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Tag: gardening

Ode to Echiums for the Guardian

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Two separate travel experiences during spring 2018 brought the Echium genus into focus for me. The first was a visit to Gran Canaria, and seeing so many varieties – some unique to the island – in flower along its ridges and ravines (pictured below). The second was a walk around the ‘desert’ landscape of Dungeness in the south east of England. Great drifts of viper’s bugloss (E. vulgare) were in flower all over the beach, and the colour was just spectacular (bottom image). Having grown tree echiums (E. pininana) at the Garden Museum for many years, and enjoyed their enormous bee-covered, monocarpic blooms, I suggested a piece for the Guardian covering the history and cultivation of the wider Echium genus (published 15.06.19 and can be read here).

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Echium decaisnei seen growing near Roque Nublo on Gran Canaria (April 2018)

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Echium vulgare (viper’s bugloss) growing wild in the grass scrub surrounding Dungeness (June 2018)

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Chelsea Flower Show 2019, Spectator Life

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A pleasure to visit RHS Chelsea 2019 yesterday for The Spectator Magazine, making sense of all the woodlands, wildernesses and environmental worries this year, and noting some very beautiful planting features. Among the highlights were various – and somewhat feral – forms of Rodgersia, Echium, Persicaria and Verbascum, pioneering plants of wonderfully rogue character.

As I concluded in the piece, ‘Show gardens of years past treated visitors to a spectacle of ornate, often innovative back gardens; inspiration that, at a push (and with money to burn), might be applied back home. Currently presented among the grand plots are depictions of yet wilder scenes, natural landscapes skilfully mirrored with light, sympathetic embellishment. Commendable or wildly off-brief, the Flower Show has responded in its own way to the current environmental conundrum, lamenting a paradise-increasingly-lost through Arcadian motifs reminiscent of 18th Century romanticism.’ In other words, a comfort blanket of bucolic British countryside amidst an unsettling time.

Read the full article here.

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Fledged Wren

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…fledged itself hard into the garden glass yesterday morning. I spent a few minutes cornering the little thing in the corridor, before releasing into the sky from the courtyard. Spring ain’t no picnic…

Evening gardening in Central London

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Early evening very much the best time of day – and the best kind of light – to enjoy the Museum’s front gardens. Particularly the woodland bed, designed by Dan Pearson Studio,  where in spring Narcissus runs alongside sulphuric epimedium and bright white Ipheion ‘Alberto Castillo’, borrowing the haze above the Thames for a backdrop.

Central Oregon

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My preoccupation with the landscape of western America has grown steadily over the years, beginning in 2014 with a pivotal road trip through the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana and Oregon. Articulating the West’s magnetism for naturalists – why it remains a draw for environmentalists and gardeners alike – is a task better left to professionals: Jonathan Raban (journalist and Englishman moved to Seattle) summarises it perfectly, writing in Granta Journal back in 2008;

“In the dry and lightly populated West, for all the ranching, farming, logging, mining, damming and city-building that have gone on for the last century and a bit, (…) Americans have altered the land less immutably than the Romans, Saxons and Normans altered the face of England. Most of what has been done here still looks like a recent project, a work in early progress, that could yet be stopped..

(…) here, where the lust for the antique is no less keen than in Britain, the true antiquity is wilderness. Old mining towns, chasing tourist dollars, deck themselves out with false storefronts, wooden boardwalks, faux shoot-’em-up saloons, but nobody’s fooled. The real thing – the pricelessly antique antique – is deep forest, the river running wild, the open prairie. There is no second nature here to fall back on, only an either/or choice between nature as it was before we came and the dreck we’ve piled on it in the recent past..”

The concept of ‘Second Nature’ explains it all for the European, whose natural world appears wild, yet reflects centuries of human alteration. In the West, however, primal Nature remains visible just under the surface.

I have passed through central Oregon three times now, each time more enthralling than the last. Here are a few photos I took, with my dad’s old Canon 35mm, during the last, all-too-short visit.

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Oregon Diary

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Everything in its Right Place

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This morning was one of those Garden Museum mornings where, inside the small box of our courtyard garden, conditions felt warm, calm and bright; redolent of the coming season. Our central Melianthus major has so far pulled through the winter safely – covered until last week – and with any luck, flower buds will soon follow.

Seasonal Flux

Populus albaWhite poplar and its unilateral disregard for autumnal hype.

Toast Travels

I’ve started writing monthly articles on plants and Nature for the lifestyle and fashion brand, Toast. The first piece looks at the wildflowers and wildlife of Caldey Island in Pembrokeshire, South Wales: Island Growing

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Hortus Article

Super pleased to have been asked to write an article for the spring edition of Hortus. Hortus is a fantastic journal of garden writing and I’ve been a fan for many years. Greg Barnes drew a lovely illustration of a Japanese anemone for the piece.

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New Book: My Tiny Flower Garden

Much of 2015/16 was spent writing a commissioned book for Pavilion Books on the subject of small flower gardens. Lots of fun to put together, working with amazing photographer, Roo Lewis. It’s now on the shelves!

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