshine, your cold shadow follows you. Certainly I miss winter when it is saying farewell, especially as a brutal brash spring is impatiently trying to shoulder its way in. !!<

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From ‘Crowdsourcing Snowdrops:
Saintly Community Gardening in a Norwich Churchyard’
by Tony Hufton
Our little group of volunteers works in half a dozen of the gardens of the redundant churches of Norwich. The city boasts that it has the largest concentration of medieval churches north of the Alps – thirty-one in total. They are wonderful works of art, flinty grey survivors that charmingly punctuate the urban scene with their stubby towers. These days, only a handful still operate as places of worship, most of the rest serving a variety of purposes from puppet theatre to circus school, from junk shop to bookshop, though several are permanently locked and silent. Almost all are surrounded by, or at least adjacent to, an old churchyard.

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From ‘Our Garden Colours: Pink’
by Peter Dale

Is pink the most gendered of all colours? Why are frocks always ‘pink’ (but dinner jackets always black)? Why does pink consort almost inevitably with words such as frilly? And does that explain why the contrary idea of a Pink Panther was so arresting when it appeared in 1963? But why is the pinkness of a seemingly affectionate cat’s tongue engaged in licking the salt out of the pores of the skin on your hand never so shocking as that moment when you glimpse the same pink tongue poking out of a veritable palisade of killer teeth?
Single-colour gardens can be irritatingly affected, or annoyingly chic, but sometimes they are also compelling places: that chromatic austerity working like a detoxifying month as a guest in a Cistercian monastery, the mind gradually shedding its self-indulging prejudices, its colour gluttonies, its chromatic flab.

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FFrom ‘Father of his Profession: Frederick Law Olmsted
A Two-Hundredth Anniversary Salute’
by Marta McDowell

If, in the early years of the nineteenth century, you had been asked to nominate someone to reshape the American landscape aesthetic, Frederick Law Olmsted would have been an unlikely candidate.
The time did not seem ripe. When he was born in Hartford, Connecticut, two hundred years ago on the 26 April 1822, the words ‘landscape’ and ‘architect’ were separate and distinct. Public parks were almost non-existent, although London’s Vauxhall Pleasure Garden opened almost a century earlier, in 1729, but an entry fee was charged. Birkenhead Park in Liverpool and Victoria Park in London were still two decades away in the future. In the Americas, there was the Alameda in Mexico City, established in 1592 on the site of the Aztec market. The Massachusetts Bay Colony had purchased the fifty-acre Boston Common as public land in 1634, though it was hardly a park, used for grazing livestock and less pastoral functions such as public hangings, military encampments, and at least one riot. Even the rural cemeteries like Mount Auburn in Cambridge and Green-Wood in New York, forerunners to urban public parks, had yet to be conceived.

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From ‘Night and Day: Pai Bagh, a Garden near Delhi’
by Naman Chaudhary
In summers then, the alluvial dust of the Great Plains would dance in whirls where now the garden spreads. It was a barren patch of land with a well that had long dried up and a lone date palm. An abandoned fort enclosed it from the south and stables from the west; to its east was a grazing field and on its northern edge an earth mound that was once part of the fortifications. As he walked up the mound during his school lunch break, my father would always look for the faint outlines of four circles etched in the ground below, made visible by the slanting light of the sun as it climbed down the sky.

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From ‘Destruction’
by Charles Elliott

Does gardening have a dark side? In some ways it certainly does – some of you may have heard Jenny Uglow on the radio talking about how a garden is fundamentally the expression of a desire to dominate, a form of aggression. Out there among the delphiniums we are toe-to toe-with Nature, and Nature gives no quarter.
Then there is the dangerous charm of gardening itself. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the otherwise somewhat sententious nineteenth- century American essayist and philosopher, once remarked that a garden ‘is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man’s coat-skirt, or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg, and his whole body to irresistible destruction’. Most of us probably know what he is talking about. We have already succumbed, though not necessarily to the point of ‘irresistible destruction’.

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From ‘From the Home Patch’
by Tom Petherick

The biodynamic year begins not in warm, leafy spring but in cold, dark January, on Epiphany, the sixth of the month. This is the day that devotees of our tradition turn their attention to the Three Kings Spray. Just as the Magi brought offerings of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Christ on this date, so the Three Kings spray offers the same gifts to the elemental beings that support the plant world.
To even countenance the existence of a realm of elemental beings is surely one of the toughest parts of biodynamics for anyone to grasp. It is generally avoided because for those who are at best curious, the general esoteric nature of the movement is too much to handle. For Rudolf Steiner the ‘unseen’ was at the heart of every- thing that he pronounced about agriculture and horticulture – an approach that comes through clearly in his original set of lectures entitled ‘Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture’ given in 1924. Thus it is impossible to have any real understanding of biodynamics without trying to comprehend what he was talking about.

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From ‘Digging with the Duchess: Glass’
by Sam Llewellyn

The sun comes up, and the sun goes down, and the interval between these two events is becoming, alleluia, longer and longer. The new greenhouse is filling up with the growing-on cuttings and early lettuces that make life worth living at this time of year. The only worry is that the singing of the birds will clatter the glass right out of the glazing bars. That, and of course the Duchess, who has got new spectacles, which she refuses to wear because she thinks they make her look old, which in all fairness she is.
The Duchess seems very pleased with the greenhouse, which is robust and of acceptable if workmanlike design. As so often, though, she is making it her mission to hide this fact – for the usual reason, viz. that she wishes to mark the world with her personality, and it is easier to mark things with acid than with milk, as in human kindness.

Book Reviews:
Gardens Under Big Skies by Noel Kingsbury
reviewed by Sophie Piebenga

In the Garden: Essays on Nature and Growing
Orwell’s Rose
s by Rebecca Solnit
reviewed by Tim Longville

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Index to HORTUS Volume Thirty-five 137 to 140 (2021)

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HORTUS 142 (Summer 2022) will be published in June

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