Page 1

THE

english

GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

For everyone who loves beautiful gardens

www.theenglishgarden.co.uk

7

pages of Christmas gifts for gardeners

Indulge in roses

Your expert guide to bare-root planting

Piet Oudolf’s wintry masterpiece at Pensthorpe Festive inspiration Top 10 WALL SHRUBS Best sorbus for BERRIES Chic CONIFERS in containers NEW SEEDS for next year

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CONTRIBUTORS

Julia Watson A former editor of The English Garden and Homes and Gardens, Julia now lives and gardens near Loch Tummel in Perthshire. She visits the remarkable garden at Drummond Castle on page 26.

James Alexander-Sinclair James is a garden designer, lecturer, writer, broadcaster, judge and a member of the RHS Council. He visits Pensthorpe’s Millennium Garden on a frosty winter’s day on page 42.

Welcome T

he run-up to Christmas has to be one of my favourite times of year, filled with anticipation for the festivities ahead. As much as I look forward to it, though, I never seem to get any better at doing my Christmas shopping on time. If you’re like me, then I hope our guide to beautiful gifts for the gardeners in your lives helps you to get organised ahead of time. Meanwhile, there is plenty to admire in the garden – especially if you are a fan of topiary, which is in its element right now, or indeed any form of smart clipping. The icing on the cake is a light dusting of frost. Drummond Castle in Perthshire makes the point on a grand scale; Long Barn, Vita Sackville-West’s ‘starter garden’ in Kent, also demonstrates how important good bones are at this time of year; while at Morton Hall in Worcestershire, shapely clipped balls and ovals enliven the still, snowy scene. There are more festive treats in store this issue: beautiful sorbus festooned with wonderfully ornamental berries; the chicest conifers in containers you’ve ever seen (a gorgeous Christmas gift); inspiration for home-made decorations that bring garden foliage inside the house; and a delicious recipe to ring the changes with your Brussels sprouts! We wish you a very merry Christmas, out in the garden and in the home.

IMAGES NEIL HEPWORTH; BEN NICHOLSON

CLARE FOGGETT, EDITOR

Ray Cox Ray has been a garden photographer for 16 years and his family has run the renowned Glendoick nursery for three generations. His photos of Drummond Castle (p26) and colourful sorbus (p65) feature in this issue.

ON THE COVER Gorgeous billowing roses, fulfilling summer’s promise abundantly at Parham House Gardens in West Sussex. Photograph by GAP/John Glover

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© The Chelsea Magazine Company Ltd 2018. All rights reserved. Text and pictures are copyright restricted and must not be reproduced without permission of the publishers. The information in The English Garden has been published in good faith and every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy. However, where appropriate, you are advised to check prices, opening times and dates etc before making final arrangements. All liability for loss, disappointment, negligence or damage caused by reliance on the information within this publication is hereby excluded. The opinions expressed by the contributors of The English Garden are not necessarily those of the publisher. www.chelseamagazines.com: Publishers of The English Home, Artists & Illustrators, Baby London, Baby Hampshire, Baby Surrey, Little London, Wedding Ideas, BRITAIN, Discover Britain, Cruise International, Independent School Parent and associated guides, Racecar Engineering, Classic Boat, Sailing Today, Yachts & Yachting and Popshot.

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December 2018

CONTENTS 42

Gardens 26 Drummond Castle In the chill of a Scottish winter, a team of gardeners set about readying the parterre and topiary of this grand castle estate for spring. 34 Morton Hall Frost and snow enhance the dramatic, stage-like setting of Morton Hall Gardens in Worcestershire, where a chorus of box domes and statuary waits in the wings. 42 Pensthorpe Piet Oudolf’s textured and colourful Millennium Garden sits alongside a naturalistic complex of islands and lakes filled with waterfowl at this lovely Norfolk garden. 52 Long Barn Lars and Rebecca Lemonius, the current custodians of Vita SackvilleWest’s ‘starter garden’ in Kent have bravely polished her novice vision to perfection. 6 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018


26

Design 73 Christmas Decoration As Christmas approaches, dress your home with holly, ivy, mistletoe and other festive garden foliage. 103 Writers’ Gardens Agatha Christie’s beloved garden at Greenway in Devon, provided both inspiration and escape.

Plants 59 Top 10 Plants Our round-up of the best and brightest shrubs for wall coverage. 65 Sorbus Discover the brilliant berries and colourful foliage of this diverse family, which includes mountain ash and whitebeam. 70 Plant Collectors How Chris Lane fell under the fragrant spell of witch hazel. 79 Lime Cross Nursery Two sisters grow tiny conifers alongside a spectacular collection of traditional specimens at their Sussex nursery. 85 In Season Home-grown, bittersweet Brussels sprouts are a true seasonal treat. 89 Bare-Root Roses Winter is the time to get roses in the ground to guarantee a glorious display come summertime.

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97 New Seeds We thumb through the seed catalogues to help you choose the very best new annual flowers to grow for 2019.

Regulars 9 This Month Our guide to gardens to visit, places to go, things to do and nature to note.

IMAGES RAY COX; RICHARD BLOOM; GAP/TORIE CHUGG; SHUTTERSTOCK

17 Christmas Gift Guide Presents to suit every budget for the gardener in your life.

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107 The Reviewer Books for December and a chat with Jane Kilpatrick and Jennifer Harmer, authors of The Galanthophiles. 114 Last Word Katherine Swift on Christmas trees and the nature of festive customs.

Offers 50 Subscribe & Save Subscribe to The English Garden and save money. 58 Heritage Touring Two special new garden tours, created with our readers in mind. 69 Home Insurance Specialist insurance quotes for readers of The English Garden. DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 7


DECEMBER

Gardens to Visit

Seek inspiration for your own garden by visiting one of Britain’s best

SGS GARDEN

Ardtornish Scottish Highlands

Victorian VISIONS These five gardens are some of the finest products of an era when innovation coincided with an explosion of interest in horticulture Hughenden

WORDS PHOEBE JAYES IMAGES ALAMY; SHUTTERSTOCK

Re-landscaped under the instruction of Mary Anne Disraeli (wife of Benjamin), the gardens at Hughenden in Buckinghamshire, include a formal Italianate garden, a walled garden, a stretch of woodland, and an arboretum, set amid rambling pleasure grounds. Tel: 01494 755573; nationaltrust.org.uk

a fernery, a grotto and a wild rose dell. Tel: 01302 722598; english-heritage.org.uk

style, with naturalistic planting and shining moat reflections. Tel: 01892 893820; nationaltrust.org.uk

Scotney Castle Surrounding the fairytale castle ruins, the gardens at Scotney (below) in Kent were designed in the picturesque

Osborne House At the Isle of Wight summer home of Queen Victoria, you’ll find walled gardens, ornate terraces and historic trees – some planted by Prince Albert. Tel: 01983 200022; english-heritage.org.uk

The gardens at Ardtornish have been sculpted from a rocky hillside and boast extensive views looking south-west along Loch Aline to the hills of the Isle of Mull. Much of the land here is covered by native birch, alongside extensive planting of exotic species under mature larch, fir and pine trees. Emmeline and Hugh Smith bought Ardtornish in 1930, adding acers, hoheria, eucryphia, sorbus, berberis, rhododendrons and roses. Their keen interest in the garden is continued with enthusiasm today by their daughter Faith and her family. Ardtornish, By Lochaline, Morvern PA80 5UZ. Open for Scotland’s Gardens Scheme, 1 January-31 December, 10am-6pm. Adult £4; children free. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on the lead. Visit scotlandsgardens.org for more information.

Brodsworth Hall The grounds at Brodsworth (above) in Yorkshire were laid out in the 1860s and only recently restored to their full Victorian splendour. Here you’ll find an assortment of grand gardens in miniature,

Standen House and Garden Inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement, Margaret Beale created this hillside garden as a series of outdoor ‘rooms’, each with a theme. Tel: 01342 323029; nationaltrust.org.uk

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 9


DECEMBER

Places to Go

Unmissable flower shows, plant fairs, courses and exhibitions to attend this month

Bright LIGHTS Christmas at Kew 22 November-5 January, London Now in its sixth year, Christmas at Kew will feature several new artworks along a glimmering trail set around the gardens. Enjoy an expanse of dancing lights, 300 illuminated origami boats floating on the beautiful lake, an enchanted walkway of giant peonies and papyrus, and the magnificent, kaleidoscopic Palm House Pond finale. Additional treats will include a festival fairground, food stalls, an opportunity to buy gifts and the all-pervasive aroma of mulled wine. Tickets £16.50. Tel: 020 8332 5655; kew.org

Garden PARTY Christmas at The Alnwick Garden 17 November-23 December, Northumberland The Alnwick Garden is the venue for an extravaganza of festive events from mid-November onwards. Kicking off with The Grand Lantern Parade, led by Father Christmas himself, the winter celebrations will also include a display of magical giant birds, street theatre performances, a Christmas market, an iceskating rink and a clue trail created by elves. There’s a range of more grownup evening parties, dinners and dances to choose from as well. Tickets from £8 (garden entry price). Tel: 01665 511350; alnwickgarden.com

LOOKING AHEAD: SEASONAL celebrations 16 Nov, Kent Learn to design, cut and print beautiful woodcut cards at this workshop led by professional printmaker Will Dyke at Knole Park. £85. Tel: 01732 462100; nationaltrust.org.uk

Christmas Glow at Wisley 1 Dec-2 Jan, Surrey Follow an illuminated festive trail past floating lights and giant glowing flowers to the

Woodland Realm, where you’ll find elves, reindeer and a tree made of poinsettias. Tel: 01483 224234; rhs.org.uk/wisley

The Newburgh Priory Christmas Fair 29 Nov-1 Dec, Yorkshire Find unique Christmas gifts, create wreaths and gingerbread houses and enjoy locally sourced food (right). Tickets from £5. Tel: 01347 868372; newburghpriory.co.uk

10 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

Hot Pot Pottery Christmas Fayre 8-9 & 11 Dec, Gloucestershire Browse local artists’ work or paint your own pottery, with festive nibbles on offer and a cosy woodburner. Free admission. Tel: 01594 837943; hotpotpottery.co.uk

Carols by Candlelight 22 Dec, Staffordshire The National Memorial Arboretum hosts its annual

candle-lit carol service in Heroes’ Square, surrounded by a host of illuminated trees. Refreshments are available to buy. Free admission. Tel: 01283 245100; thenma.org.uk

WORDS PHOEBE JAYES IMAGES RGB KEW; TONY BARTHOLOMEW

Woodcut Christmas cards


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DECEMBER

Things to Do Keep up to date in the garden with our monthly guide to key gardening tasks

MAKE A SEASONAL vase arrangement Glass-grown blooms, evergreen branches and dried flowers and grasses all make wonderful additions to this stylish, wintry, floral arrangement If you want to go big and fabulous with home décor, there’s no better time to do it than Christmas. Don’t be put off by the scarcity of winter flowers – here, florist Rachel Siegfried of Green & Gorgeous explains how to make a seasonal vase arrangement that will put the Christmas tree to shame.

Protect tender herbaceous perennials from frost by mulching around their bases with a thick layer of straw. Use wire netting to hold the straw in place. For natural Christmas decorations, place the shoots of winterflowering shrubs in water and keep in a cool place indoors. Cut back ornamental grape vines to two buds before Christmas, to avoid pruning wounds bleeding.

You will need A vase Chicken wire Five woody branches Fresh flowers Dried flowers and grasses Flowering bulbs

Spray fruit trees, such as apples, cherries and plums, with a winter wash, to help control pests.

with length and breadth, although if it’s going on the table, don’t make it too high! 4 Dried grasses are a savvy addition, as are, in a mild winter, late-flowering bulbs such as amaryllis. These plants will last much longer if you ward off wilting by keeping the water fresh, and placing the arrangement well away from heat. 5 For a final flourish, add smaller dried flowers, such as strawflowers to your creation.

12 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

6 To create a lavish, ‘Dutch Masters’ look, arrange the vase on some beautiful fabric. Most importantly, enjoy the creative process: winter walks are a lovely way to gather materials. Used in picture: Chrysanthemum ‘Avignon Pink’ – grown under glass; dried bracken; larch; miscanthus; strawflowers; Eucalyptus gunnii; foraged sloe branches; pewter tankard; alkanet-dyed silk. • For more information about Green & Gorgeous, visit greenandgorgeousflowers.co.uk

Rake up the last of the autumn leaves from your lawn to stop them killing the grass. Bring hyacinth and daffodil bulbs into the warmth to encourage flowering over the Christmas period. WORDS PHOEBE JAYES IMAGES SHUTTERSTOCK; GREEN & GORGEOUS

Method 1 Use a small ball of chicken wire instead of floral foam to anchor the arrangement; it’s easy to handle and eco-friendly. 2 Start with woody branches, such as eucalyptus, sloe or snowberry. Use an odd number and beware of overcrowding – five branches is sufficient. 3 Add your chosen flowers, but take care not to overstuff. Layering looks lovely, so play

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DECEMBER

Nature to Note

Your monthly guide to encouraging and caring for garden wildlife

Winter WARMER Mistle thrushes will benefit from extra food Appearance: Not to be confused with the song thrush, the mistle thrush has paler plumage, with bigger, rounder spots than its cousin. It’s also much larger, measuring close to 30cm. Males and females look similar, while juveniles are more heavily spotted with off-white heads. Habitat: Mistle thrushes prefer coniferous woodland, and nest high up in tall trees. The Latin name, Turdus viscivorus, means ‘devourer of mistletoe’ – mistle thrushes help this parasitic plant spread by eating the berries and then wiping their beaks clean on the branches of other trees. What you can do: The species has been in decline since the 1970s and the RSPB lists it as globally threatened. Put out a ground feed of raisins, sultanas, mealworms, suet and overripe apples, or plant cotoneaster, rowan or holly.

Teasel One of the most beautiful sights of winter are the stark, tawny, architectural heads of dried-out teasels. Historically, the prickly tips of fuller’s teasel were used for raising nap on woollen cloth, hence the verb ‘to teasel’, meaning to carry out the process of fulling. The Romans also referred to teasel as ‘Venus’s basin’ due to the trough-like leaf formations located at its base. In folklore, the rainwater that collects here is believed to have healing properties.

14 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

Help wildlife this DECEMBER

Rehome hibernating butterflies, provide shelter for roosting birds, and supplement the winter diets of native red squirrels Some species of butterfly, including the colourful small tortoiseshell, may enter your home to hibernate over the winter. To pre-empt a butterfly waking prematurely when the central heating comes on, catch it, place it in a cardboard box in a cool place until it’s calm, then release into a shed, garage or unheated room to overwinter. Leave nest-boxes in place, since they provide a place for smaller birds to roost over the winter. Robins, who begin their courtship in January, prefer open-fronted nest-boxes. There are 2.5 million grey squirrels in the UK, compared to just 140,000 red squirrels. If these rare natives visit your garden, report the sighting to your local wildlife trust. Put out

seeds and nuts for them, but only if you are sure there are no grey squirrels in the area, since greys can transmit fatal squirrelpox to reds via feeders.

WORDS PHOEBE JAYES IMAGES SHUTTERSTOCK;

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GIFT GUIDE

Christmas trees from £25; wreaths from £10; garland with red berries £25; lantern £15. Tel: 0333 3551735; wyevalegarden centres.co.uk

The Art of Giving Find the perfect present for gardeners and garden lovers with our inspiring selection of Christmas gifts, from affordable stocking fillers to covetable, high-end luxuries DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 17


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Festive Wrap Ensure the whole family looks top notch with our selection of seasonal outerwear

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1. Jacquard rose shoulder tote, £42. cathkidston. com 2. Large hemp log basket, £69.50. Tel: 0845 4741747; decoratorsnotebook.co.uk 3. Fair Isle textured tam, £45. Tel: 0333 4005200; toa.st 4. Dog collar 786, £26.95. Tel: 01285 657527; cotswoldcountry.co.uk 5. Merino lambswool brant wrap, £95. Tel: 015395 21714; oubasknitwear.co.uk 6. Donegal cashmere wool funnel neck sweater, £265. Tel: 0333 4005200; toa.st 7. Lambswool ruana wrap, £69.95. Tel: 0333 2224555; highgrovegardens. com 8. Aigle Laforse MTD boots, £99. Tel: 0344 8448998; outdoorandcountry.co.uk 9. Celtic wool jacket, £240. Tel: 01328 820699; carriercompany. co.uk 10. Women’s RHS Tremont tall boots, £110.00. Tel: 0800 5870509; muckbootcompany.co.uk

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GIFT GUIDE

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Garden Gifts These beautiful outdoor objects will do justice to your beds and sheds

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1. Rusty outdoor woodburner, £425. Tel: 0330 3332123; coxandcox.co.uk 2. Julie Dodsworth orangery tool belt, £8.99. Tel: 01344 578111; crocus. co.uk 3. British bloom kneeler, £19.95. Tel: 0345 5480210; annabeljames.co.uk 4. Rustic ground spike boot scraper, £8.99. Tel: 0344 56724000; thefarthing.co.uk 5. Swan neck outdoor light, £210. Tel: 01989 567416; fritzfryer.co.uk 6. Rive Droite bistro set (two chairs and a table), £120. Tel: 01993 845559; gardentrading.co.uk 7. Highgrove bug & bee house, £27.95. Tel: 0333 2224555; highgrovegardens.com 8. Oak ammonite drink table, £299. Tel: 01297 443084; sittingspiritually.co.uk 9. Windrush iris pot, £59.50. Tel: 01608 684416; whichfordpottery.com 10. Square Victorian cloche, £139.99. Tel: 01344 578811; waitrosegarden.com

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WORDS VIVIENNE HAMBLY

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DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 19


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All the Trimmings

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Fortify your Christmas larder with these gourmet provisions, then work it off in the garden 1. Limited edition Biscuiteers advent calendar by Susie Watson, £125. Tel: 08704 588358; biscuiteers.com 2. Opies pickled walnuts, £2.55. Tel: 0800 188884; waitrose.com 3. Riseley cheese, from £13.90. Tel: 020 7500 7520; nealsyarddairy. co.uk 4. Botanical orange dark chocolate bar, £3.50. Tel: 020 8332 3123; kew.org 5. Boozy berries, £6.50. Tel: 01763 849739; pinkstergin.com 6. Sloe gin, £25. Tel: 0208 747 0753; sipsmith.com 7. Fortnum & Mason Christmas teatime biscuits,

£12.50. Tel: 020 7734 8040; fortnumandmason. com 8. Gusbourne rosé, £40. Tel: 01233 758666; gusbourne.com 9. Christmas pudding, £14. Tel: 0300 1232025; shop.nationaltrust.org.uk 10. House of Newby 2018 advent calendar, £58. Tel: 020 7553 4521; newbyteas.co.uk

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GIFT GUIDE

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Crafty IDEAS 5

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Treat your loved ones to something from our selection of artisan treasures

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1. Rectangular cushion, from £45. Tel: 020 7352 9977; maddercutchandco.com 2. Oak leaf stud earrings oxidised, £46. Tel: 07939 238608; laurabaxter.co.uk 3. Fleur des Pres straight pitcher, £50. Tel: 01534 850850; jerseypottery.com 4. Wintry friends marble square, from £25.99. kateofkensington.com 5. Burgess Blue Calico 50th Anniversary Osbourne Mug, £18. Tel: 01773 740740; burleigh.co.uk 6. The Almanac – A seasonal guide to 2019 by Lia Leendertz, £10. Tel: 0808 1188787; waterstones.com 7. Hardback notepad bean, £12.50. Tel: 07732 131135; cambridgeimprint.co.uk 8. Willow log basket by Annemarie O’Sullivan, £590. Tel: 020 7148 3190; thenewcraftsmen.com 9. Burlington pot, from £55. Tel: 01782 204141; wedgwood.co.uk 10. Bird napkins, £75 for 6. crafteditions.co.uk

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DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 21


A sculpture for all seasons

EXTERIORS | INTERIORS | BIG SPACES +44 (0) 1235 859300 www.davidharber.com


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GIFT GUIDE

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Big Spenders Blow the budget and treat friends or family to one of these luxurious outdoor gifts

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1. Mantle sculpture, from £12,758. Tel: 01235 859300; davidharber.co.uk 2. Morvah hanging planter, £195. Tel: 01326 722725; tomraffield.com 3. Hartley Botanic Patio Glasshouse, £1,200.

Tel: 01604 770711; hartley-botanic.co.uk

4. Ligustrum pompom, £235. clifton.co.uk 5. Sevilla parasol, £2,150. Tel: 07590 019835; sunbeamjackie.com 6. Hitomi Honsono Shoka vase, £12,000, Tel: 01782 282651; wedgwood. co.uk 7. Miimo Junior robotic mower, £1,499. Tel: 0345 2008000; honda.co.uk 8. Meander loveseat, £3,600. Tel: 01420 588444; gazeburvill. com 9. River God after Caffieri, 183cm, £56,000. Tel: 01722 744499; coade.co.uk 10. Helmingham chair with arms, £625. Tel: 01473 890799;

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xa-tollemache.co.uk

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DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 23


GIFT GUIDE

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Little Helpers Keep tool kits smart, shiny and up to date with these handy garden aides

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1. Stainless steel twist claw cultivator, £16.95. Tel: 020 7603 1522; sophieconran.com 2. Compost scoop, £14. Tel: 0300 1232025; shop.nationaltrust. org.uk 3. Apple picker, £12. Tel: 01993 845559; gardentrading.co.uk 4. Gel knee pads, £15. Tel: 01761 231454; dickiesworkwear.com 5. Platform tripod ladder (8ft), £265. Tel: 03333 444229; henchman.co.uk 6. Niwaki Hori Hori, £24. Tel: 01747 445059; niwaki.com 7. Felco compact deluxe secateurs no. 12, £62.99. Tel: 01344 578111; crocus.co.uk 8. Hand-woven cane basket, £79. Tel: 020 7603 1522; sophieconran.com 9. Grey water mister, £10. Tel: 01993 845559; gardentrading. co.uk 10. Dudley hoop plant support, £22. Tel: 01276 451077; rowenandwren.co.uk

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SLEEPING BEAUTY

In the quiet chill of a Scottish winter when visitors are long departed, Drummond Castle’s astonishing jumble of topiary is iced with frost, its grand parterre glitters in the weak sunlight, and a team of gardeners set about readying it for another season WORDS JULIA WATSON PHOTOGRAPHS RAY COX

26 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018


DRUMMOND CASTLE GARDENS

The grand, sweeping vista of the box-edged parterre, which has a St Andrew’s Cross at its heart and emblems from the family coat of arms.

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 27


I

N WINTER, THE GARDENS OF DRUMMOND

Castle are closed to visitors, its marble statues wrapped against the cold, tall clay pots packed away, beds stripped bare of summer planting. Slumbering under a dusting of snow, or glittering with frost, the topiary shapes of the parterre cast long shadows in the low winter sunshine and look even more magical and otherworldly than they do in summer. The garden may be sleeping, but for head gardener Edith Barnes and her team of four full-time and two part-time staff, the end of the year is always a very busy time. On top of the more usual maintenance tasks, such as clearing leaves and taking cuttings for next year’s pots, they have to tackle the biggest pieces of garden topiary, perched up high on cherrypickers to trim the tallest specimens. “It’s lovely on a crisp winter’s day when we are doing the topiary,” says Edith, who took a holiday job at the garden when she was 15 and has now worked here for over 35 years. “You look out across all the trees with sprinklings of icing on the top.” Today’s garden is a legacy of the Victorian era, and was visited by Queen Victoria herself when she and Albert stayed at Drummond Castle in 1842. Greeted by the estate’s tenants, who were lined along the drive, and entertained in a specially erected pavilion, she approved highly of all she saw, writing in her diary: “Sunday September 11th… We walked in the Garden, which is really very fine, with terraces, like an old French garden”. While she was at Drummond, Victoria planted two copper beech trees in mirror-image spots either side of the parterre. One succumbed quite recently, felled by a

28 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

Slumbering under a dusting of snow, or glittering with frost, the topiary shapes of the parterre cast long shadows

Top The West Fountain,

surrounded by pillars of Irish yew, umbrellas of holly and box balls. Above Sid, the castle’s solitary male swan, glides across the castle’s pond.

storm in May 2012, but the other still stands: a ghostly grey presence at this time of year. Evidence for earlier gardens at Drummond is rather patchy. The castle itself dates back to the 15th century, when the first Lord Drummond was given the land and built his ‘fortalice’ – a fortified house – remnants of which still survive in the lower floors of the keep. He was reported to have sent cherries to James IV while the king was hunting nearby.


A view down one of the ‘arms’ of the St Andrew’s Cross, two cut-leaved oaks glowing in the sun.

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 29


A mound of bamboo sits to the right of the bridge, with a fernery peeping through the arches.

30 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018


Both house and garden expanded under his successors. The imposing obelisk sundial that usually stands at the centre of the parterre (it is currently being restored) is a survivor of what must have been a grand formal garden in the early 17th century. Towards the end of that century it was a Drummond gardener, John Reid, who became the author of Scotland’s first gardening book: The Scots Gard’ner, Published for the Climate of Scotland. Formality was swept away in the 18th century, and it was only in the early 19th century, with the advent of Queen Victoria’s future hosts, heiress Clementina Drummond and her husband, Lord Willoughby de Eresby, that the garden took on its present form.

Its ‘more is more’ exuberance includes a multitude of statues, tons of sparkly quartz edging and a riot of planting In creating their new garden, the couple secured the services of Lewis Kennedy, a landscape gardener who had worked for the Empress Joséphine at Malmaison in France. But architect Charles Barry, who submitted plans for a revamp of the castle, may also have had a hand in the design, which incorporates elements of Italian and French style and a huge dollop of 19th-century ‘more is more’ exuberance: a multitude of statues, tons of sparkly quartz edging and a riot of colourful planting.

Top Pillars of English and

Irish yew and a golden holly, with acers still providing a final blast of autumn colour. Above Glowing in the low sun, bare branches of the woodland trees.

The garden nowadays is not as crammed with plants and shrubs as it was in its Victorian heyday: it was simplified when it was restored in the post-war years, although the layout is the same. Its impact comes from the way you first see it, from high up in the castle courtyard, with the whole parterre suddenly opening out below, its strong central axis appearing to power out into the countryside beyond the bounds of the garden. The pattern of box-edged beds in the parterre has a St Andrew’s Cross at its heart, with emblems taken from the Drummond and Willoughby coats of arms to either side of it. During the summer months, alternating red and yellow roses, family colours, fill the central cartwheel section, the white of the cross coming from massed plantings of lambs’ ear, Stachys lanata, and anaphalis along the pathways. DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 31


SEASONAL ADVICE By Edith Barnes Mulch vegetable gardens with rotted manure and dig them over before Christmas, to allow time for the frost to break up the soil gradually. Don’t try to break it up yourself. This is a good time for edging lawns. The frost means you’ll get a much cleaner cut.

Above The parterre, with The three paths that lead the its wonderful display of eye out across the garden are lined topiary, box-edged beds with an intense blue lavender, Lavandula and roundels of beech. angustifolia ‘Hidcote’, and other Right Bright red berries gleam on one of the sections are planted up with tulips and garden’s many hollies. antirrhinums for the season. Tall, glazed pots embossed with the Drummond coat of arms stand out on the gravel, brimming with She’s about to introduce replacements for yellow and white marguerites and contrasting a band of acers along the eastern edge of the pelargoniums such as ‘Red Lace’. parterre that were attacked by honey fungus and Even at the height of summer, however, what had to be scrapped, and there is also an ongoing catches the eye above all else is the magnificent programme of improvement to attempt to correct topiary: a dizzying array of cones and cylinders, the lean of some of the topiary, which has been tiny spirals and giant lollipops, umbrellas and bent out of shape by the wind. balls, made from English and Irish yew, box and holly, Portuguese laurel and cypress. Colours shift from darkest green to paler shades, and from silver to gold, and every tree, whatever its size, seems to have its own personality. Caring for these myriad shapes takes the gardening team months rather than As for the Queen Victoria tree, the team have days. “We clip the boxwood and beech hedges at been nurturing seedlings from the remaining the end of August and early September,” Edith copper beech, and these are now three feet high. explains. “Then, in October, we do the small The time is ripe, it would seem, for another yews, and it’s only once the garden is closed to ceremonial planting. ■ visitors, in November, December and January, that we bring out the cherry-pickers.” Drummond Castle Gardens, Muthill, Crieff, For Edith, the enduring appeal of working Perth & Kinross PH7 4HN are open on Easter at Drummond Castle lies in keeping such a Weekend (Good Friday, Saturday, Easter Sunday spectacular garden up to standard in the face and Easter Monday) 1pm-6pm and then from of inevitable change. “Things get old and die 1 May to 31 October daily, 1pm-6pm. June, July and get diseases,” she says, “and it can be quite and August 11am-6pm, September and October heartbreaking when you lose some of the older 1pm-6pm. Adult £6; child £2. Tel: 01764 681433; ones, like the Queen Victoria tree.” drummondcastlegardens.co.uk

Topiary is a dizzying array of cones and cylinders, spirals and lollipops, umbrellas and balls

32 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

Keep yew columns in shape by running wires round them a foot apart, taking care to turn stray wires inwards so you don’t clip them with shears. Cut back herbaceous planting and mulch around perennials and roses. Fork between the plants first for drainage – it opens up the soil and encourages worms to come up and take the mulch back down. Leave seedheads on lavender for winter protection; don’t deadhead until spring. To prevent wind rock in roses, prune them back to halfheight and then prune properly in spring. Grow your own Christmas decorations. Fronds of hemlock look good sprayed silver or gold, as do poppy seedheads and artichokes. And, of course, there are yew and holly trimmings to take home.


The frost-covered lawn at Morton Hall glows as the low winter sunlight slants through the canopy of trees.

A Winter’s TALE Frost and snow enhance the dramatic, stage-like setting of Morton Hall Gardens in Worcestershire, with a chorus of box domes and statuary in the wings, and a cathedral-like canopy of trees above WORDS ANNETTE WARREN PHOTOGRAPHS CLIVE NICHOLS


MORTON HALL

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 35


M

Below A statue

representing the Saxon god of the harvest is picked out by golden light behind a collection of perfect box balls.

IDWINTER FOR MANY GARDENERS

is often sufficient excuse to down tools and retreat to the potting shed until the cold weather passes. Not so at Morton Hall in Worcestershire, where Anne Olivieri and her team use the winter months to reshape the gardens and grounds. “October to December is probably when we work the hardest,” she explains. Morton Hall enjoys exhilarating, far-reaching views from its elevated position on the crest of a steep embankment across the Vale of Evesham towards the Welsh Mountains. It also boasts a spectacular, ancient, spring-bulb meadow. Anne and her husband René purchased the 90-acre estate in 2007, attracted not only by this meadow and the astonishing views, but also the elegant manor house.

36 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

Completely recreated between 2008 and 2011 by renowned garden designer Charles Chesshire, who worked closely with Anne, Morton Hall Gardens consist of a series of linked rooms around the house, all offering internal and external vistas that complement the house and surrounding parkland. Essential to the design are angular paths, softened by generously overflowing borders, which, in winter, are dominated by topiarised evergreens and statuary. “Winter adds its own special drama to the garden,” says Anne. “The flowers may be gone, but the winter garden becomes a theatre, with the snow like a velvet curtain framing the stage.” Over the darker months, the house becomes the focus, its warmth radiating into the sleeping garden with stark silhouettes and the patchwork of fields beyond. Snow-iced box domes are grouped together, cloud-like, softening the stark outline of the house and anchoring the vista from the parkland. “It’s important to have a transition between the areas,” Anne points out. “The garden has a lot of sculptural elements, which are picked out in the golden morning light.” The house is thought to date from the Jacobean period with a Georgian elevation added in the late 18th century. In the early 19th century, a wing and porticoed entrance were built. Elegance and formality are key here, with neo-classical stone urns standing guard beside the entrance columns. Nearby, a statue of Seatern – the Saxon god of the harvest – presides over a semi-circular yew hedge. This is a rare copy made from the original sculpture, which is part of the group of Saxon deities that resides at Stowe, created by 18th-century Flemish sculptor John Michael Rysbrack. In the South Garden, another sculpture is crowned by a three-tiered hedge. It originates from a monastery in the North of England and was aptly christened ‘Demeter’ by Anne’s children, after the Greek goddess of grain and fertility of the earth. The driveway winds towards the main house alongside the parkland meadow, where hundreds of thousands of crocus, fritillary and narcissus bulbs lie, tucked snugly beneath a blanket of snow waiting to herald spring. A post-modern white sandstone monopteros is positioned within the meadow where early morning sun highlights the columns. Designed to be viewed from all


Above Morton Hall’s sides, the monopteros elegant facade. was erected in 2014 Far left Frozen leaves, to a design by Anne’s still cling to Cornus brother-in-law, Berlin‘Norman Hadden’. Left Fragrant despite based architect Carl the cold, Viburnum x Georg Luetcke. Open bodnantense ‘Dawn’. to the sky, the structure Below The pergola in reflects the airy feel the south garden with its clipped box ‘people’. of the gardens. The meadow leads seamlessly through to the New Garden, separated from the drive by topiarised evergreens, such as holly, elaeagnus and Portuguese laurel. Canopies of silver birch, Japanese cherry, cornus and amelanchiers arch to create a cathedral-like dome above species roses, their ice-laden branches resembling crystal chandeliers; the remaining leaves frozen translucent jewels. Trees and shrubs take up much of the seasonal work, carried out to a rather unorthodox schedule. “We prune trees in the woods of the estate and the park in September, when the ground is still firm,” says Anne. “We then move into the garden where we can work from hard surfaces. Yew hedges are trimmed in November after the borders have been cut back, making them more accessible.” All other non-flowering evergreen topiary and hedges are cut

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 37


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December and January is when the architectural shapes have greatest impact in December and January, Clockwise from top Meadows and woodland which is when their are visible beyond a line architectural shapes have of mature trees; the greatest impact. “Prune graceful monopteros; the lower pond with its them when you want to Japanese tea house; a see them,” Anne advises. frosted lemon-yellow The Stroll Garden is flower of Coronilla one of Anne’s favourite valentina ‘Citrina’. areas in winter. Stroll gardens are among the classic Japanese garden designs and consist of one or several ponds encircled by a meandering path, with the feature of a bridge DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 39


SEASONAL ADVICE By head gardener, Harry Green

All borders are cut back and weeded from October to December to provide a head start in the spring.

or stepping stones across the water. Anne loves the softness of the feathery ferns dusted like icing sugar beside the frozen dark pools, while above, golden sunlight catches the top of the surrounding birch trees. A Japanese tea house completes the eastern theme, overlooking the two pools with stepping stones that lead to the Rockery, a natural woodland dell, “Like a rocky glacier,” says Anne, where grey Kington rocks seem scattered at random down towards the Stroll Garden. The hard work that is put in by Anne and her team of gardeners, led by Harry Green, during the winter months means that by spring, when the fritillary meadow announces the start of a new gardening year, they can concentrate on planting and preparing for the start of the visitor season. “It’s all in the prep, as a decorator once told me,” says Anne, smiling broadly. ■ Clockwise from above

Mature conifers; ferns and birches by the lower pond; archways in the wintry kitchen garden; avenues of viburnum.

Morton Hall Gardens, Morton Hall Lane, Redditch, Worcestershire B96 6SJ is open by appointment to groups of ten or more from April to September, and for an NGS open day on Saturday 31 August. A three-day tulip festival in collaboration with Bloms Bulbs will be hosted for the first time in 2019 on 4-6 May. The admission fee will be donated to the RSC’s Stitch-in-Time campaign. For ticket enquiries, call 01789 272543. mortonhallgardens.co.uk 40 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

A layer of mulch is applied just before Christmas, when all the leaves have been cleared and the weather is usually still quite mild. This avoids sealing the cold in the ground and lets subsequent frosts break down the mulch. Group 3 clematis and roses are pruned in February. In a very hard winter it may be advisable to postpone clematis pruning until March to avoid frost damage. After Christmas, hazel is coppiced in the woods and the branches are brought up in trailer loads. They are used as supports for roses, clematis and tall perennials. The branches are woven into elegant sculptural shapes that lend interest in early spring and then disappear as roses and perennials grow through them. For extra support in the summer, plain iron hoops are an unobtrusive option.


Image credit Clive Nichols

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GROUP VISITS FROM APRIL TO SEPTEMBER BY APPOINTMENT

MORTON HALL GARDENS, MORTON HALL LANE, REDDITCH, WORCESTERSHIRE, B96 6SJ


Banks of frosted grasses combine with the icy lake for an atmospheric winter scene.

Wild at HEART In the rolling grounds of Pensthorpe, Piet Oudolf’s textured and colourful Millennium Garden sits alongside a naturalistic complex of islands and lakes filled with all manner of waterfowl WORDS JAMES ALEXANDER-SINCLAIR PHOTOGRAPHS RICHARD BLOOM

42 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018


PENSTHORPE


From the gazebo, all the visitor can see is plants, hiding the pathways and obscuring the water.


T

HERE ARE SOME DAYS THAT ARE

unforgettable. A romantic sunset. A lazy picnic. The day a child is born. A winning cup final. The perfect birthday. Or a wave that breaks in just the right place. As you can see from this set of pictures, at Pensthorpe we have all the elements of horticultural winter ecstasy coming together in exactly the same place at exactly the right time. From the deep winter chill rises something glorious, fuelled by sunshine, clear air and a truly delicious frost. Overnight, a garden that seemed past its best is suddenly given a second wind: grasses that yesterday looked a bit beige and exhausted are now wands of frost-rimed magic, while the fading seedheads of summer flowers are crowned with tiaras of ice. This moment will not last. In a few hours the sun will have warmed the air and the frost will have lost its lustre: carpe diem people; carpe diem. This is the Millennium Garden at Pensthorpe. It was planted in 1999 by Piet Oudolf, the internationally famous Dutch garden designer and plantmeister. However, to understand its existence we must go back 30 years to the early 1970s when the site was owned by a gentleman called Bill Makins. At that time it consisted of fields bisected by the old Fakenham railway line but, in 1974, Mr Makins set about removing around a million tonnes of gravel from the site. This sort of operation usually leaves deep scars on the landscape for many years after the excavations have finished, but, in this case, islands were built and the banks planted to encourage wildlife in one of the earliest examples of ecological planting. Unsurprisingly

Clockwise from top

Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Poul Petersen’; flat, frosted seedheads of Aster umbellatus; molinia and calamagrostis surround a trunk of birch; winter sunlight highlights Sporobolus heterolepis.

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 45


Right Eurybia x herveyi these newly created ponds proved welcoming to passing and Persicaria alpina go well together even in wildfowl and, such is the their winter guise. irresistible charm of a duck, the site soon became a thriving nature reserve and home to flocks of birds. Mr Makins travelled to breeders far and wide and soon there were tufted ducks, longtails, wigeon, harlequins, goldeneye and teal. Visitors swiftly followed: twitchers, naturalists (Pensthorpe hosted BBC Springwatch from 2008 to 2010) and small children eager to feed the ducks. Where there are people there should also be a garden, so Bill Makins went on the hunt for Piet Oudolf who, at that time, was not nearly as famous as he is now and had done only a couple of gardens outside the Netherlands. At first he was reluctant, but the deal was finally sealed in a phone call on Christmas Day. The Millennium Garden is a sea of glorious perennials that sweep elegantly down a slope towards one of the many lakes. There is a network of paths that lead you through the plantings and across the water to a small island, but the best thing is that you cannot see those paths until you’re walking them. You can stand in the shelter of a small gazebo and all you will see are plants. There are birches and stands of tall shrubs that lead on to swathes of shimmering grasses – miscanthus, molinias, stipa, sporobolus and another 18 different species – interspersed with wedges of perennial colour – eupatorium, asters, agastaches, salvias, echinaceas and many, many more. They curve and billow all around you, swooping down to meet the towering Norfolk reeds on the waterside and, from there, the eye surfs across lily pads under the droop of willow and off towards the river. It is, of course, designed to be full of zing and pep throughout the summer but, as you can see from these photographs, it does not end there. No longer are these just dying stems fading away towards the mush of winter; they are suddenly elevated to sparkling starlets. It is as if the lights snap on, the music starts, the sequins shake down from the ceiling and the show begins. There was a time, not all that long ago, when gardeners eagerly cut back everything in what was called the autumn clean-up. Seedheads were severed, grasses guillotined and leaves lopped. We were left with expanses of empty brown ground that stayed that way until the springtime; undoubtedly very tidy but also completely soulless. Looking at this garden that seems completely sacrilegious – hands up who would prefer hoovered neatness to this? Precisely. In 2003 Mr Makins handed over responsibility to Bill and Deb Jordan who have added to the site. There is a new Wave Garden designed by Julie Toll, playgrounds on an epic scale and more wildfowl. One of the Jordans’ schemes was to engineer a replanting of the Millennium Garden in 2008 to take into consideration the changing conditions as trees grew and cast more shade, and also because every garden needs a kick sometimes: nature never stays still and neither do gardens. The garden is

Pensthorpe’s

BEST SEEDHEADS Some plants excel at standing proud in a frost. These ones all hold their heads up high

ASTILBE Beacons of brightness in summer, with plumes of frosted fluff in winter, astilbes grow best in moist soil.

ECHINACEA Pensthorpe mix white and pink coneflower varieties for extra longevity. Both look wonderful glazed with frost.

ERYNGIUM BOURGATII Very spiky and sculptural – like good gin, they are even better with a bit of ice.

CALAMAGROSTIS BRACHYTRICHA A really good grass for a sunny spot, with greyish-pink feathery flowers.

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 47


now run by Jonathan Pearce with the help of one other gardener and a bevy of volunteers. His job is twofold – to preserve the Oudolf garden, while extending the gardens in his own style: it is a nice mixture of curation and creation. Jonathan has put in new bridges, which have brought an entire island into the garden. “I always took photographers over there,” he explains, “because it gave the best view back to the garden. It seemed right to make it easier to access.” He has taken the spirit of the Millennium Garden and reinterpreted it in his own way using divisions from the original plants. So the burning question is: when can you cut down all this bejewelled frostiness, for it cannot stay forever? Jonathan and team attack it in January once everything is starting to look limp and tired – as do we all by new year. There used to be compost heaps for the large piles of prunings, but Jonathan has incorporated that area into the garden and has come up with a simpler solution. All plants are cut down to the ground in small bites and the clippings are left as a mulch to quietly rot back into the soil. Gardening in a nature reserve has revealed interesting pest problems. “We have trouble from the greylag and barnacle geese as they love bulbs and happily eat plants,” explains Bill. “They tend to eat the things that the muntjac and voles ignore!”

Top Textured solidago, asters and eupatorium with Miscanthus sinensis ‘Malepartus’. Above Kalimeris incisa with golden Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Edith Dudszus’.

Pensthorpe is always worth a visit: through the zingy colour of high summer into the mellow plumpness of autumn 48 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

As a solution, the Jordans have tried to subtly fence in the garden. That aside, an advantage of living in a wildfowl park is that there are no slug or snail problems: if any mollusc dares raise its head, there is usually a duck on hand to sort it out. Pensthorpe is always worth a visit: from the spring when the first green shoots show their heads, through the zingy colour of high summer and into the mellow plumpness of autumn. But we must remember that it doesn’t stop there and we occasionally get days like this: days when we need to be spontaneous. Crisp, cold days like this seldom announce their coming, so jump in the car, grab a woolly hat and get outside to feast upon the frost. ■ Pensthorpe Natural Park, Pensthorpe, Fakenham, Norfolk NR21 0LN. Open all year round, except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, from 10am. Tel: 01328 851465; pensthorpe.com


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tree (Murraya koenigii) can be difficult to buy, are worth growing so WHAT TO GROW at home. So, too, lime (Citrus hystrix), is the kaffir ? This is where the which brings flavour fun begins, and South-East Asian to the question dishes. Olives and should perhaps be: what not to melons are good choices, as grow? With the is citrus, in the right conditions form of Meyer and an attentive lemons, kumqua eye, a world ts, and clementi of possibilities nes. awaits. Lovers of orchids Plumbago auricula Could it be a tumble of could while away tending cymbidi days ta, first spotted um, phalaenopsis on a holiday in South Africa? Or and a bougainvillea dendrobium in the warm the exact shade of one cladding a favourite Spanish may prefer to consider conditions. Others holiday villa? Or even a Dickson palms and cycads legitimate sources) ia antarctica from (from , large-leaved and Tasmania? It can help to think tropical plants colourful by theme. For such as Monster a heavily fragranced room a deliciosa, as consider stephano well as crotons and bromeliads. tis, various species of jasmine The Canary Island date palm and (Phoenix canarien jasminoides, gardenia even Trachelospermum sis) is a desirable specimen pendulous, trumpet and brugmansia – the for a conservator.y -shaped flowers Fortunately many of which emerge in pastel nurseries have an offering shades of white, of conservatory-frie yellow or salmon. ndly plants to help you build a stock of attractiv Top left Showy Cooks might fancy trumpets e specimens. a conservatory of Clivia miniata Look to stockists to get a head-sta thrive in such rt on tomatoes a protected environment. Burncoose Nurserie as and chillies, but Above right s in Cornwall, consider, too, Large-le which divides its passionfruit with plants in a conserva aved collection into a vine that tory shrubs and climbers project by Vale. provides flowers. , as well as Grapevines are Above left Brilliantly The Palm Centre, a classic choice in south-west for conservatories, coloured bougain London, villea. while the leaves and the Big Plant Right Pretty of the Indian curry Centre blue in West Sussex. Plumbago auriculat All these nurserie a. s offer online ordering and delivery.

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A clipped knot garden and smart topiary give the gardens at Long Barn a structure that’s highlighted by snow.

52 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER OCTOBER 2018 2018


LONG BARN

Practice made PERFECT

Lars and Rebecca Lemonius are the current custodians of Long Barn, Vita Sackville-West’s ‘starter garden’ in Kent. Rather than feel burdened by its heritage, they have polished Vita’s novice vision to perfection WORDS CLARE COULSON PHOTOGRAPHS BENNET SMITH


T

WO YEARS AFTER VITA SACKVILLE-WEST’S

1913 marriage to Harold Nicolson, the couple bought their first country house, Long Barn, a 14th-century, Kentish barn that sits on the edge of Sevenoaks Weald. There was no garden to speak of, but several untamed acres on which the couple could cut their horticultural teeth before moving on to create their world-famous garden at Sissinghurst Castle, 15 years later. When Vita and Harold arrived, they extended the house with an additional 16th-century barn and immediately set about terracing the sloping site, adding brick paths, stone walls, hedges and topiary, and forming natural garden rooms as they went. A century on, it’s testament to those early experiments that their first English garden is a bold and dynamic space, full of strong lines, dramatic views and beguiling vistas. All of which is amplified by the atmospheric low light of winter, when a coating of powdery Top Beyond a row of snow highlights the yew columns lies the garden’s imposing countryside of the structural elements. Kentish Low Weald. Long Barn’s elevated Above left Formal rose arches, bare in winter. position delivers a Above right Strongly far-reaching borrowed perfumed yet tiny landscape to the south. flowers of sarcococca. A striking avenue of Right Boxed-edged beds next to the house itself. Irish yew sentinels forms 54 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018


a strong central axis from east to west. To the north of them is a lawn, with steps leading up to a mature box parterre and, beyond that, a long sloping rose walk that is a wonderful vantage point from which to take in the whole garden and the Kent countryside beyond. From here, a series of brick paths and steps cuts right across the garden to its far south side – level changes flanked by borders – through the Pleasaunce Lawn and below it to the Dutch garden, with its huge brick raised beds that are thought to have been laid out to a design by Edwin Lutyens. Under a blanket of snow it’s a breathtaking sight. Lars and Rebecca Lemonius bought Long Barn in 2007 and have carefully coaxed and nurtured the garden, continuing the renovation that the previous owners had carried out over two decades. For Rebecca, it’s the strong underlying design that has given this Grade II listed garden its longevity: “Vita and Harold created something that has lived on and that has a lot to do with the formal structure – it’s what you see most clearly in the winter.” Much of the autumn is spent preparing the garden for the cold months. The yew topiary, box parterre and hedges are sharply cut to produce crisp edges that look their best by the beginning of December. The meadow is mown every month and kept as short as the weather will permit, so that the first spring

“We love the frost and dew you get on the seedheads, and spiders’ webs going from plant to plant. The detailed beauty of all those bits gives us such pleasure” Above The upright

chartreuse stems of Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’ contrast sharply with the crisp, white, winter scene.

bulbs are immediately visible as they emerge from the grass. And even within the borders there’s plenty of interest. Many of the roses are tied down onto hazel hoops, increasing their floriferousness and also adding a second layer of structure to the borders in winter. Hazel clematis supports are also left in situ until spring, creating more structural interest. Many perennials and grasses are left standing over winter, which creates visual impact. “We are not overly tidy,” Rebecca explains. “We love the frost and dew you get on the seedheads, and spiders’ webs going from plant to plant. The detailed beauty of all those bits gives us such pleasure.” There are many other magical moments that occur in the garden when the cold weather strikes: the wonderful symmetry of the huge raised beds in the Dutch Garden, which are punctuated with four Prunus verecunda, take on a shimmer in the snow, with colourful clusters of recently added DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 55


Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’. Rustcoloured hornbeam hedges frame solitary statues and the crevices of stone walls are studded with the chubby leaves of sempervivum, which were gifted by Edward Flint, head gardener at nearby Tidebrook Manor. The garden has lots of mature trees and their canopies add another dimension in winter, as do single specimens such as a leaning weeping pear that sits just behind the box parterre. But it’s the century-old formal elements that bind the whole garden together – whatever the season. The original organisation of the space was partly an organic response to the topography of the site. “The garden was on a slope, so they had to terrace it,” says Rebecca. “And once it’s terraced, you’ve already started to create different rooms.” Alongside the grander areas there are more intimate spaces, including the Classical Grove, which has its own eerie, icy charm in winter, and the playful Secret Garden where tall hornbeam hedges enclose a triangular space with its own gothic oak door. Rebecca believes that this approach – transforming what was then a fairly modest house with a garden on a grand scale, with loftily conceived rooms – came from Vita’s upbringing at Knole, where she grew up in a house that covered four acres: “Really, this was a couple of farm labourers’ cottages when they arrived. Long Barn must have felt like a doll’s house to her.” The couple’s approach to the garden today closely echoes Vita’s. “We garden it in their spirit – the structure is a fantastic foil to play with, but within that there has to be an element of relaxedness.” Cue exuberant planting, vivid colours and a feeling of romantic froth and abundance throughout the growing season. And a sanguine approach to what will survive in soil that is almost solid clay. “It sometimes feels as if the whole village drains in our direction and it all ends up under the Dutch beds,” adds Rebecca. “We do our best to break it up and condition it, but it’s a continuous battle.” The couple have replaced all the structures and paths in the formal kitchen garden, including fruit cages, large beds and a timber greenhouse, as well as Rebecca’s small potting studio – all of which had to be done in consultation with English Heritage. And they’ve reworked the spring garden, or rock bank, which had become overgrown with plants such as berberis, replacing them with evergreen and variegated shrubs, including Hebe salicifolia and Viburnum tinus, encircling a carved ash seat that was crafted when a towering mature ash tree had to be felled a few years ago. Top Spiky phormium

in terracotta pots mark the flight of stone steps. Middle Skimmia ‘Kew Green’ in tight bud. Bottom Four Prunus verecunda in the Dutch Garden are set at the intersection of the paths.

“It’s not like having Beth Chatto or Christopher Lloyd’s garden. Vita was an amateur when she was here; she was young, she was just beginning”

56 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018


Left Good ‘bones’ – terracing and formal hedging – hold the garden together. Below right Lime-green bracts of euphorbia peep through the snow. Below left A hornbeamflanked view to statuary.

WINTER ADVICE By Rebecca Lemonius We treat dogwoods with a combination of pruning ideas. Some of them are cut down to the base annually for more colour and drama; others are partpruned, which means some of the stems will flower during the summer months. Use green fleece rather than white to protect your frostsensitive plants and pots – it will blend in much better in the winter light. We prune our roses early on in the winter since it helps with wind rock and also because it’s a job that you can just get on with straight away rather than waiting until February.

Despite the garden’s provenance, Rebecca insists that the responsibility does not weigh heavily. “It’s not like having Beth Chatto or Christopher Lloyd’s garden – a revered plantsman’s garden,” she explains. “Vita was an amateur when she was here; she was young, she was just beginning. If you look at her early notebooks, they are not the work of a horticulturist. They have the same questions I would have asked when I started gardening. So it’s not intimidating at all. She worked on it herself with just one gardener and when you look at the

original pictures it’s very rustic. It’s more polished now than it was in her time.” But on a crisp winter’s day with the light beginning to fade, it feels as though Long Barn is every bit as magical as it would have been back then, and 100 years on, just a little bit grander, too. ■ Long Barn, Long Barn Road, Sevenoaks Weald, Kent TN14 6NH. Open by prior arrangement, for groups of ten or more. Please contact Rebecca Lemonius at rlemonius@icloud.com for details.

Wherever possible, bring your garden furniture indoors over the winter months. This will help to preserve it and keep it clear of the dreaded green algae. But make sure that you still have somewhere to sit outside on sunny days – we always leave a Lutyens bench in place over winter.

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 57


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BOOKING DETAILS Tours include garden entry, guided tours, coach travel and a tour representative. Both hotels are four-star. To view the full itineraries, visit heritagetouring.co.uk. A non-refundable deposit of £175 (Lakes) or £150 (Cheshire) per person is required to confirm all reservations. Tours are administered and managed by Heritage Touring and all reservations should be made directly with them on behalf of The English Garden magazine. Heritage Touring has been offering quality garden tours for over 25 years. To book your place, or for more information, contact: Heritage Touring, Flaxmans, West Tytherley, Salisbury SP5 1NR. Tel: 01794 342249; email: tours@ heritagetouring.co.uk Web: heritagetouring.co.uk

IMAGES ALAMY; RHS TATTON PARK

Gardens of the Southern Lake District & Lancashire


TOP 10 PLANTS

It’s a Cover-Up

These captivating shrubs take on a new identity when trained up a sunny wall

M

WORDS LOUISE CURLEY IMAGE GAP PHOTOS/FHF GREENMEDIA

ost of us think of climbers when we want to cover a wall or fence – but there are shrubs that will do the job, too. These are plants that are not natural climbers but, with a little training and a spot of pruning, will happily clothe a vertical surface. And because they

tend to be slower growing than many climbers, they can be more easily controlled and shaped. It works both ways. Some shrubs are too tender to survive in borders, yet growing them up against a warm sheltered wall gives them the protection they need to thrive. Training a plant against a wall is also a great way to show off its most attractive features.

1 Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Rubra’ This deciduous shrub has a spreading habit and a tangle of spiny branches that can look untidy. Trained on a wall like an espalier fruit tree, however, it is transformed. Bare branches in spring are smothered with pretty, cupshaped, scarlet-red blooms; glossy, dark-green leaves and edible, apple-like fruit follow, although cooking is needed to render the fruit palatable. Grow in full sun or part shade in fertile, well-drained soil. Height: 2.5m.

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 59


TOP 10 PLANTS

2 Cotoneaster horizontalis

3 Abeliophyllum distichum

Also known as wall spray, this shrub grows horizontally to create a herringbone pattern. Year-round interest comes from dark-green, glossy leaves that take on fiery tones in autumn, white flowers in spring and red autumn berries. Preferring full sun and well-drained soil, it’s great for covering cold, north-facing walls. Height: 1.8m.

A relative of forsythia, this slender-branched shrub has delightful, almond-scented, white blooms that emerge in early spring on bare branches. It will appreciate the warmth and shelter of a wall, and looks lovely trained into a fan shape. It needs well-drained soil and full sun, but is otherwise unfussy. Height: 1.5m.

4 Ceanothus ‘Concha’

5 Jasminum nudiflorum

This evergreen shrub erupts with a profusion of deep purpleblue flowers in late spring and early summer. Its dense, arching branches are covered in green, glossy leaves, and can be trained to cover a sunny wall, giving the plant the extra protection it needs from the cold. Prefers well-drained soil and full sun. Height: 3m.

Winter jasmine will sprawl if left to its own devices, so train it against a wall. Cheery yellow flowers, which are sadly unscented, stud bare stems from January to March, and in spring and summer it makes a good framework for clematis to scramble through. Prefers full sun or partial shade and well-drained soil. Height: 3m.

60 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018


IMAGES GAP PHOTOS: MARK BOLTON/CAROLE DRAKE/TORIE CHUGG/RICHARD BLOOM; GARDEN WORLD IMAGES

6Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ Garrya is a vigorous, evergreen shrub with leathery, dark-green leaves, which, from December to February, produces fabulously long silvery-grey catkins, like icicles. Buy a named male variety, such as ‘James Roof’, since these have the most attractive catkins. It’s frost-hardy, but benefits from the extra warmth and shelter of a wall. Train into a fan or espalier and plant in well-drained soil in sun or part shade. Height: 3m.

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 61


7 Pyracantha ‘Saphyr Rouge’

8 Chimonanthus praecox

Firethorns can have an air of ‘car park plant’ about them, but train the flexible new growth on a wall or around doors or windows, and they look quite stylish. Great for wildlife, the white spring flowers are loved by bees, while the berries are enjoyed by birds in autumn. This tough plant will grow anywhere to a height of 4m.

This deciduous shrub has spicy-scented winter blooms, dangling from bare stems. The flowers have odd, waxy yellow petals, held in layers like a petticoat, and a maroon centre. Train against a southfacing wall so the added warmth will ripen the wood, encouraging more flowers. It prefers well-drained soil and grows to 4m.

9 Fremontodendron ‘California Glory’

10 Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’

A native of the USA’s West Coast, this large, vigorous shrub, producing vibrant yellow flowers from spring to autumn, will bring a touch of Californian sunshine to your garden. It isn’t fully hardy so needs the extra warmth of a sunny wall, plus plenty of space to stretch out, and thrives in poor, well-drained soil. Height: 6m.

An attractive, variegated evergreen, normally grown as a freestanding shrub, this can be planted at the base of a wall where it will grow up rather than out. The grey-green leaves are edged with white, taking on blushed pink tones as the temperature drops. This tough plant will happily grow in most places. Height: 1m.

62 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

IMAGES GARDEN WORLD IMAGES; GAP PHOTOS/HOWARD RICE/MARTIN HUGHES-JONES

TOP 10 PLANTS


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An evening performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol by The Chapterhouse Theatre Company TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE THROUGH OUR WEBSITE

mittonmanor.co.uk ADULT £16 | CHILD £10 | FAMILY (2 Adults & 2 Children) £46 10% DISCOUNT (parties of 10 or more) Enjoy our Festive Foodie Treats & Licensed Bar. Seating is provided but you are welcome to brings rugs. For more information, visit our website, or phone to speak to our friendly team.

Telephone: 01785 291391 email: info@mittonmanor.co.uk Mitton Manor is a 7-acre country garden that was started in 2000 and has been developed from an overgrown wilderness. The garden surrounds a Victorian manor house and contains a range of different styles; formal box and topiary, prairie planting and natural woodland bordered by a stream. Stunning water features and sculptures just add to the magic.

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PLANT FOCUS The scarlet berries of Sorbus commixta clash wonderfully with its cerise autumn foliage.

All Things Bright & Beautiful Mountain ash and whitebeam are both members of the diverse sorbus family, which is renowned for its versatility and brilliant autumn colour. Andy McIndoe selects some of the best varieties for gardens PHOTOGRAPHS RAY COX DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 65


PLANT FOCUS

W

ith their flaming foliage and colourful berries, sorbus make for wonderfully ornamental trees at this time of year. The genus is a large one, with around 135 varied species ranging from deciduous small shrubs to large trees, most of which are easy to cultivate. For autumn colour that lasts into early winter, sorbus, which includes the whitebeams and the mountain ashes (also known as rowans), are well-worth growing – although it’s the cultivars with white, pink and yellow berries that retain their fruit for longer. Greedy blackbirds can strip a tree with ripe red or orange berries in just a day or two. 66 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

Above The burnished berries of Sorbus ‘Copper Kettle’ persist long after leaf fall.

Whitebeams have rounded or oval leaves, mostly with silvery undersides, which are at their most attractive in spring. Those commonly known as mountain ashes have fern-like, pinnate leaves that often colour richly in autumn. All sorbus have small, white, sometimes cream-and-pink-tinged flowers carried in clusters. These are followed by rounded fruits in late summer and autumn, although it’s the mountain ashes that excel when it comes to fruit production, bearing showy berries in large flattened or drooping clusters. The sorbus that are usually grown in gardens tend to be trees that perform over more than just one season, producing spring flowers, summer foliage, autumn colour and abundant fruits. They are extremely beneficial to wildlife: not only providing shelter, but also nectar for pollinators and plentiful fruit for garden birds in autumn and winter. Choosing a sorbus with pinnate leaves can be an advantage; their small leaflets easily disperse at leaf fall without smothering grass and planting beneath. The native mountain ash or rowan is Sorbus aucuparia, an extremely hardy small tree that is widely distributed through northern and Central Europe. Although it grows on most soils it prefers acid conditions and is often found colonising inhospitable exposed sites. Its bright scarlet berries light up exposed moorland in Scotland and Wales as the heather beneath fades and bracken turns russet. There are many cultivars, for example the lovely Sorbus ‘Apricot Queen’, which produces abundant, yellow-orange berries in early autumn, followed by fiery tints of scarlet, purple and orange. With a rounded, well-branched head it makes an excellent screening tree for a small garden. Sorbus ‘Copper Kettle’ is similar, but with a more oval-shaped head and copper-coloured fruits that persist well, usually after the leaves have fallen. It is thought to be a seedling of the widely planted Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’. Sorbus ‘Eastern Promise’ is a small, oval-headed tree with ascending branches, bred at Hillier Nurseries by plantsman Alf Alford. The dark-green foliage turns purple, then flame-red in autumn, creating a superb background for the deep pink berries that are borne in large hanging clusters. The effect is stunning and reminiscent of a rich Persian carpet.


Top left Sorbus ‘Apricot Queen’ bears plentiful yellow-orange berries. Above Large clusters of red fruits are produced by Sorbus wilsoniana. Below right Sorbus sargentiana from China. Below left Sorbus ‘Eastern Promise’. Left Pale yellow-berried Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’.

One of the best-known rowans, Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’, is renowned for its fabulous autumn colour and profusion of yellow berries. A small, graceful, roundheaded tree, it also has an unfortunate reputation for being susceptible to fireblight, a fungal disease that causes the sudden death of certain woody rosaceae species – sorbus being members of the rose family. This may be a problem in rural areas, particularly where hawthorn is infected, but is rarely an issue in urban gardens. Sorbus ‘Autumn Spire’, meanwhile, is another seedling of ‘Joseph Rock’; slender and upright in habit and ideal for small gardens. The Japanese rowan, Sorbus commixta, is similar in character to Sorbus aucuparia, but with bolder foliage, pointed leaflets and thicker, straighter twigs, with long, pointed, sticky winter buds, sometimes resembling those of a horse chestnut. Fruits are generally smaller, but are carried in large clusters. The species and cultivars colour brilliantly in autumn and make robust small trees. Sorbus commixta ‘Embley’ originated at Embley Park, Hampshire, in the 1960s and it is a dependable favourite, bearing showy, orange-red fruits in large, heavy bunches. The rich autumn colour is reliable, arriving later than that of other rowans and lasting longer. The large shiny green leaves of Sorbus commixta ‘Olympic Flame’ turn brilliant scarlet in autumn. Its creamy white flowers are carried in large flattened clusters and are followed by massive bunches of small, orange-red berries. The stems are strong and straight, with young trees resembling rustic candelabras. Sorbus sargentiana and Sorbus wilsoniana both hail from China and are associated with the notable DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 67


PLANT FOCUS plant hunter Ernest Wilson. Sorbus sargentiana is the larger of the two, with a rounded head, rigid branches and cherry-red buds. Sorbus wilsoniana is similar, but grows much more vigorously, even though it is a smaller tree. Both are exceptional in terms of their vivid autumn leaf colour and the large clusters of red berries they produce. The lovely Koehne mountain ash, Sorbus koehneana may take some seeking out. Another Wilson introduction, it has reddish shoots and pinnate leaves, similar to those of Sorbus aucuparia. The familiar creamy-white flowers are followed by bunches of comparatively large, pearl-white berries. These last well into winter on the bare branches. Sorbus pseudohupehensis ‘Pink Pagoda’ is one of the most popular pink-berried cultivars of all. This is a robust, small-to-medium tree with a head that can be oval or round, and lovely blue-green foliage with broader leaflets than many rowans. The pink

Right Beautiful ‘Pink

Pagoda’ is one of the most popular varieties of sorbus for gardens.

GROWING ADVICE

How to cultivate sorbus Get new trees off to a good start and be vigilant for problems such as fireblight There is a huge variety of sorbus to choose from and most are easy to cultivate. Sorbus aria (whitebeam) varieties are good on chalk, whereas S. aucuparia (rowan) are not – they are short-lived on chalk soils and much prefer acidic conditions. Rowans are accommodating trees when it comes to underplanting, and the smaller varieties are perfect for incorporating into planting schemes. They also look good in small groups, and work well as stand-alone specimens. Sorbus trees can be transplanted as bare-root, field-grown specimens from late autumn until early winter. Container-grown stock is widely available at any time of the year. Good ground

68 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

preparation and firm staking and tying are essential for establishment. Sorbus are members of the rosaceae family, so mycorrhizal fungi applied to the roots when planting aids root development. As with any new tree, regular watering during the first growing season is essential. Sorbus are mostly problemfree but can suffer from canker, which causes lesions on the branches. This can be overcome by hard pruning. Fireblight can be a problem in some areas. It results in the swift collapse and browning of the foliage, followed by die-back of the stems. The condition is untreatable and an infected tree should be removed and destroyed. However, neither condition should be an obstacle to planting these lovely trees.

fruits are freely produced in loose clusters as the leaves begin to develop warm, glowing, autumn tints, and its dark-brown shining twigs work perfectly against a backdrop of dark evergreens. Botanists have argued about the classification of this species and its cultivars; you will usually find it listed by suppliers as Sorbus hupehensis ‘Pink Pagoda’. For the smallest gardens of all, the fine-boned Sorbus vilmorinii is one of the very best trees you can choose. Upright in habit, with narrow, fern-like, dark-green leaves, it is a light and delicate tree. The leaves turn a deep red-purple in autumn, and the pink, almost pearl-like berries will persist on the bare branches throughout winter. It is the perfect small tree to add height to a bed or border planted for winter interest and also works well underplanted with winter-flowering heathers. ■ The National Collection of Sorbus is held by Phil Bolt at Redhall, Kirriemuir, Angus DD8 4PZ. Tours can be arranged by emailing phb@redhall.org.uk at least several weeks in advance, and cost £3 per person. redhall.org.uk.net


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PLANT COLLECTORS

Bewitched

T

here are plants that are fast, and plants that are slow. Witch hazels, members of the hamamelis genus, are in the latter category: they’re relatively slow-growing, practically impossible to propagate from cuttings, and their seed takes two years to germinate. For these reasons they have to be propagated by grafting, meaning that they are more expensive than most garden shrubs. They also require patience… but oh, how rewarding! On a cold winter’s day, the scent of their strange little yellow or red-brown flowers can carry for many metres. It was their hardiness that first impressed National Collection Holder Chris Lane when he was an instructor at Hadlow College in Kent. “It was during the 1978-79 winter, a very cold one,” he recalls. “The temperature dropped to -19ºC for a couple of nights and there was a plant of H. x intermedia ‘Ruby Glow’, which looked really shrivelled up in the morning but by midday had come back to life.” He was so impressed that he decided to start collecting them. Working with the college head, he tried to source every variety he could. “We got 15, and we thought we had them all... ah, the naivety of youth!” Now, after a lifetime in the nursery trade, working first as a contract propagator and then owning his own business, and with National Collection status since 1997, Chris has some 130 named cultivars and “various seedlings of wild-collected origin”. He also has three other National Collections, of wisteria, amelanchier, and parrotia – a genus of trees with very good autumn colour. Indeed, in 2014 he won the Brickell Award for Excellence in Cultivated Plant Conservation. While at Hadlow, Chris remembers a crucial breakthrough when he met some Dutch students at the college, who told him about Kalmthout Arboretum in Belgium. One of Europe’s legendary plant collections, Kalmthout was created by Robert and Jelena de Belder. Robert was an Antwerp diamond dealer, Jelena his plant-mad Slovenian wife. The couple and their staff were responsible for breeding 70 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

The scent of their strange yellow or red-brown flowers can carry for many metres Above Chris Lane, a National Plant Collection holder of great patience. Below H. x intermedia.

some of the best witch hazels of all, which flourished on the moist acidic soils of their estate. “Breeding isn’t the right word for witch hazels,” Chris explains, “it’s more selecting.” They are not easy to cross-pollinate, and new ones are selected from seed collected from existing good varieties that have been grown together. Germination may be slow, but plants don’t flower until they’re three years old. “It takes some time for the plants’ true potential to be realised,” Chris says, “but grafting speeds things up, so we can put material from a promising looking plant onto H. virginiana, our usual rootstock, and get a quicker idea of how good it is.” Like any good breeder, he discards most plants: “I recently burnt a lot of them,” he confirms. Chris uses his plants as a genetic resource, having bred six cultivars of his own so far – for example ‘Foxy Lady’. Named after the Jimi Hendrix track, it is “the reddest so far, although it doesn’t have such a strong scent”. The collection has also been used as the basis for an RHS trial, which rarely happens outside RHS gardens. The trial ended in 2016 and evaluated which were the best varieties and helped to classify them as early, mid-season or late. While selection has largely been based on flower colour, recent work has focused more on size and shape. Chris describes his own personal favourite as ‘Brimstone’ an upright form of yellow H. pallida – a plant that works well in smaller gardens. ■ Visit plantheritage.com for more on National Plant Collections. Chris occasionally holds open days – check witchhazelnursery.com for 2019 dates.

IMAGES CLIVE NICHOLS; SHUTTERSTOCK

Noel Kingsbury visits Chris Lane’s National Collection of hamamelis, better known as witch hazel, and falls under the spell of this fragrant, slow-growing shrub


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CHRISTMAS FOLIAGE

DECK THE HALLS

WORDS VIVIENNE HAMBLY. IMAGE THE WHITE COMPANY

What could be better as Christmas approaches, than a home traditionally dressed with holly, ivy, mistletoe and other festive foliage, fresh from the garden

Accompany your festive wreaths with seasonal lighting. Botanical candles, from £26, by The White Company, thewhitecompany.com DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 73


CHRISTMAS FOLIAGE

Evergreen foliage is ideal for creating a stylish seasonal table setting. Below A fulsome gathering of spruce and mistletoe makes a fetching decoration.

T

here are few things more satisfying at Christmas than gathering armfuls of greenery to bring into the house to use as decoration. Gardeners tend to have a head start on this, for with a little creative thought there is a bounty of foliage to be had from most gardens, which will form the basis of garlands, wreaths and table decorations. Add to that a few well-chosen pieces – faux branches or berries, glossy and jewel-bright, a string of twinkling fairy lights, and a cluster of votives – and the setting for a memorable Christmas is complete: at little cost but with all the triumph of having created something yourself.

TRADITIONAL PRACTICE It is of course holly, ivy and mistletoe that are most keenly associated with the festive season. Throughout the period, churches ring with the well-known carol ‘The Holly and the Ivy’, and while its famous tune is contemporary, arranged by Sir Henry Walford Davies (1869-1941), the roots of its words are much older. It is reputed to be one of few songs to have survived the puritanical assault of the 17th century, in which many Christian 74 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

festivities were prohibited because of their Pagan or Roman Catholic associations. Holly is associated with Saturnalia, the riotous, egalitarian Roman festival celebrating the god Saturn, although Christians came to see the red berries of the plant as a symbol of the blood of Christ. The ubiquity of this evergreen must surely have led to the popularity of holly over the millennia. It is one of the most common native trees in England and, in the past, it was believed to be bad luck to cut down a holly tree. This meant that many older trees continue to survive, both in ancient woods around the country as well as in the hedgerows that divided the large arable flatlands of East Anglia. Grown domestically, traditional holly (Ilex aquifolium), bearing the familiar leaf with multiple spines, makes a near impenetrable hedge. Hybrids such as Ilex x altaclerensis ‘Golden King’ and ‘Lawsoniana’ are more accommodating, however, with smooth, oval-shaped variegated leaves ending in a single, spiny tip, ideal for cutting and using in decorative schemes. Holly has male and female plants and they must be grown together if berries are to be produced.


GORGEOUS GREENERY The second of the two plants in ‘The Holly and the Ivy’, ivy will romp its way over garden walls, across forest floors, up trees and along hedgerows. It is linked to ancient fertility beliefs, no doubt because, like holly and mistletoe, it remains very much alive throughout winter when so much else has died back. Ivy (Hedera helix) is most often found growing alongside holly in woods where it supports wildlife by offering food, nesting and roosting sites, as well as a degree of groundlevel protection from frost. Its small yellow flowers, which appear in autumn, are followed by clusters of attractive purple-black berries borne on short stems in winter. These, along with that familiar trailing foliage, are ideal for inclusion in Christmas floral arrangements and work well with the papery forms of dried hydrangeas, for instance. In the garden, Hedera helix ‘Glacier’ is a longstanding favourite for use as groundcover, and its variegated leaves will brighten dull corners of dry shade. It is ‘Ivalace’, however, that is ideal for festive arrangements. Its long stems wrap easily into wreaths and will give a flourish to any bouquet.

MYTH AND ROMANCE In midwinter, when the countryside is layered with glittering frost and fallen snow and leaves have long since gathered on the roadsides, look up to skeletal trees on the brow of the next hill and, if you are fortunate, for it is not so common now, you

Top The glass-like white berries of mistletoe are a distinctive winter delight. Above Male and female hollies must be planted in proximity to one another for the female plants to bear fruit.

may see unruly balls of mistletoe silhouetted in the branches. A plant of myth and legend, English mistletoe (Viscum album) possesses an otherworldly character, bearing near-translucent white berries and slim, springy branches, which, at times, appear to have a life of their own. Mistletoe was beloved of the Celts and Druids, perhaps because it is very much alive when so much else is seemingly inactive. This parasitic plant will, in fact, grow only on bare branches, and on some 200 tree and shrub species. Given its vitality, it is little wonder that the plant is so closely associated with fertility. Like many Christmas traditions, the practice of kissing beneath mistletoe has very early origins and the plant is associated with the worship of Frigg, the Viking goddess of love and marriage. In their book, England in Particular, Sue Clifford and Angela King note that mistletoe’s heartland is the West Country and the West Midlands. It’s at home in the cider-apple and perry-pear orchards of Somerset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, where “in some old cider orchards, mistletoe is encouraged for cutting at the Christmas market”. Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire, is the heart of the mistletoe-growing region, and this year the town’s annual Mistletoe

EXPERT ADVICE

Perfect ARRANGEMENTS Florist Judith Blacklock advises on creating the best displays

IMAGES; ALAMY; SHUTTERSTOCK

When gathering foliage for festive arrangements, always cut the stem at an angle above a leaf node. Doing so allows water to flow more freely up the stem than if it were cut below. Flowers such as hydrangeas and roses may droop if an air bubble in the stem stops water moving up. Avoid this by trimming an inch off stems and cutting at an angle to aid water flow.

Remove all leaves that aren’t actually necessary to the overall look of an arrangement. This way, water will be able to reach the flowerhead more easily and won’t be wasted on supporting unnecessary foliage. Keep vases scrupulously clean to prevent a build-up of bacteria, which will shorten the life of cut material. Change the water regularly.

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DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 75


Great Plants FOR FOLIAGE

CHRISTMAS FOLIAGE

Grow these evergreen shrubs to cut and bring into the house for festive decoration

ARBUTUS UNEDO

EUONYMUS

SARCOCOCCA HUMILIS

These bright, edible fruits give rise to the common name of strawberry tree, but the winter foliage is just as appealing.

Choose variegated Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’, ‘Emerald Gaiety’ or Euonymus japonicus ‘White Spire’.

Use the berries and fragrant flowers of this hardy shrub, which tolerates shade and adds structure in winter months.

HEDERA HELIX ‘IVALACE’

CAMELLIA X WILLIAMSII

LAURUS NOBILIS

This variety has glossy, crimped-edged leaves with long stems, making it perfect for use in Christmas wreaths.

Small-leaved Williamsii varieties of camellia, such as ‘Jenefer Carlyon’, make an excellent foil for textured leaves.

Bay trees are a superb year-round source of fragrant leaves, which have culinary as well as decorative uses.

SKIMMIA JAPONICA

ROSEMARY

TAXUS BACCATA

Varieties such as ‘Rubella’ offer the bonus of pink-blushed flower buds, which complement its shiny foliage.

Every garden should have a rosemary bush. Use the branches of this culinary herb in wreaths for its fresh, clean scent.

With its robust stems and glossy needles, yew, widely used in hedging, is a traditional element of festive garlands.

76 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018


Festival takes place on Saturday 1 December. See tenbury-mistletoefestival.co.uk for details.

agapanthus and hydrangea, plus saved poppy seedheads, will add form to schemes, whether they are left looking natural or sprayed with a touch of gold, bronze or silver.

INSPIRED CHOICES Beyond these three traditional choices, a whole world awaits. Florist Judith Blacklock suggests growing a few key plants for foliage, and supplementing them with bought cut flowers and decorative pieces. Cypress is ideal for making striking garlands and wreaths, and its scent, at once sharp and sweet, epitomises Christmas. Add to this scented spruce, perhaps Picea pungens ‘Hoopsii’, the blue-green needles of which resemble ice crystals, for paler tones in floral schemes. Or incorporate the trimmings from the Christmas tree for effective use of materials. There are less obvious choices, too. Rosemary, for remembrance, of Christmases past or loved ones lost, offers delightful, fragrant stems to wrap into garlands and include in table arrangements, with a simple sprig resting on a napkin making an inviting setting. Common bay offers contrast to more textured, spiny offerings, and is usually robust enough to withstand some cutting back. Camellias, especially the small-leaved C. x williamsii varieties, as well as arbutus and skimmia, offer similar. For the sweet, unmistakable scent of winter flowers, consider using Sarcococca confusa, Lonicera fragrantissima and Daphne bholua, but try to keep these well away from dining tables where the aroma can be overpowering. To add to a white flower scheme, include forced bulbs, such as paperwhite Narcissus papyraceus ‘Ziva’, N. ‘Inbal’, or lily of the valley. Dried stems of astrantia,

LITTLE EXTRAS

Top Double-sided green velvet ribbon is used to finish a festive garland. £39. sophieconran.com. Above For inspiring wreath ideas, look to Petersham Nurseries. petershamnurseries.com

Whatever bounty the garden offers, it can help to have a few favourite pieces of faux material to hand. Some suppliers label these pieces ‘everlasting’ – a somewhat euphemistic term to differentiate their product from fake pieces of lesser quality. The White Company and The Chelsea Gardener offer sprigs of spruce and yew, as well as knots of berries to twist into garlands, as do Sarah Raven, Sophie Conran and Oka. And while it is possible to dry slices of orange in an oven on a low setting, the citrus scent filling a warm kitchen, if time is of the essence, outlets such as Petersham Nurseries and Daylesford have a good choice, while formal floristry suppliers such as Country Baskets have a sound online offering. All good floral designers have an online presence these days. On Instagram, Miss Pickering, Aesme, Susanne Hatwood of The Blue Carrot, Jo Flowers and Florence Kennedy at Petalon are just a few of the florists who will offer inspired ideas for Christmas celebrations, assembling foraged, gathered and bought materials to glorious effect. ■

IMAGES ALAMY; SHUTTERSTOCK

It’s a WRAP! As school holidays begin, enlist children to take part in ‘gathering’ walks, and encourage them to collect fallen pine cones, conkers, beech nuts and seedheads to use to decorate giftwrap. Bring your spoils home, dry them briefly beside the fire, Aga or in the oven to remove any moisture, and then spend a happy few hours decorating them with glitter or a gold

paint. Use florists’ wire or strong glue to secure them to gift tags and ribbons, or add to wreaths and garlands. Good quality paper, can be bought from Rowen & Wren, alongside other Christmas decorations. See rowenandwren.co.uk • Gather fallen materials sparingly, leaving plenty behind for local wildlife.

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 77


LIME CROSS NURSERY

Family Trees At Lime Cross Nursery in East Sussex, sisters Vicky and Helen Tate have collaborated with two French sisters to sell tiny, potted ‘Bijoux’ conifers alongside a breathtaking range of traditional specimens WORDS JACKY HOBBS PHOTOGRAPHS CLIVE NICHOLS

The stock beds at Lime Cross Nursery, filled with miniature conifers of every shape and shade.

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 79


LIME CROSS NURSERY

C

onifers bring untold magic and nostalgia to the home or garden, particularly around Christmas when their outstretched, needleclad limbs are imbued with resinous scent. Sisters Vicky and Helen Tate offer a variety of fascinating trees at their specialist conifer nursery, Lime Cross in Herstmonceux, East Sussex, where they are busy preparing for their seasonal festivities. Christmas lunches are served throughout December, while Helen hosts festive tastings of locally sourced organic wines. There’s also carol singing and Christmas tree decorating competitions. The traditional wreath-making workshop begins with a forage for ingredients in the nursery’s woodland and pinetum, where armfuls of boughs, cones and other natural ingredients are gathered. Alongside the seasonal range of traditional pre-cut Christmas trees, is a year-round selection of conifers with far greater longevity. The sisters have amassed more than 600 different and unusual conifers, many hand-grafted or grown from seed. “There’s literally a conifer for every garden,” enthuses Vicky. “Whether you have a shady or a sunny site, dry or

80 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

Above left Helen Tate, co-owner of Lime Cross, carrying tiny conifers from the ‘Bijoux’ range. Top right Pinus contorta ‘Chief Joseph’ is a slowgrowing pine that turns brilliant yellow in winter. Above right Almost spherical Pinus strobus ‘Minima’ can cope well with dry conditions.

waterlogged ground, or a large or small pot, there will be something precious to fit the bill.” And top of the bill at the moment is Lime Cross’s recently introduced and charming range of ‘Bijoux’ conifers: exquisite potted miniature trees from Champagne in France, which are most covetable. They make the perfect portable Christmas gift for enthusiasts and discerning gardeners, and will be a treasured focal point on even the smallest balcony. Lime Cross was founded in the 1940s by Vicky and Helen’s grandparents, who grew wallflowers and tobacco. It was the sisters’ late father, Jonathan Tate, who introduced conifers and established a wholesale, and then a retail, nursery. Helen and Vicky are keen to continue their family heritage. “We were privileged to grow up in a horticultural family,” acknowledges Vicky. “I’ve been passionate about plants since I was tiny, sitting in the greenhouse potting up spider or money plants.” Vicky studied horticulture and worked at the Auckland Botanic Gardens, New Zealand, while Helen graduated in viticulture and oenology. Jonathan Tate was an expert grafter, who travelled the world in search of rare shrubs and


Lime Cross’s pinetum, which Vicky describes as: “So peaceful in the early morning… a magical carpet of greens and texture.” SEPTEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 81


LIME CROSS NURSERY

French Connection How a collaboration brought ‘Bijoux’ conifers to Lime Cross

Pascale and Marie-Laure

H

Bijoux conifers are particularly

Gombault on a British

enchanting at Christmas. Some

Conifer Society tour of Ireland in

specimens’ colour makes them

2014. Their instant connection led

appear dusted with snow, while

to a commercial collaboration

others are imbued with the pine

between the two nurseries, with

aroma associated with Christmas.

the Tates exchanging their prized

Most popular is snowball-shaped

Pinus montezumae ‘Sheffield

Abies koreana ‘Silberkugel’, with

Park’ with the Gombaults’

tiny snow-white buds and an

miniature ‘conifères Bijoux’, true

intense resinous fragrance. Abies

miniature conifers, each in its own

koreana ‘Kohout’s Ice Breaker’

hand-thrown, terracotta pot.

is another winter wonder with

elen and Vicky Tate met

These petite specimens were an

With their year-round appeal,

white-frosted needles. Pinus

ingenious response to a gap in

aristata ‘Sherwood’ has a rotund

the Parisian market, where there

Christmas tree silhouette, while

was high demand for small,

standard velvety Chamaecyparis

year-round, potted plants that

lawsoniana ‘Gnome’ and Abies

could withstand balcony living.

koreana ‘Blauer Eskimo’ are

But their appeal has spread

reminiscent of miniature lollipop

beyond that. Pascale and Marie-

bays. Pinus strobus ‘Sea Urchin’,

Laure now select more unusual,

meanwhile, is shaggy, with a

slow-growing conifer varieties to

character all of its own.

showcase, with top-work grafted

These conifers are the jewel in

onto more disease-resistant

the nursery’s crown and give a

rootstock. Each is neatly clipped,

somewhat nostalgic group of

to enhance its diminutive frame,

plants a very modern twist. Look

and the frost-proof pots are filled

out for Helen and Vicky’s

with sufficient compost and

horticultural events nationwide,

slow-release nutrients to support

where they showcase smaller

the tree for up to three years,

specimens from Lime Cross

during which time it will simply

Nursery’s unique collection.

need watering. After three years,

Or visit the nursery to join in

the tree will need repotting, root

seasonal festivities and pick

trimming and soil replenishment.

up the perfect present.

Chamaecyparis lawsonia ‘Gnome’

82 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

Pinus strobus ‘Sea Urchin’

Above The incomparable trees, many of which Korean fir Abies koreana he propagated at the ‘Silberkugel’ has tiny nursery. These striking snow-white buds and specimens, including an intense fragrance. the llama-like weeping Siberian spruce, Picea omorika ‘Pendula Bruns’, are planted in the nursery’s pinetum, where the beauty and diversity of this often maligned genus is wonderfully showcased. Vicky describes the pinetum as: “So peaceful in the early morning; a myriad of uprights, balls and columns; a magical carpet of greens and texture. The conifers are tactile, textural and tough, treasured qualities that are often unnoticed or overlooked.” “Dad had the ability to pick out unusual witch’s brooms, potential new garden cultivars to put into production,” explains Vicky. Witch’s brooms are spontaneous ‘sports’ found high up in ancient trees, sufficiently different to merit their own nomenclature. Pinus wallichiana ‘Vicky’, was one such find. Discovered at Wakehurst Place, its thick pony-like mane reminded Jonathan of his daughter’s mass of wild red hair. He also propagated Picea koyamae ‘Bedgebury Cascade’, a broom found by Bedgebury Pinetum’s dendrologist, Dan Luscombe and the only pendulous Picea koyamae in existence. Jonathan’s expertise was also called upon to rescue rare and endangered species. He successfully propagated from a 100-year-old Pinus montezumae ‘Sheffield Park’, one of the last specimens, bringing this ancient tree back into circulation. ‘Sheffield Park’ is the nursery’s flagship pine and is now part of a conifer exchange between the Tate sisters and twolike minded French sisters, Pascale and Marie-Laure Gombault, from specialist conifer nursery, Pépinières des Laurains. ‘Sheffield Park is now available to the French market, while the French ‘Bijoux’ conifers are now available from Lime Cross (see panel left). And it’s this fusion of preservation and enterprise that makes Lime Cross so special. ■

Lime Cross Nursery, Herstmonceux, Hailsham, East Sussex BN27 4RS. Cut Christmas trees, Christmas decorating competitions, Christmas lunches and other festive events are available throughout December. Tel: 01323 8332299; limecross.co.uk


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IN SEASON

Bittersweet Ending WORDS VIVIENNE HAMBLY IMAGE SHUTTERSTOCK

As the year in the vegetable plot draws to a close, the striking green stems of Brussels sprouts puncture the gloom and make a delicious seasonal treat

N

othing quite beats the satisfaction of carrying a stem of freshly cut, tightly packed Brussels sprouts over a shoulder on a winter morning. With the vegetable garden offering little else for the table at this time of year, the sheer abundance of sprouts is a triumph against the winter chill and heralds the excitement of Christmas. These leafy globes, with their dense hearts, divide opinion, but those who loathe them may not have tried a well-cooked sprout. They keep their flavour

better when steamed – boiling can render them soggy – and newer varieties have had much of the bitterness bred out. Butter, salt and pepper are all they need, but sprouts are also good with cream and mustard, roasted with orange zest, mixed with chestnuts and pancetta, or sliced thinly to be enjoyed raw in salads. While green and purple varieties are the mainstay of the sprout crop, leafy sprout tops from the plant’s crown are now having their moment. Kalettes, meanwhile, are a nutty-tasting hybrid of kale and sprouts, making a toothsome cold-season offering.

Above Sprout tops are

a true delicacy, uniting the complex flavour of Brussels sprouts with the sweet silkiness of spring greens.

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 85


IN SEASON

Growing advice

RECIPE: DAYLESFORD’S SPROUT SALAD Serves 4, as a side INGREDIENTS 3-4 sprout top leaves, finely chopped 12 Brussels sprouts, finely chopped 4 tbsp parsley, finely chopped ½ small fennel bulb, finely chopped 3 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted 1 tbsp sunflower seeds, toasted 1 blood orange, segmented

DRESSING 3 tbsp lemon juice 3 tbsp olive oil Generous pinch of salt Lots of freshly cracked black pepper METHOD 1 Place the chopped sprout tops, Brussels sprouts, parsley and fennel together in a large bowl. 2 Roughly chop the pumpkin and sunflower seeds and toss half of them with the ingredients in the bowl.

3 Whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing in a jar and pour it over the salad, tossing everything together again. 4 Leave everything to sit for about five minutes to allow the sprout tops to soften a little before scattering over the remaining seeds and the blood orange segments. Serve straight away. For more recipes from Daylesford visit the website at daylesford.com/recipes

Sow seed in trays in late winter or early spring. At 10cm, harden off and plant deeply for a long tap root. Plant your sprouts in a bed previously used for beans – their nitrogenfixing ability will help to nourish the sprout crop. Ripen sprouts at the same time by removing the plant’s growing tip. Heap soil around the stem then tread it down to help prevent wind rock. Net plants to protect from cabbage white butterflies and pigeons.

‘Rubine’

‘Kalette’

‘Revenge’ AGM

‘Maximus’ AGM

This heirloom variety bears purple sprouts that can be harvested from November to January. ‘Rubine’ has a traditional flavour and its colour intensifies in the cold.

The flavours of sprouts and kale combine in the frilly open florettes of this new hybrid. Larger companies, such as Thompson and Morgan, can supply seed.

A stalwart F1 hybrid, which crops abundantly from vigorous, uniform plants that offer tightly packed, wellformed globes, with a good level of disease-resistance.

This early-season hybrid was developed for commercial growers, and is the type most often seen in supermarkets. It produces heavy crops of smooth, tight sprouts.

86 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

IMAGES ALAMY; GAP PHOTOS/JO WHITWORTH/JONATHAN BUCKLEY

Varieties to grow


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BARE-ROOT ROSES

Summer Promise

WORDS CLARE FOGGETT IMAGE GAP PHOTOS/HOWARD RICE

Winter is bare-root planting season, the best time of year to establish new roses in your garden, ensuring beautiful displays of wonderfully fragrant flowers for years to come

Rose ‘Harlow Carr’ in full bloom in summer is a sight to behold, grown here with Salvia nemorosa ‘Amethyst’. DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 89


BARE-ROOT ROSES

Above Beautiful roses at Parham Gardens in Sussex; bare-root types will establish fast to create displays like this in just a few years.

T

hink of roses and summer months spring to mind, when gardens are filled with their gorgeous colour and scent. In winter we couldn’t be further away from their flowering season, yet this is the best time of year to create new rose displays: it’s the start of bare-root season. Bare-root roses (those that are dug up from the nursery’s fields during dormancy and come without soil around their roots) are delivered from November onwards and can be planted throughout the winter. Now is the time to order for the widest choice of varieties and, come summer, the reward will be the most colourful, fragrant and quintessentially English garden flowers there are.

90 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

If you are new to rose gardening, do not be put off by a perception that roses are complicated. Think of them merely as a flowering shrub, and the prospect immediately becomes less daunting. Also, be heartened by the fact that starting with bare-root roses is the best possible way to establish new plants. The only problem is likely to be deciding which rose – or roses – to grow. There are thousands to choose between. Nostalgic, old-fashioned varieties and species roses definitely have a place in the garden, but they often flower only once and can be more vulnerable to disease. That said, many gardeners will argue that a few black-spotted leaves are worth tolerating for these roses’ magnificent, usually heavily scented, flowering display. More


Recommended ROSES

IMAGES GAP PHOTOS/JOHN GLOVER/CLIVE NICHOLS/ROB WHITWORTH/ANNA OMIOTEK-TOTT/JONATHAN BUCKLEY/JO WHITWORTH/PAUL DEBOIS; ALAMY

Britain’s rose growers select their favourite varieties for planting this winter

‘MORTIMER SACKLER’ has lovely dark foliage, dark stems and very few thorns; it’s very different to the average rose. Michael Marriott, David Austin Roses

‘LOVESTRUCK’ is such a healthy variety,

flowering until really late in the season – and it was 2018’s Rose of the Year. Colin Dickson, Dickson Roses

‘JACQUELINE DU PRÉ’ is charming. She flowers early and she flowers long – absolutely gorgeous and very popular. Philip Harkness, Harkness Roses

‘SUPER TROUPER’ is amazing. It’s so bright and vibrant, it really sharpens up people’s gardens in an ‘in your face’ way. Elizabeth Sawday, Apuldram Roses

‘EIRENE’ was launched to mark 100 years since the end of World War I and as my granddad was a veteran, it’s my choice. Diana Woodman, Fryers Roses

ROSA MUTABILIS has a long season and its varying flower colour is lovely. It can be grown as a shrub or a climber. Tina Limmer, Peter Beales Roses

‘CHANDOS BEAUTY’ has such a lovely fragrance and beautifully shaped buds that are equally beautiful opening out. Alison Cunningham, Pococks Roses

‘ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS’ is such a good rose. It has a lovely perfume, it’ll grow in a pot or in the garden – it’s got everything. Keith Jones, C&K Jones

‘ESMÉ’ is our newly introduced rose with

large cream blooms, a strong scent of peaches and a compact habit ideal for pots. Henry White, Trevor White Roses DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 91


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BARE-ROOT ROSES

Simple rose pruning Proper pruning feels drastic, but brings great results

P

runing roses isn’t as complicated as many gardeners fear. A good general rule for all rose bushes is to cut them down by half in January or February, before buds burst. Although it seems drastic, the vigorous new stems that result (right) have much greater flowering potential. It also removes old stems that can harbour fungal disease. When roses are more mature, you can thin out some of the oldest stems, too, removing them at the base. Just be sure to complete the task before the buds open or the plant will have wasted its energy producing shoots that will be pruned away. Climbers and ramblers are slightly different. Tie in the

strong new stems of climbers and remove older ones as necessary, pruning last year’s flowering shoots back to three or four buds. Ramblers can be pruned the same way if you need to check their growth; if not they can be left alone.

IMAGES GAP/JO WHITWORTH/JONATHAN BUCKLEY/MARTIN HUGHES-JONES

modern varieties repeat flower and have normally been bred with health and disease-resistance a priority. Most also have excellent scent. David Austin’s English roses are well known, beautifully combining the best qualities of both old and new varieties, but other new roses are produced by equally well-regarded breeders across the country. One good way to tell if a rose is worth growing is to be guided by the Gold Standard: tough trials, judged by rose growers, to assess new roses’ qualities, from disease resistance to vigour, flower scent, colour and how many are produced. Each year the best one is awarded Rose of the Year. You might also want to look up the International Rose Trials, held annually in Glasgow, where new roses are also put through their paces and judged by experts to assess the very best. Of course, the other way to find your next rose is simply by falling in love with one in a summer garden – by their nature, many prove irresistible. All roses fare best in an open, sunny site where they will benefit from good air circulation – just don’t put them anywhere too exposed. Roses are hungry plants, so prepare the soil well by adding plenty of well-rotted manure or compost – soil Below left Bare-roots may look unpromising, rich in organic matter is but are full of potential. key to their success – and Below right Temporarily perhaps a handful of heel in bare-root roses bonemeal. A good rose if planting is delayed.

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 93


BARE-ROOT ROSES

Right Deadhead old,

spent blooms regularly, to keep your roses in flower for longer.

GROWING ADVICE

How to plant bare-root roses Bare-root roses can be planted during their dormant season from now until February

Soak the roots before planting.

C

hoose an open, sunny position and prepare the soil by digging in lots of well-rotted manure or compost to a depth of at least 40cm. Dig a large hole and work a handful of bonemeal into its base. You could also use a sachet of beneficial fungi such as Rootgrow – the mycorrhizal fungi that helps plants’ roots establish in the soil. Before planting, soak the roots of the rose in a bucket of water for 20-30 minutes. Also, check the roots over and prune off any damaged ones.

94 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

Dig an ample-sized hole.

The majority of roses are grafted onto a specially chosen rootstock. When planting, make sure the graft union (the join between the rose and its rootstock) is 5-7cm below soil level. This helps stop the rootstock putting out vigorous shoots (suckers). The graft union is easily spotted – it’s the bulge at the bottom of the shoots. Firm the rose in with your heel to get rid of any air pockets in the planting hole and water in well. Then prune the shoots of bush roses hard back to about 20cm (8in).

water tend to encourage rose roots to come to the surface, rather than heading downwards, so give them a good watering can-full each time you water. Once roses are growing, feeding and mulching will help ensure their best performance. All roses appreciate fertile soil, especially those that repeat flower, so in addition to initial soil preparation, you should spread a thick layer of well-rotted manure or compost around the base of the bushes in spring every year. Work a specialist granular rose fertiliser into the soil around the bottom of the plants at the same time, repeating in mid-summer. A healthy, established rose can get by on relatively little water, but in very hot spells, a good soaking will help. Keep summer displays looking good by regularly removing the old, dead blooms. Many, if they’re not too thorny, will simply snap away in your hand, but if the rose you’re deadheading is multi-headed and you just remove the spent flowers, you will leave behind a stalk, so use secateurs to cut back to the first true leaf. With once-flowering roses, don’t deadhead if you want autumn hips. ■

Rose suppliers Apuldram Roses Tel: 01243 785769; apuldramroses.co.uk C&K Jones Tel: 01829 740663; jonestherose.co.uk David Austin Roses Tel: 01902 376300; davidaustinroses.com Dickson Roses Tel: 028 9181 2206; dickson-roses.co.uk Fryers Roses Tel: 01565 755455;

fryersroses.co.uk Harkness Roses Tel: 01462 420402; roses.co.uk Peter Beales Tel: 01953 454707; classicroses.co.uk Pococks Roses Tel: 01794 367500; garden-roses.co.uk Trevor White Roses Tel: 01603 755135; trevorwhiteroses. co.uk

IMAGES GAP PHOTOS/VISIONS/TIM GAINEY

should reward you for at least 15-20 years, so it pays to be thorough with your preparation at this stage. Another benefit of bare-root roses is that they do not need to be planted straight away. If the parcel arrives from the nursery and you can’t plant that day, or the ground is frozen, simply ‘plant’ them temporarily into a bucket of damp compost and because they are dormant they will happily wait. Just don’t let the roots dry out. Although the tuft of twigs poking out from the soil after planting doesn’t look promising, in spring, buds will burst, stems will grow, and flowers won’t be far behind. Water newly planted roses thoroughly, especially during dry spells. Small applications of


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NEW SEEDS

Bright New Things

IMAGES GAP/CHRISTA BRAND

Doormats resound with the thud of new plant catalogues at this time of year – let us ease the decision-making with our guide to some of the best new annual flower seeds for 2019

Cheerful annuals such as cleome, snapdragons and Ammi majus are all easy to grow from seed, letting you ring the changes each year.

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 97


NEW SEEDS

T

98 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

AGERATUM ‘LEDA’ Fluffy ageratum flowers are a favourite of bees and butterflies; this one is bicoloured blue and white. £1.95, Chiltern Seeds.

COSMOS ‘XSENIA’ This new half-hardy annual cosmos has striking rose-pink flowers with a flush of peachy-orange at their centre. £3.99, Suttons.

IMAGE JONATHAN BUCKLEY

he group of plants known as annuals often divides opinion. There are some annual flowers that are all too often viewed with disdain: too gaudy, too municipal and perhaps too brash. But the full gamut of annuals is so broad, and they encompass so many colours and styles, that to take this view is to do them a disservice. What other plants let you experiment so freely and make such dramatic changes each year, while being so costeffective and quick to prove what they can do? Growing from seed sown in spring and flowering in summer, nothing is faster than an annual. If you have a new garden and empty spaces to fill, they are a rapid and budget-friendly way to do it before more permanent planting goes in or matures. They also make perfect fillers for gaps in more established borders, while many are adored by cut-flower growers and are grown in dedicated cutting patches for their striking blooms and prolific stems. As if these reasons weren’t enough, the nectar-rich flowers are highly attractive to wildlife, too. Sowing annuals each year is obviously a highermaintenance approach to gardening than simply planting a border with perennials that reappear year on year all by themselves. But the extra effort of sowing also affords an opportunity to experiment: a new colour scheme, different combinations, a plant you’ve never grown before – and all for the price of a packet of seeds. If it doesn’t work, no matter: next year you can try something else. Hardy annuals are the easiest seeds to start with, often labelled HA in catalogues and on packets. They can be sown in pots or trays under cover, pricked out individually into modules, and grown on before being planted out where you want them, after a period of hardening off to get them used to being outside. Alternatively, because they’re hardy, they can also be sown directly into the soil where you want them to flower, around March or April. Be guided by conditions: if weed seeds are germinating, it’s a good sign the soil temperature is right. Half-hardy annuals, denoted by HHA in catalogues, can’t go outside until the risk of frost has passed. Sow these under cover in April and May, then harden off and plant out when you’re sure frosts are over for your area. Whether they are hardy or not, pretty much all annuals enjoy an open, sunny site and decent soil, although this shouldn’t be overly fertilised. Too much nitrogen can encourage leafy growth rather than flowers. Incorporating organic matter such as garden compost to improve soil condition will be more than enough. Leafing through the seed catalogues is half the fun, but for inspiration, this selection of newly introduced annuals, with subtle colours, pretty flower forms and great garden performance, can easily be woven into an English garden.

AGASTACHE ‘SANGRIA’ Lemon-scented leaves and edible flowers. £2.25, Chiltern Seeds.

ANTIRRHINUM ‘CHANTILLY WHITE’ A prolific and long-flowering snapdragon. £4.95, Sarah Raven.


Year of the nasturtium

‘Bloody Mary’ has creamy yellow flowers flecked with crimson. £2.99, Suttons.

POPPY ‘HUNGARIAN BLUE’ A sophisticated rich plum colour. £2.49, Thompson & Morgan.

HOLLYHOCK ‘CRÈME DE CASSIS’ Intricate maroon-veined flowers. £2.75, Chiltern Seeds.

‘Cherry Rose Jewel’ sports hot pink semi-double blooms. £1.60, Kings Seeds.

LINARIA MAROCCANA A ‘baby’ snapdragon with purple and white flowers. £2, Dobies.

POPPY ‘LAUREN’S GRAPE’ Deep purple tissue-paper blooms. £2.10, Mr Fothergill’s.

‘Ladybird’ is yellow with red spots and is great in pots. £2.29, Thompson & Morgan.

BRACHYSCOME ‘BLUE STAR’ A half-hardy annual producing compact plants that bear starry blue-violet flowers. Its rounded habit makes it ideal for growing in containers. £1.85, Johnsons.

‘Ladybird Rose’ has dusky pink flowers with dark spots. £2.65, Plants of Distinction. DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 99


NEW SEEDS

SWEET PEA ‘CAPEL MANOR’ Named after the renowned college, this variety has large frilly blooms. £2.35, Mr Fothergill’s.

SWEET PEA ‘FRAGRANT TUMBLER’ This pretty, new variety will spill over the edge of pots or raised beds. £2.99, Suttons.

Seed suppliers Chiltern Seeds Tel: 01491 824675; chilternseeds.co.uk Dobies Tel: 0844 9670303; dobies.co.uk Johnsons Tel: 0333 321 3103; johnsons-seeds.com Kings Seeds Tel: 01376 570000; kingsseeds.com Mr Fothergill’s Tel: 0333 7773936; mr-fothergills.co.uk Plants of Distinction Tel: 01449 721720; plantsofdistinction.co.uk Sarah Raven Tel: 0345 0920283; sarahraven.com Suttons Tel: 0844 3262200; suttons.co.uk SWEET PEA ‘WILLIAM AND CATHERINE’ Sweet, peachy-pink blooms. £2.45, Mr Fothergill’s. 100 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

SWEET PEA ‘BLUEBELL CARPET’ Mauve, rambling groundcover. £2.49, Dobies.

Thompson & Morgan Tel: 0844 5731818; thompson-morgan.com


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The English Garden 2018.indd 1

07/09/2018 12:38:51


WRITERS’ GARDENS

“A Garden for Gods to Walk”

Agatha Christie’s beloved garden at Greenway in Devon, was a surprising source of inspiration for her crime writing – as well as a place to escape the pressures of celebrity

IMAGE NATIONAL TRUST IMAGES/ANDREW BUTLER; ALAMY

WORDS AMANDA HODGES

Looking down the slope of Greenway’s garden, with the River Dart gleaming in the background

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 103


WRITERS’ GARDENS

I

t was 1942 and crime novelist Agatha Christie was in a reflective mood, musing on Greenway, the family holiday home situated on a promontory overlooking the river Dart. Writing to her second husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan, she mused: “I sat on the seat overlooking the house on the river… it looked very white and lovely – I get a kind of pang over its beauty – what excitement to possess it! I thought tonight, sitting there – it is the loveliest place in the world – it quite took my breath away.” She had bought the place in 1938, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd having cemented her reputation as a writer. Greenway was reachable only by narrow lane or boat and she was attracted by its seclusion and limited access, which meant she could withdraw from public life whenever necessary. “I specialise in murders of quiet, domestic interest,” she’d said of her literary oeuvre… but the overwhelming fame they brought necessitated times of retreat. Christie had known Greenway since childhood. And it had lingered in her imagination as an idyllic dwelling. “One day we saw a house up for sale that I’d known when young... So we went over to Greenway, and very beautiful the house and grounds were. A white Georgian house of about 1780 or 1790, with woods sweeping down to the Dart below, and a lot of fine shrubs and trees.” For her it was “the ideal house, a dream house”, and Greenway possessed, as she described it in Hallowe’en Party, “a garden for gods to walk”. In her novel Endless Night she’d ponder the idea of this perfect place, calling it “something you want so much that you don’t quite 104 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

Above A cheerful throng of red hot pokers look out from the border in the Top Garden.

know what it is... the thing that mattered most to me. Funny that a house could mean that.” Agatha Christie was born into an affluent family in Torquay in 1890. The family home, Ashfield, would become a touchstone for her until it was demolished in the 1960s. For Christie, hearing the name would transport her back to a nurturing Victorian childhood. “One of the luckiest things in life that can happen is to have a happy childhood,” she once reflected and this was something she had indeed known, despite the early death of her father. Exploring Ashfield’s gardens from an early age fed her imagination, something that, as a mature writer, she could recapture by roaming Greenway’s beautiful landscape. Agatha and Max would fill their 30 acres of semi-wild grounds with hydrangeas, rhododendrons, magnolias, unusual shrubs and rare trees. Christie was very proud of the magnificent gardens, participating in local flower and produce shows, while Max kept a notebook dedicated to the camellias and other shrubs he planted. In 1926 Christie’s naturally positive temperament received a seismic shock when, just months after her beloved mother’s passing, her adored first husband, Archie, revealed an affair and her world crumbled. Her subsequent and mysterious 11-day disappearance (resulting in her discovery at a Harrogate spa) puzzled the public. She remained notoriously guarded about the subject, Greenway subsequently giving her all the privacy she needed. Despite adversity, Christie was always able to appreciate the simple joys of life. As she wrote in her posthumously published autobiography, “I like


Top Borders bursting with summer colour. Above Agatha Christie, author of 66 novels. Below right To quote Poirot: “So many paths and one is never sure where they lead.” Below left Christie kept a copy of each of her books at Greenway.

In 1959 Christie’s daughter, Rosalind Hicks, bought Greenway from her mother, moving in after the deaths of Agatha in 1976 and Max in 1978. She and her husband Anthony continued to develop it, and the grounds were gifted to the National Trust in 2000, full access being granted nine years later. “The truth is I’ve got a guilty conscience about Greenway… Max has his Winterbrook and it’s really only I who cling on to Greenway because I love it so,” Christie wrote in later life, aware that practical sense might suggest relinquishing her adored holiday home. This place had nourished her psyche so profoundly that she was eternally grateful to it. ■ Greenway Estate, Greenway Road, Galmpton, near Brixham, Devon TQ5 0ES. Tel: 01803 842382; nationaltrust.org.uk/greenway

IMAGES NATIONAL TRUST IMAGES/ANDREW BUTLER/MARIANNE MAJERUS; ALAMY

living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” And Greenway was a place that both absorbed and stimulated her keen imagination. She did little writing while in residence, since this was a holiday home where she’d retreat with family and friends after any novel was completed. Summers and Christmases were enjoyed here, relaxing by the river, playing croquet or simply reading out chapters of a new mystery. She and Max kept Winterbrook in Wallingford for general use while Greenway was a seasonal retreat. But it was special to her because it sustained her creativity – and it was here that she stored a copy of every book she wrote. Greenway both conjured memories of precious time at Ashfield and became the perfect backdrop in several of her books, namely Five Little Pigs, Dead Man’s Folly and Ordeal by Innocence. In the garden, woodland drifts down the hillside towards the beautiful Dart estuary, zigzagging footpaths leading to a battery that dates from the Napoleonic era and a nearby boathouse that offers views of Dartmouth and Kingswear. In Ordeal By Innocence, the house becomes Sunny Point and the Greenway Quay bell is used to summon the ferry. And in Dead Man’s Folly Greenway appears as Nasse House, the boathouse becoming the site of a murder. When ITV filmed its final Poirot episode in 2013, Dead Man’s Folly, Greenway was chosen as the location. Although Poirot, he of ‘the little grey cells’, would say of Nasse House: “I find it very confusing, so many paths and one is never sure where they lead. And trees, trees everywhere…” He would also concede: “It is a beautiful house with beautiful grounds. It has about it a great peace, great serenity.”

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 105


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BOOKS

The Reviewer

A selection of the best garden writing on the shelves this month

RHS The Secrets of Great Botanists

WORDS VIVIENNE HAMBLY; CLARE FOGGETT

by Matthew Biggs Mitchell Beazley, £15.99

Domestic gardeners stand on the shoulders of early botanists and plant collectors. The specimens that we now take for granted – fuchsias, hydrangeas, camellias and countless others – have all been acquired by the hunter-adventurers of centuries gone by. The tradition continues today, with plant hunters such as Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones of Crug Farm Plants regularly making forays into remote locations in search of undiscovered species. In The Secrets of Great Botanists, Matthew Biggs takes a close look at the contributions of these botanists to modern gardening. His book spans the gardening age, beginning with Pedanius Dioscorides (AD 40-90), the father of pharmacology, and concluding with Patrick Blanc (born 1953) to whom we can attribute the numerous green walls now adorning global cities. If you have ever wondered quite how your Pieris formosa var. forrestii came to be growing in your garden, this is the book to read – we have George Forrest to thank for it, by the way, and the original specimen continues to grow at Ness Botanic Gardens in Cheshire.

The Greenwood Trees

How Plants Work

by Christina Hart-Davies Two Rivers Press, £15.99

edited by Stephen Blackmore The Ivy Press, £30

In the stillness of the winter landscape, reduced to what is absolutely necessary for survival, are the silhouettes of trees: edging pastures, cresting distant hills or filling valleys with tangles of grey branches that bow and creak in the wind. Many of these will be native species – oaks, beeches and chestnuts, of course, as well as alders, black poplars, hazel, blackthorn, hawthorn, ash and, if you’re lucky, elm. All of these are considered by acclaimed botanical artist and illustrator Christina Hart-Davies in The Greenwood Trees, a wonderful, heartening reminder of the place these plants have had in our lives since time began. Released by independent publisher Two Rivers to mark the 800th anniversary of the Forest Charter, this modest work is both brilliantly illustrated and filled with the kind of information and folklore that is in danger of being lost from common knowledge as life becomes increasingly urban and driven by technology. Accurate drawings mean that tree identification is easy, and text is both intelligent and straightforward, making this book ideal for young and old alike.

For many, the word ‘botany’ will bring back dusty memories of school biology lessons spent grappling with the difference between xylem and phloem. It’s an essential branch of plant science, but not always the most exciting – books on botany tend to be firmly rooted in the ‘text book’ bracket. Yet How Plants Work is an exception in that regular gardeners will want to read it, too. That’s not to say the subject has been dumbed down here. Consultant editor Dr Stephen Blackmore hails from the University of Reading, an establishment renowned worldwide for its botany faculty. However, the subject has been made fascinating. Engagingly presented with informative photos and clear diagrams, it’s actually a page-turner. Want to know about the ‘mega sperm’ of cycads or the ancient plants that evolved to be pollinated by weevils? How waterproof air sacs help floating plants float or how some flowers have their own built-in central heating? This book answers the questions about plants you never realised you had, and celebrates the beautiful, albeit everso-slightly geeky, world of botanical science at the same time. DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 107


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Q&A In The Galanthophiles, Jane Kilpatrick and Jennifer Harmer, snowdrop obsessives themselves, examine the origins of this particularly compulsive garden pursuit Jane: I have about 30 cultivars and many of them have come from Jennifer. One of the most important things we have learned from writing the book is that the only way to protect rare snowdrops is to distribute them as widely as possible. The galanthophiles we feature in the book all made a point of passing their best snowdrops on to others. This is why we can still grow them today. What is it, do you think, that compels people to seek out and collect these plants?

Jane: Once you begin to look closely, it is quite astonishing how variable these little white flowers can be. Once you get hooked on the differences, there is no going back. Many cultivars are small and slow to bulk up, so you can have quite a large collection in a small garden. Jennifer: Collecting snowdrops gives keen gardeners an interest during the darkest months. It is always so exciting to see little snowdrop ‘noses’ poking through the soil on a dank winter’s day When did interest in snowdrops really take off?

Jane: Soldiers returning from the Crimean War in 1856 brought back bulbs of Galanthus plicatus, the Crimean snowdrop. When it flowered, gardeners realised there was more to the genus than G. nivalis, the common snowdrop. Over the decades, keen collectors – galanthophiles as they are known – built up large collections of cultivars and variants. Jennifer: It hasn’t peaked yet – collectors will already pay hundreds of pounds for a single bulb! How did you become interested in galanthophilia and what persuaded you to write the book?

Jennifer: In 2005 I gave a lecture on galanthophiles and have been researching their stories ever since. They are a fascinating group: excellent general gardeners, all with a sharp eye for a good plant. Jane: I am an historian and when I became interested in Jennifer’s galanthophiles, we joined forces. How many types of snowdrop do you each have?

Jennifer: I started collecting rare cultivars in 2004 and now have around 40 variants. Really serious galanthophiles have hundreds.

Who are the main collectors of galanthus today and where can the best collections be seen?

Jane: February is the best month to see snowdrop collections. So many people collect snowdrops today that it is impossible to name the main collectors. However, in addition to having breathtaking displays of naturalised snowdrops, both Cambo in Scotland and Colesbourne in Gloucestershire grow a large selection of cultivars. Jennifer: Many snowdrop events where enthusiasts can learn about cultivation and buy new varieties are held around the country in the new year. Myddelton House in Enfield has a snowdrop sale in January, and in February there are festivals at Shaftesbury in Dorset and Shepton Mallet in Somerset. What does the future hold for galanthophiles?

Jennifer: Previously snowdrop collectors were confined to small circles of friends and acquaintances, but modern propagation methods mean anyone can collect rare snowdrops now. Jane: In long-established gardens, snowdrops have had over a century to hybridise, so interesting finds are still being made by those with a discerning eye. ■

The Galanthophiles by Jane Kilpatrick and Jennifer Harmer, Orphans Publishing, £45

DECEMBER 2018 THE ENGLISH GARDEN 109


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02/06/2015 09:53

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ALITAG PLANT LABELS

Andrew Crace www.andrewcrace.com

www.alitags.com Annual labelling is a thing of the past with Alitags. Simply write on Alitags aluminium labels with Alitags or HB pencil. The pencil will react with our specially made aluminium tags and become permanent. Alitags labels can also be punched with Alitags character punches & jig.

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LAST WORD

Ring Out the Old Christmas trees are a tradition dating back not quite as long as you’d expect, prompting Katherine Swift to update her own festive customs

114 THE ENGLISH GARDEN DECEMBER 2018

The larch was all green and rustling and resinscented, the house filling with its aroma”

Surely that much is true, isn’t it? Well, holly and ivy is right, but mistletoe isn’t mentioned until the 17th century, and as for kissing under it, that doesn’t get a mention until the end of the 18th century. Each Christmas tree has its own story. My own tree decorations consist of years of remembered Christmases: the see-through plastic cut-outs of stars used by my parents to decorate the tree in the austerity years of the 1950s; the balls of silver cigarette paper and wool with which we decorated our own first tree in the 1970s; the angel orchestra made of palm leaves, of which only three remain, bought in Oxford in the 1980s; the gold and silver balls I bought on Wyle Cop in Shrewsbury; and the little brass candle-holders and gilt chains brought from Ludlow when we first came to live at Morville. Every Christmas Eve we would go down to the plantation and choose a young larch, wandering between the trees until we made our selection, watching it being cut down and hoisted onto the tractor to be brought to the house, then erecting it in the hall – all 14 feet of it, the top lashed to the upstairs bannisters, all green and rustling and resinscented, the house filling with its aroma. Now 15 orange trees, sowed that first winter when I was making marmalade, have crowded out the tree. Large and leafy, they share the house with us in winter and we decorate them instead, with the same old decorations, plus some new ones – and, of course, the gold and silver balls still splashed with white candle wax, smelling faintly of the resin of Christmas trees past. ■

ILLUSTRATION JULIA RIGBY PORTRAIT BEVERLEY FRY

W

e all know that the Christmas tree was introduced into this country from Germany by Prince Albert, don’t we? Not so, apparently. Victoria remembered Christmas trees as a child at court in the 1830s, the practice having been introduced at the end of the previous century by her grandmother Queen Charlotte, the German wife of George III. But it was Albert who made them fashionable. When a portrait of himself and Victoria with their children gathered around their Christmas tree appeared in The Illustrated London News in 1848, they became all the rage, the centrepiece of the new family-oriented Christmas we know today. But surely our affection for the tree is a symptom of our atavistic yearning for ancestral forests, isn’t it? Well no, not really. Even in Germany, that land of forests, the Christmas tree seems not to date back any further than the 16th century, and it has distinctly Christian origins. In the days leading up to Christmas, a mystery play about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, prefiguring Jesus and Mary (Jesus was seen as ‘the second Adam’, who would redeem the world), was played out in the streets. The action centred around the Tree of Knowledge, represented by an evergreen tree hung with red apples – the origin perhaps of the round glass globes we hang on Christmas trees today – and it was this ‘paradise tree’ that was erected in homes on Christmas Eve. Before that, native evergreens were gathered by pagan Anglo-Saxons, who decorated their spaces with greenery for any festival, a custom that persisted into medieval England. All that decking the halls with holly and ivy and mistletoe.


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