Sincerity in the Garden!

A feature of many gardens which open to the public is that of constant change, perpetual renewal, ceaseless novelty and chronic frivolity, all in an effort to remain interesting and to attract paying visitors. Last year’s “height-of-fashion” and “must-have” plants have been discarded and the “latest thing” has been installed to be, in turn, discarded for next year’s extravaganza. This can be interesting and entertaining – and it seems to work well for those gardens – but I feel that it leads to a garden which lacks foundation, good bones or any sense of permanence or substance and these are essential elements of good garden design. The resulting garden may not have the smash, wallop, bang of the shop window style but it does have a quality which allows one to visit with great enjoyment again and again for there is depth there, depth of design and plant choice and combination, and depth of time and development. While one is a Banksy; the other is a Botticelli. One is beautiful and passing; the other beautiful and lasting.

This is the feeling I get when I visit Mildred Stokes’ garden in south County Tipperary. It is a garden which has been developed in sympathy with its surroundings; which is perfectly suited to its environment; a complimentary front to the house and comfortable in its countryside. It is of its place – that old chestnut of the genius loci; it matches and compliments the spirit of its setting. Everything feels at home there and the garden visitor feels comfortable because here everything fits together without clash, flash or pretence. Here the gardener has developed a garden for herself, in a manner which she likes and which suits her situation. It is authentic and honest and has integrity. It is a sincere garden rather than a show garden.

Enjoy the slideshow!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mildred opens her garden to groups and as part of the local Tipperary Open Gardens. She is in Killurney, Ballypatrick, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. See Shirley Lanigan’s book for details.

Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook

Advertisements

A “Blooming Marvellous” Book!

Zoë Devlin has never lost that childhood delight in the beauty of nature whether it be the excitement of seeing a flower new to her, being entranced once again by the daintiness of a daisy or the fluttering beauty of a butterfly – “wisps of aerial delight”.

Her childhood love of wildflowers developed into a lifelong pastime and in her “retirement” years it has become an all consuming passion which has her travelling to all corners of the country in search of our natural wildflower beauties.

Blooming Marvellous.indd

What runs through the book is the excitement of it all, of this love of nature, the sense of joy and happiness which is intricately bound up in Zoë’s adventures – “something like a Christmas Eve as a child, the stocking at the end of the bed, hopes high as a house.”  As she says, “It was pure magic!”

The book is arranged by the months of the year with each month introduced by a note on the origin of the month’s name, a spread on the butterflies “on the wing” at the appropriate months and then to her first love, the plants…but not as we might know them. These are all plants with stories, with memories, with recollections and connections, with adventures and misadventures, with people and places; each, especially the first encounter, irrevocably etched in her memory and recounted here with an infectious and entertaining humour.

Blooming Marvellous (3)
“On the Wing in September” 

A visit to the Rock of Cashel was significant only because “there was a beautiful Rue-leaved Saxifrage on top of one of the walls there.” The office staff war game came to a sudden end when she spotted an Early Purple Orchid and left her boss undefended – his demise did not reflect well on her. Picnic entertainment has varied from watching a prancing stoat to a horse being shampooed in a river. Pete, her constant companion, husband and roadie on her treks, was the one who stood to ward off bulls or feed donkeys with Marietta biscuits though his actions shocked her on one occasion. I could not repeat the circumstances of her finding her first Fly Orchid on The Burren but she certainly would not wish to have had the occasion photographed. There are many, many “added value” moments in this book – along with the beautiful descriptions and photographs there are the personal stories that bring such things to life and make them memorable and even more enjoyable.

Blooming Marvellous (9)
The Cowslip – a childhood favourite for Zoë Devlin

She credits and recalls those who inspired her generously: her grand-aunt, the watercolourist, Gladys Wynne; her cousin Dr. Kathleen Lynn and another grand-aunt Winifrede Wynne who introduced Primula ‘Julius Caesar’ which I grow in my garden and now value all the more as I hadn’t realised its connection with Zoë. She also thankfully acknowledges the assistance she has received from many other plant enthusiasts, for she is one of a network of friends who keep each other informed of current flowerings and notes of locations.

Blooming Marvellous (5)
The Marsh Helleborine – one of those plants which send shivers of delight when found

Plants evoke memories and childhood recollections for Zoë and this calendar of anecdotes brings together fond and happy days over her lifetime and, given the interconnectedness of nature, it ranges beyond flowers to birds, insects, history, herbal practices, literature and poetry. Invasive plants are a concern and the children of today are her hope for the future – introduce them to flowers with a hand lens, she recommends, and they will be enthralled by their detail and beauty. Her love of flowers has lead her to make a wildflower meadow at home and also elderflower  cordial, jams, tarts and sloe gin but Pete baulked at her Ramsons pesto – there is only so much a loving husband can endure!

Blooming Marvellous (6)
Blue-eyed Grass – one which delights all wildflower lovers

Though this book is very informative for the plant lover it is above all a collection of light-hearted and humorous tales from Zoë, arranged in a style which allows one to dip in for a short read or to see what might be of interest in any particular month. Above all it is infected with her enthusiasm and love of plants and it is a delight to read.

[Blooming Marvellous – A Wildflower Hunter’s Year, Zoë Devlin, The Collins Press, 2017, Hardback, 295 pages, €16.99, ISBN: 978-1-84889-327-6]

Available online at The Collins Press

Also by Zoë Devlin:

 

Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook

 

 

 

 

Gardening for Wildlife

The countryside is no longer the haven for wildlife that it once was. Changes in how land is used and managed along with other factors have lead to an alarming fall in the population of all wildlife species. Accommodating the needs of wildlife into how we manage our gardens may smack of desperation and futility but not to do so will have far reaching consequences not alone for wildlife but also for the planet and for us.

The enthusiastic gardener will be immediately reassured by the author’s introductory chapter which dispels several commonly held misconceptions or “myths” as he calls them about adapting our gardens to suit wildlife. All need not go to nettles, brambles and of rotting log piles and every garden, of whatever gardening approach or style, has something to offer and every gardener can add to their garden in many simple ways so that the space around the house is even more beneficial to wildlife. This book will show you how to do this.

Gardening for Wildlife

The author recalls the experience of one person who gardened with wildlife in mind. Jennifer Owen has an average suburban garden in Leicester and set out to identify and record every species she encountered in the garden. Over the course of thirty years she met with 2,673 species, among these were 94 species of hoverfly, 375 species of moths and 442 species of beetles. She even came on one little wasp which was a species new to science – a first record and that was in a small garden. We really don’t know what lives all around us!

There are four sections in the book. The first deals with various wildlife groups – birds, butterflies, bees, moths and mammals – and outlines their habitat, food needs and how we might provide such in our gardens. Not surprisingly, greater attention is given to birds as they are the  most popular of our wildlife groups, being more visible, generally pretty and often entertaining – and useful to the gardener when they remove another range of wildlife – garden pests!

Another section gives guidelines for creating different habitats – woodland, shrubland, wildflower meadows, wetland and ponds along with recommendations for compost making and keeping compost heaps and all this in a manner which seeks to accommodate wildlife within existing garden areas. In other words, the author does not call for a demolition of our existing garden but rather some tweaks within this framework which would be of benefit to wildlife – and to the gardener, I think.

We are given a listing, with illustration and description along with benefits for wildlife, of the top 500 plants we might use in our garden to benefit wildlife and also a calendar of gardening for wildlife.

All in all this is a book which is well organised, well presented, and very attractive. The information is presented in a very easily accessible manner which makes the book a very convenient source of information and the illustrations are perfectly clear which is a wonderful help to recognising and identifying many of the species we may encounter on our patches. Perhaps this was not the immediate aim of the author but one could quickly become proficient at identifying quite a wide range of birds, insects etc from reading this book and that is may be the start of a lifelong interest.

This is a good book with the important message that we can, through many small ways, have a very positive effect on our environment and the creatures which inhabit it with us.

[Gardening for Wildlife, Adrian Thomas, Bloomsbury Publishers, London, 2017, Hardback, 288 pages, £25, ISBN: 978-1-4729-3857-2]

Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook

 

Three Wishes

Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wishes’ was a chance seedling in the garden of Wendy Smith in Victoria, Australia. As she is an enthusiastic salvia grower there were several candidates which might have been the parents but a Salvia buchananii x Salvia splendens cross seems the most likely, the first contributing the deep magenta colour and the latter the dramatic calyxes.

Salvia 'Wendy's Wishes'2
Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wishes’ 

 

Salvia specialist Sue Templeton recognised that it was an outstanding plant and suggested to Wendy that she have the plant patented, a process which was handled for her by Plants Management Australia, a licensing and marketing company which manages the protection and introduction of new plant varieties across the globe. This arrangement ensured that a portion of the proceeds of each sale returned to Wendy Smith and she arranged that it be donated to the Australian Make-a-Wish Foundation, an organisation which makes wishes come true for children with life-threatening, chronic illnesses.

Gardeners worldwide fell in love with Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wishes’ and the reaction to its philanthropic aspect inspired Plants Management Australia to repeat it with two subsequent cultivars.

A sport with bright coral-coloured flowers arose on a plant of Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wishes’ in one of Plant Grower’s Australia’s nurseries. They wished to continue the contributions to Make-a-Wish Australia but also added to the publicity – and very significantly to the income – by auctioning the rights to name this new plant. Paul and Lyn Shegog, from Tasmania, won the auction and named the plant in memory of their teenage children Emma and Brett who had died from an incurable genetic condition – Salvia ‘Ember’s Wish’.

 

Salvia 'Ember Wishes'
Salvia ‘Ember’s Wish’ 

The third in the series came as a result of the deliberate breeding efforts of John Fisher who lives in Orange, New South Wales, Australia. He sought to produce salvias in new colours and used ‘Wendy’s Wishes’ as one of his parent plants. He was also enthusiastic about the support which Plants Management Australia gave to the Make-a-Wish Foundation; named the plant Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ and contributed a portion of the proceeds from sales to the foundation also.

Salvia 'Love 'n' Wishes' (5)
Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ 

 

While we can enjoy these salvias in our gardens it adds to the pleasure that they also support a very worthy cause.

Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook

 

Much More than Sketches!

There is so much more than botanical sketchbooks in this volume that the title does it an injustice. This is one of those treasure troves of a book where every page brings a new delight, new fascination and new interest – Botanical Sketchbooks by Helen and William Bynum

Botanical Sketchbooks 2
Image courtesy of Thames & Hudson

Quite simply, the book is a collection of pages from the botanical sketchbooks of a myriad of botanical artists showing, in the main, those early drawings, early recordings which all artists do in preparation for a complete work later on in the better conditions of their studio. Even at this level it is fascinating to see how the various artists worked with pencil or ink sketches and added notes for colour and reminders of where and when a plant was seen and, with some, entries more akin to diary notes and all are fascinating.

Botanical Sketchbooks 4
Image courtesy of Thames & Hudson

It is the range of artists, the breadth of plants from those local to us to the most exotic imaginable, the worldwide countries included from South Africa to South America, Australia to China and, it seems, everywhere any anywhere in between. The collection is truly eclectic and each entry seems to open a window into a person, a plant, a time and a place all fascinating and beautiful. This book went far, far, far beyond my expectations and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I am not an artist and one need not be to enjoy this book as its contents range so well beyond botanical art that it will have a general appeal to anybody with an interest in gardening. I recommend it highly.

Botanical Sketchbooks 3
Image courtesy of Thames & Hudson

The authors, Helen and William Bynum, historians of science and medicine, present over 80 artists from around the world from the 15th to the 20th century organised into four main sections, each with its own set of sub-sections, which serve to group the artists in a manner more accessible to the reader. Each entry is relatively short with copious space given to the illustrations which are the heart of the book and these are the raw, immediate and spontaneous notes and sketches of the artists which, of course, are all material we would never see but that the authors sourced them from various repositories and libraries – the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew being a major source of their material.

Botanical Sketchbooks 1
Image courtesy of Thames  Hudson

There is an endless stream of interesting people, places and plants which will fascinate the reader and open the door to other times and ways. Pierre Joseph Redoute left his home in Belgium at the age of thirteen and spent the next ten years of his life as an itinerant artist! John Doody was transported to Australia following his conviction for forgery but was immediately taken on by Captain William Paterson to record the natural history of the Norfolk Islands. Ferdinand Bauer seems to have been the first to “paint by numbers” as he developed a colour chart which he brought with him and used it to record the colour of plants in the field and could then refer to it on return to his studio where he had notes on how to recreate that colour accurately. Francis Bauer was the first resident botanical artist at Kew Gardens with a salary of £300 per annum and had the title “Botanick painter to His Majesty”. William Hood Fitch was brought to Kew by William Hooker and, along with his work at Kew, contributed almost 3,000 illustrations to Curtis’s Botanical Magazine and has a total of 12,000 of his images published.

Albrect Durer’s “The Great Piece of Turf” is one of the few final paintings included in the book and it is truly both beautiful and captivating and is an example of the present day approach in botanical art to present faithfully accurate depictions of plants in a beautiful manner, “finding a balance between the realistic depiction of plants and the artist’s aesthetic vision”.

[Botanical Sketchbooks, Helen and William Bynum, Thames & Hudson, London, 2017, Hardback, 296 pages, £29.95, ISBN: 978-0-500-51881-6]

Available to purchase online at Thames & Hudson  

Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook

Every Plant has a Story!

Every plant has a story and these add to the interest and enjoyment gardeners get from them. Noel Kingsbury, in his Flora, The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants in Your Garden, has taken a selection of 133 plants, not an encyclopaedic collection but enough to enthuse and encourage the readers to, perhaps, search out such delightful snippets on other plants which interest them.

Garden Flora

I found the introductory chapter somewhat tedious with its explanations of terms used in the book, an outline of the various plant types along with evolutionary history and ecological survival strategies of plants. There were notes on plant longevity, whether annual, biennial or perennial, whether plants were clonal or not, spreading or not, bla, bla, bla, whether they were pioneers or competitors, notes on biodiversity, lists of topics/headings used in the book bla, bla, bla. Why so much time and space was given to such topics when they did not compliment the rest of the book puzzled me. Perhaps it was to give a certain gravitas to what otherwise is a light – and very interesting and entertaining – collection of short essays on garden plants, somewhat in the style of a collection of magazine articles.

The collection of essays explores, though not in a regimented formulaic manner, various interesting areas of each plant: the meaning of the botanical name, the origin of the name, uses of the plant whether culinary or medicinal; its uses in herbalism and its place in superstitions; history of its use in gardens; natural geographical distribution; history of its introduction and notes of cultivars raised and grown in our gardens. Many of these entries are illustrated with historic photographs and paintings which are both especially attractive and interesting in themselves and add greatly to the enjoyment of the book.

Leaving the introduction aside – and one is unlikely to return to it – the remainder of the book is very enjoyable and the reader is likely to dip into it again and again.

[Garden Flora – The Natural and  Cultural History of the Plants in Your Garden, Noel Kingsbury, Timber Press, London, 2016, Hardback, 368 pages, £29.99, ISBN: 13:978-1-60469-565-6]

Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook

 

Dream Gardens

They dream of finding an abandoned house in a wild garden and then plan in great detail what they will do with it. They are Isabel and Julian Bannerman. I have visited one of their gardens, Hanham Court near Bath, which was their home for many years and can say that they made that reality a dream. We visited this year when the garden was open under the National Garden Scheme, our first visit after settling into our hotel in Cirencester for a week of English gardens and could not have asked for a better start to our holiday nor a more wonderful garden in which to spend an afternoon.

Hanham Court (26)
Hanham Court

After reading their book, Landscape of Dreams, I can see that they repeated their dreams very successfully and beautifully in many other locations. Not all were abandoned houses in wild gardens but the gardens certainly benefited from the Bannerman attention. Yes, they dream and they dream big so that some may say their treatment of gardens may be over the top but I can only say that I found them imaginative, flamboyant, exuberant and places of great beauty.

Hanham Court (17)
Hanham Court
Hanham Court (10)
Hanham Court

They dream on a big scale, they plan on a big scale, they build on a big scale and garden on a big scale but they work on houses and grounds which accommodate such grandness and all seems in scale and appropriate. It is a dream world; it can appear crazy at times but it is beautiful.

Most will have heard of their contribution to the Prince of Wales garden at Highgrove, the stumpery being most publicised. We visited Highgrove during our week in England and felt it was one garden which confined their creativity, cramped their style and left their creations rather claustrophobically jammed too close together. However, a commission for the Prince of Wales does open many doors and, while it was not their best work, it may well have been most to their advantage.

Hanham Court (21)
Hanham Court
Hanham Court (1)
Hanham Court
Hanham Court (4)
Hanham Court

There is an account of their work at Highgrove, along with fourteen other gardens, and their garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1994 each well illustrated with photographs and details of the site, their proposed plans, subsequent discussions, the progress of the work and the completed projects. We are introduced to the clients, made privy to the interaction between client and designers and given details of the ups and downs of the projects. Indeed, the book might be described as the designers’ notebook or diary and it is a very enjoyable read.

Hanham Court (63)
The Meadow at Hanham Court
Hanham Court (76)
The Meadow at Hanham Court

The Bannermans do the British garden perfectly with follies of architectural salvage, faux-stone garden features recreated in green English oak, rose-clad buildings and lavish plantings. They create the dream English garden wonderfully and we can enjoy the dream in this dream of a book.

And their dream goes on since they moved to Trematon Castle in Cornwall and this garden is also described in the book: Landscape of Dreams, The Gardens of Isabel and Julia Bannerman, Pimpernel Press 2016, Large-format Hardback, 297 pages, ,£5, ISBN: 978-1-910258-60-6

Paddy Tobin

To find out more about the Irish Garden Plant Society visit our website or follow us on Facebook