Jul 30, 2010

Shaving The Hairs Off A Stackys: Dr. Tijana Blanusa

Is Bedding Dead?
Dr. Tijana Blanusa Weighs In

"I ordered a ladies razor, so I could shave the hairs off a stachys. 
I wanted to find what part the hairs played in water rentention."

I don't meet many plant physiologists.  Dr. Tijana Blanusa works at the Unviersity of Redding (in conjunction with the Royal Horticulture Society), studying plants and their ability to flourish with less water.

In the US, we think about drought tolerant plants, using natives and improving our soil, we hardly ever consider the scientific implications of what effect less water may have on a plant starting with propagation.

According Dr. Blanusua, Petunias x hydrida and Impatiens Walleriana (the focus of her study) need less water than you think.  And when given less water:  flowes are smaller, leaves are smaller, but greener, and  plants still flourish.

The National Trust in the UK has published an extensive manual called Environmental Standard for Gardens and Parks.  Under the leadership of Head Gardener, Ed Ikin, Nymans is part of an ongoing study to see how little water annual and perennial beds need  in order to flourish and what changes take place in the plant themselves.

Gardeners who need annuals are like junkies who need a fix. They can't do without them. In the past, annuals required additional water, extra fertilizer and lots of attention.  Learning from Dr. Tijana Blanusa, these same gardeners can have their cake and eat it too. 

Dr. Tijana Blanusa may be leading us down a NEW garden path.


Jul 25, 2010

Walking About the World: Catrina Saunders, Head Gardener, Overbecks, UK

Walking About the World
Catrina Saunders, Head Gardener

You know you are in England, but you might be in South America or Africa or Japan. Overbecks Garden on the Cornish Coast is hard to get to, but worth the journey.  It's beautiful and bizarre location is matched by its exotic plantings. I talked to Catrina Saunders, Head Gardener at Overbecks about the garden and its potential.
 Caterina Saunders

How did you come to Overbecks?
I've only been here a few months - since the start of March - before that I was in Wiltshire, as Head Gardener of the Courts Garden.  In some ways, they are completely and utterly different - the Courts is mostly herbaceous, Yew hedges, topiary - very, very formal and highly gardened, and Overbecks is densely sub-tropical and naturalistic.  However, both are 20th century gardens, and had quite eclectic and eccentric people putting them together.  

One of the interesting parts of working in an historic garden is trying to understand the created atmosphere, and the ethos of the owner, and carry that on in a sympathetic, but lively manner.

What interests you about the place?
Plants are the key here.  I love the fact that the original tennis court got dug up, and a formal garden put in its place, because the owners wanted more space for plants!
photo courtesy of Catrina Saunders

The plantings are not in strict geographical aras, but there is a feeling of walking around the world in here - Southern France and Spain, South America, South Africa, and Japan are all here in character.  Virtually the entire 7 acres are taken up with plants and paths, trying to imitate natural planting combinations.

Some people really 'get' the garden when they come - and for others its just a pile of plants on the side of a hill, with some stunning coast views.

What are your plans for the future?
I have a lot of plans, naturally.

I think I must like living in that high state of anxiety that compels you to change things aruond!  Sometimes it's 'more of' (more Leucodenedrons! More Tree Peonies!), sometimes 'less of' (not another Photina, please!). 

I'd love to forge new paths through the woodland, where they used to be- a long time back (that's the keen eye of an ex-archaeologist for you) and plant a little bit of maquis on the slopes above the house.
 Crinodendron Hookerianum
Chilean Lantern Tree
photo courtesy of Catrina Saunders

In the end, this should be the garden of the SW that everyone wants to see, a little piece of Tresco on the mainland, richly planted, a place to be inspired by.

I really think that gardens have the potential to change people's lives, and in the end, that's what it's all about.
 Copyright Phyllis Odessey.  No usage without permission.

All photographs  Copyright Phyllis Odessey.  No usage without permission.

Jul 22, 2010

Two Homes Away From Home: Chipping Campden & Handcross

TWO HOMES Away From Home
Chipping Campden
Royal Oak Fellowship
June, July, August 2010

During my time in the UK, I have had two "homes" 
Nymans in the Village of Handcross
Hidcote in the town of Chipping Campden

These two places are totally different.  Handcross is a village and Chipping Campden is a famous town in the Cotswold, a tourist attraction and of course, the nearest town to famous Hidcote.  

In one (Handcross) the Hardware store is a minor miracle.  From birthday cards to hammers to kleenex to cakes to notebooks to children's toys, the Handware is all things to all people.  They kindly allowed me to sit on the floor in their office and connect to the internet.

The other (Chipping Campden) is town made famous by a nearby garden, Hidcote, famous neighbor, Johnny Depp and Shakespeare.  One can find a mini gourmet grocery, high-end antiques, hip restaurants, wifi and plenty of tourists.

The town signs may tell the story.  Chipping Campden has some sort of crest as its town sign and Handcross has a carriage.  One implies royalty and one is simply practical.
Chipping Campden
A National Trust site

The Handware a store the village can't do wihtout.

  Chipping Campden

Chipping Campden


I am not sure which one I prefer.  One is place real people live in.  It's bare bones. As Ed Itkin said of Handcross, "they will do well by you."  And so they have.

Jul 19, 2010

A Garden Built For Two: Woolbeding

A Garden Built for Two
Woolbeding Gardens
A New National Trust Garden
July 15, 2010

Charlene Chick, Propagator at Nymans said of Woolbeding,

"You can tell it is a garden made by a couple.  
Every place to sit was designed for two people."

In four weeks, Woolbeding will open
to the public
as a National Trust Garden. 

The Nymans Garden staff
had the privilege to visit the garden,
before it opens to the public.

I imagine 
the two partners,
who owned this property sitting on this bench
thinking about what they should do next.

a statue of Neptune down by the river.

and then
maybe a bridge a la Chinois
to cross the river.

and then maybe a summer house, not too far from the stumpery. 
and then I was thinking about a sundial and a walled garden 
and some espaliered apples....

 and as long we are doing it .... why not some  
figs espaliered as well?

 and how about doing something like we saw in Provence last year...
something contemporary... 
a bit different...
geometric rows
of lavender

 let's take a walk down to the other bench and give it some more thought.

 I think we should go down to the river again, 
i always get inspiration from looking 
at the way the sycamores have layered themselves.

now that i think about it - i think we need a couple of follies...

In four weeks, Woolbeding will open to the public as a
National Trust Garden.  

The garden is a homage to the two people who made it.  

It's intimate, quirky, imaginative and surprising.  

This  garden was created during the last 40 years.  It's not modern, but it's interesting and personal.  Every now and then you recognize a plant that was introduced during the last 10 years and you realize that this confection is late 20th century. 

Let's hope when it opens to the public its unique character will be preserved.

Jul 16, 2010

Inferiority Complex: Hampton Court Flower Show

Hampton Court Flower Show
6-11 July 2010

"I would not be a quuen
For all the world"
Henry VIII, Shakespeare

It's hard not being as famous as your big sister. 
Hampton Court Flower show plays second fiddle to Chelsea. 
Being a poor relation myself, I still wanted to go.

One big difference between Chelsea and Hampton:  Hampton sells plants, lots of plants.  Birts have these specially designed plant carriers on wheels for stuffing...lillies as tall as skyscrapers, every achilleas known to mankind, clematis yet to be named, salvias you can only dream of, delphiniums on steriods, cannas from the national collection, papavers too delicate to touch ... gentians, auriculas, dahlias, agapanthus, streptocarpus, gladiolus, etc. etc. etc..

This show doesn't have the big name designers, but it's much bigger than Chelsea:  after all it is on the grounds of Hampton Court Palace.  It's more a show for the "people".  This year featured a scarecrow contest for school children and HOME GROWN (celebrating the diversity of products that can be grown in the UK) and a section on sustainable gardens. 

I gravitated to the Conceptual Gardens.

By Makoto Tanaka
"The garden aims to represent the workings of the human mind and its desires; how we relate to our inner mind, and in turn relate to the outside world.  The circular pond represents our mind, with the black wooden slats separating the 'inner' subconscious workings of our mind from the 'outer mind' of everyday experience.  The 108 slates represent the 108 earthly desires that Buddhists believe cause human suffering.  The slats themselves have iron words fixed on them, hung upside down. These words represent our desires, which are intentionally unreadable from the outside."

The text may separate the intellectuals from the more mundane among us, but as a garden experience it really worked.

By Paul Harfleet

"The garden has a disguised political agenda:  encouraging visitors to consider notions of homophobia, psychogeography, memorilisation, citizenship, and the political ownership of public space.  The design is a first time collaboration iwth garden designer and brother of the artist, Tom Harfleet who together have created a confrontational concrete structure referencing the pavement of the city. 

The sculpture is a metaphoric reflection on the disruptive nature of homophobic hate crime on contemporary society."

The description is illuminating and without it, I am pretty sure the message would be lost.  Compared to the other gardens, it was out of place, radical, unfamiliar and disquieting.  This was possibly the point.

by Alan Gardner
"Supermodel embodies concepts of thinness.  Trapped within a tall, thin cage of vertical rods and reminiscent of a catwalk, this garden represents the idea that thin is the only definition of beauty."
Although the description does little, the garden itself was arresting.

Hampton Court was built to rival Versailles.  In fact, between Henry VIII and Cardinal Woolsey, Hampton Court has a history of contenders and adversaries.  And even though the Flower Show may not compete with Chelsea in terms of design; it has its own vibe. At the end of the day, in the car park, tables covered with white damask, wine glasses, some olives and people chatting with each other.  Sometimes, being in second place has its advantages.


Jul 12, 2010

You say TOMATO, I say lycopersicon esculetum

You say tomato,
I say lycopersicon esculetum
Thinking in Latin

That's Meconopsis betonicifolia and Dryopteris affinis 'Cristata'.  Yes, I said knowing full well that I knew the plant, but not the Latin name.

 Meconopsis betonicifolia
British people know botanical Latin.  In fact, they don't know the common names of plants.

We (Americans) trip over the Latin pronunciation of plant names and Brits glide over them like skates on ice.  The British once ruled the world, but this fails to explain why non-horticulture people (those ordinary folks), know only the Latin names of plants.

Being extremely jealous of this seemingly painless facility, I was determined to figure out why.
  • Go to a garden in Graet Britain and read the plant labels.  On the Latin name is given.

  • Go to a nursery in Great Britain and read the plant labels.  Only the Latin name is given.  There is no common name on the label.

If you only learn the Latin names, not only do you recognize the plant by the Latin name, but you also learn the correct pronunciation from an early age.  I am not sure you even know there is another "name" for  that particular plant.  You take it for granted that Trachelospermum jasminoides is the 
particular plant.
 Trachelospermum jasminoides

At first I thought it was too late for me to change my ways.  But the longer I am here, the more I identify plants by their Latin names.  It's like learning a foreign language in the classroom and then actually going to the place and speaking the language.  Instead of translating what you hear, you begin to think in that language.

I might start to think in Latin, at least when it comes to plants.  The name Himalayan blue poppy will never cross my lips, only Meconopsis betonicifolia.

Jul 7, 2010

Out, Out...Black Spot: The Rose Garden At Nymans

The Rose Garden at Nymans
"I once had a rose named after me
I was very flattered. 
But I was not pleased  to read
the description in the catalogue:
no good in bed,
but fine up against a wall."
Eleanor Roosevelt

Rose Bleu Magneta
Bred circa 1900 by Louis Van Houtte, Belguim. 
Copyright Phyllis Odessey.  No usage without permission.

The only thing, I like about roses, are the names (Lady Emma Hamilton, Jude The Obscure, Queen of Sweden, Souvenir de la Malmaison).  And that makes me the only person in Great Britain, who is NOT totally enamored of the rose.

I spent the day with John Keen, the Rosarian at Nymans, deadheading.  We had a chance to talk about the new organic regime of rose care at Nymans.
 John Keen in the Rose Garden at Nymans

Rose Gallica var. officinalis
Also known as R. gallica maxima, the Old Red Damask, and the Red Rose of Lancaster. 
A shrub of ancient pedigree, before 1300, still grown for its historical associations.
Copyright Phyllis Odessey.  No usage without permission.

Three years ago, under the direction of Head Gardener, Ed Ikin, the rose garden was redesigned and reinvigorated.  Up until five years ago, the rose garden, which dates from the 1910's, consisted entirely of old-fashioned roses.  Consulting with Michael Marriot of David Austin Roses, Nymans decided to change the balance.  They kept 30% of the old-fashioned roses and brought in 70% David Austin roses.  This decision resulted in an expanded color range, repeat bloom and disease resistance.

Rose Golden Celebration
The flowers are initially Tea-scented,
but often develop a wonderful combination of sauterne wine and strawberry.
Copyright Phyllis Odessey.  No usage without permission.

WEEK 1 - Organic Milk
This technique was developed at the University of Adelaide in Australia.  The milk spray (full cream milk)  Ratio of 1-10 with water is used to prevent mildew, black spot and rust.  The natural antibiotics present in milk, as well as the production of other agents during exposure to sunlight both act to reduce fungal infection. 
Rose Hyde Hall
This variety is one of a collection of four, all named after the four gardens
of the Royal Horticultural Society to commemorate the Society's bi-centenary in 2004.
Copyright Phyllis Odessey.  No usage without permission.

WEEK 2 - SB Plant Invigorator
mildewcide - foliar nutrient - biodegradable - non-toxic
This is a product from Guernsey, Channel Islands,UK.  SB Plant Invigorator is a kind of jack of all trades.  It is used for pest control, fugal diseases and general plant health.

Rose Litchfield Angel
The flowers of this rose commence as charming peachy pink cups,
gradually opening to form neatly cupped rosettes.
Copyright Phyllis Odessey.  No usage without permission.

WEEK 3 -  Maxicrop Liquid Seaweed (Kelp Extract)
Derived from fresh Norwegian kelp (Ascophyllum nodosum).  Contains over 70 minerals, micro-nutrients, amino acids and vitamins. 

Rose Madame Hardy
1832.  Bred by M.Hardy
One of the finest Damasks in commerce today.
Copyright Phyllis Odessey.  No usage without permission.

WEEK 4 - Garlic Barrier Amenity
Garlic Barrier is a natural extract of garlic and bio-stimulant.  It aids in  natural resistance to disease and helps the plant to recover faster from fungal disease.  Overall, it reinforces the plant's natural ability to resist disease.

PRUNING:  In addition, Nymans has instituted a pruning regime for old-fashioned roses.  Pruning harder on the outside of the plant, creating almost a basket-like effect, which results in outer growth with stronger stems.
 I asked John what interested him about roses. 
"They are such an old flower.  They are caught up in history.  They have a story to tell."

Rose Baron Rothschild
Hybrid Tea
Copyright Phyllis Odessey.  No usage without permission.

A story connected with secrets...

Since classical times, the rose has been a symbol of secrecy.  Greeks used roses to decorate the ceilings of their conference rooms.  This indicated that everything discussed was confidential, which is the origin of the phrase sub rosea.

In sixteenth-century England, a rose was sometimes worn behind the ear of servants, tavern workers, and others to indicate that the wearer heard all and told nothing.

In Germany, roses in a dining room suggested that diners could speak freely without fear that their secrets would travel beyond the room.

I have been at Nymans for one week.  So far the Rose and the English character have a lot in common:  they are both soft, delicate, ephemeral, and mysterious.

"But he dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose"
Anne Bronte

As part of my Sustainable Gardening Fellowship with the Royal Oak Foundation, and The National Trust, I will be blogging about different aspects of sustainable gardening in the UK.