Being a ‘good’ gardener

People today garden for a whole host of reasons – as a hobby, a delight in horticulture generally, exercise, well-being and being out of doors, to grow their own produce – but, historically at least, gardening has also been seen as a highly moral activity.

By the end of the 19th century the garden was advocated as a way of keeping the working classes away from the public house, where they could be usefully engaged in a more wholesome and productive activity. William Hogarth’s cartoons of ‘Beer Street’ and ‘Gin Lane’ are visual reminders of the conditions which were a cause of concern.

William Hogarth's cartoon of Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751)
Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751)

John Claudius Loudon (1783 – 1843) championed the creation of public parks to improve both the mental and physical health of working people, so that ‘the pale mechanic and exhausted factory operative might inhale the freshening breeze and some portion of recovered health’.[1] It was Joseph Strutt who picked up on these ideas and put Loudon’s vision into practice to create the Derby Arboretum in 1840. Strutt was very clear on the rationale behind this work: to wean people away from the ‘brutalising pleasures’ they might seek elsewhere and to offer them a new form of ‘rational enjoyment’. In Edinburgh recreation in a park was thought to be a solution for drunkenness and in the Midlands it was thought to lead to a decrease in crime rates.

‘In 1919 the Conservative MP for Chelmsford was reconciled to spending money on housing by the thought that good garden plots would ensure that when the man of the house got home at night “he will find not only a healthy family, but healthy occupation outside where they can go and work together as a family”’.[2] A well maintained garden was also viewed as an indication of a well maintained (and thus moral household). As late as the 1920s and 1930s inspectors were employed to visit the gardens of council estates to ensure that they were being kept tidy.

Vija

[1] Loudon, J.C. (1822) Encyclopaedia of Gardening.

[2] Floud, R. (2019) An Economic History of the English Garden, Penguin Books, p247.

Funky Hostas

Photo of Hostas taken in the Spring!
Photo taken in the Spring!

I love hostas, but they have a reputation for being difficult, not least because of their attractiveness to slugs and snails. They are commonly thought to do best in moist partial shade, but this shockingly dry year has been a surprise. As Chris Beardshaw points out, there are several that do well in dry shade, the sieboldiana types in particular. Although many of mine in direct sunshine for most of the day have scorched this year, there are also several that have done surprisingly well in quite dry and sunny conditions.

Hostas were originally named in honour of the Austrian botanist Nichloas Host, but in 1817 the name Funkia was used by a German botanist in honour of botanist Heinrich Funk. The name Funkia remained in use for some time and there are a number of horticultural texts written over this period which refer to Funkias. In 1905 Hosta was reinstated as the genus name by the International Botanical Congress.

I quite like the name Funkia. It makes me think of the plants secretly having a good time after I have gone to bed.

Vija

Autumn Flower Fruit & Vegetable Display – classes to enter

Our Autumn Show will be on Monday, 26 September 2022 in the Old Library at 7.30pm. Please note the change of date, due to The Queen’s funeral. Even with the recent drought problems, there are hopefully some classes that you can enter!

Vase of Dahlias
2021 Winner

Most plants seem to have adapted to the hot, dry conditions, although much has ripened earlier than expected. If all else fails, go for the dried seed heads class or bake a cake!

Classes are similar to previous years, but we have been made aware of some confusion between the Floral Arrangement (Class 13) and the Bowl of Flowers (Class 2). In the past, bought flowers were allowed for the Floral Arrangement, but this year we have decided that ALL flowers should be home grown. The emphasis for Class 13 is on the arrangement style of the flowers in the teacup. For Class 2, the Bowl of mixed Flowers, these should also be home grown but judging will be based on the content, the quality and type of flowers, no matter how they are arranged. Hope that helps!

Thanks to Chris and Anna for this year’s Coconut Cake recipe – as many entries as possible in this category please ( but do remember that Members are allowed to eat it after judging, so there is usually none left to take home!)

CLASSES:

1. Vase of flowers, 3 stems of 1 cultivar

2. Bowl of mixed flowers (emphasis on quality of flowers, not arrangement).

3. Vase of shrubs or foliage, 3 or more stems, mixed varieties

4. Display of ornamental seed heads

5. Five Fuchsia blooms, single variety or mixed (flower heads only)

6. Ornamental pot plant (incl. cacti & succulents)

7. Display of fruit, any mixed.

8. Display of vegetables, mixed

9. Tomatoes (dish of 5)

10. Display of herbs

11. Preserves: jam, jelly or marmalade, chutney or relish

12. Baking – Coconut cake (recipe supplied here)

13. Floral Arrangement – display in a tea cup, all flowers to be home grown. Emphasis on floral arrangement.

14. Competition: largest sunflower head (from Russian Giant seeds supplied in April)

15. Competition: Yield from one potato supplied in April. (washed, in named transparent bag)

Please bring your own vases, except for the Fuchsia heads (Class 5), where containers are supplied. Water will be available.

Finally, remember this is not an RHS show, it’s a competition for fun and perhaps a Winners certificate, not for perfection!

August blog 1

‘Rubens Peale with a Geranium’, painted by his brother, Rembrandt Peale, 1801. National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA – Patrons’ Permanent Fund
‘Rubens Peale with a Geranium’, painted by his brother, Rembrandt Peale, 1801. National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA – Credit: Patrons’ Permanent Fund

I found this photo posted on the blog of Garden History Girl. It’s one of the blogs I have at some stage signed up to and now get regular posts. It is worth checking out (overlook the name) and this one contains some fascinating information on pelargoniums / geraniums and snippets of plant history. If you have never been clear on what are pelargoniums or geraniums, this is the one to look at! And there are some lovely pictures too!

Vija

Bedding Plant dilemma

I love Greenwich Park Flower garden and am full of admiration for how their gardeners have gradually adapted, from growing all their plants on site to whatever combination of outsourcing they use nowadays. It usually looks wonderful.

I understand it is a public garden and has to cover those who like the bedding plant tradition, those who expect a wow factor and those who want a bit of modern style.

But the current drought has really highlighted the bedding plant issue!

Bedding plant beds

It is eye-catching for all the wrong reasons, little oases of green with the rest of the park straw-dry.

Even traditionalists must wonder what on earth the point is of pouring water on these beds of Impatiens. There are other beds containing tree ferns and perennials and it absolutely makes sense to water expensive plants that will come back and cope in a (hopefully) more normal future year.

This is a personal viewpoint, not necessarily representative of the CABAHS membership, it would be interesting to hear members views..? Perhaps it’s a debate we can have at the Gardeners Question Time meeting on August 15th!

Kathy A

Members Gardens – July

I thought we should collect some pictures from members to show that despite the recent Armageddon heatwave, we still have gardens! There might be a few crispy edges here and there, but it appears a huge range of winners are out enjoying the sun.

Vija has sent in this lovely scented Pelargonium Pink Capitatum, container-grown.

Pink Capitatum
Pelargonium Pink Capitatum

Anna found a beautiful Jersey Tiger Moth in her garden, sightings of these seem to be getting more common. Pat says they like warm walls, and I have found them in my garden too. They are very eye-catching in flight, when the orange wings underneath flash out. Their caterpillars eat nettle, bramble and ground ivy, what’s not to like? Also in Anna’s garden, her Yucca plants love this heatwave.

Annie H says ” These Evening Primroses have been flowering continuously since early May. They appeared self sown in next door’s garden so I collected some seeds and this is the result. They open new flowers each evening which shrivel up the next day.”

Continue reading Members Gardens – July

June 2022: Steve Edney on ‘The Salutation Garden, Tenders and Tropicals’

We were back in the Old Library for an interesting and entertaining talk given by Steve Edney on his work as head gardener at Salutation and subsequent development of his own private garden and nursery. He is also a RHS volunteer trial judge involved in the Nepeta AGM.

Salutation House and garden is located in Sandwich by the River Stour.  Designed  by Edward Lutyens in 1912 as a weekend retreat for the three London-based Farrer brothers. Noted for the outstanding design symmetry between house and garden. Sold in 1945 when the brothers died, the magnificent gardens became  somewhat overgrown and neglected over time. In the 1970’s  Portland Stone was smashed up and laid as crazy paving!

Steve was appointed head gardener in 2005 to oversee the restoration. The owners by then were Steph and Dom of Gogglebox fame. With little interest in the garden apart from being a party space,  they allowed him a somewhat free hand.

An initial task was stripping back an avenue of 50’ Holm trees to almost sticks. Our own Old Pond Garden volunteers were very interested in his idea of topiary using Holm Oaks, given how many we have at Charlton House!

2013 saw the garden devastated by salt water flooding and 1,500 plants, 9 mature trees and hedging were lost. 5 million litres of water became trapped in the lower third of the garden and had to be pumped out. Steve and his team overcame this and in 2019 they went on to win Gold at Chelsea for a winter border, which only cost £157! He followed with his Plant Hunter’s Jungle Camp taking best exhibit in the Floral Marquee at Hampton Court.

Continue reading June 2022: Steve Edney on ‘The Salutation Garden, Tenders and Tropicals’

Garden at the Garrison Church

This week I was delighted to attend a special Commonwealth & Gurkha Garden reception at St George’s Garrison Church in Woolwich. The event was to progress the funding and plans for a Commonwealth garden designed by Juliet Sargeant, and was also attended by their patron, HRH The Duke of Gloucester.

We were blessed with a lovely sunny day and entertained with music during the afternoon tea. After the speeches I was very interested to be shown around the garden site by Juliet (who is a multiple Chelsea Gold Medal winner, including this year’s Blue Peter garden with the theme “Don’t treat soil like dirt” and a fabulous green roof) https://www.julietsargeant.com/cfs/

Continue reading Garden at the Garrison Church

Thinking outside the box

One of the things I like best about RHS Wisley is how useful it is – beautiful to walk around, pleasant to visit, but also how just being there can answer a multitude of gardening questions: ‘Will this plant survive outside?’ ‘Just how big can an Indian Bean Tree get?’ or ‘How best can I display alpine plants in my small garden?’

But one of the most useful parts of RHS Wisley helps to answer a question that has become louder and more frequent with every passing year, especially here in the South East:

‘What can I use to replace my ravaged box hedges?’

'Thinking Outside the Box' garden at RHS Wisley May 2022
Continue reading Thinking outside the box

OPG Diary – May/June

It’s been a while since there was an update on the walled gardens, it’s been busy! The Volunteers are going strong, and the Old Pond Garden is looking particularly wonderful.

Old Pond Garden 26 May
Old Pond Garden 26 May 2022

The Long Border started to run away with us, but is getting under control and looking incredibly full and interesting, even if it doesn’t quite have that “designer” look yet! We are waiting for the quote for works to the vandalised iron gates and hoping to create step-free access to the gardens.

We are continuing to point out a “Star Plant” each week. The latest is Silene armeria ‘Electra’, or Garden Catchfly. The Catchfly group of plants exude a sticky brown substance on their stems, just below the flowerhead, where insects get stuck. Have a closer look next time you pass by!

Silene armeria Electra
Silene armeria ‘Electra’

New ideas: we have started a “What’s in Flower” display in Frilly’s café, to entice visitors to come into the garden and see the flowers in situ. Also an Information table in the gardens (when we are there) showing a bit of the background and pointing out the plants coming into flower that week. Looking for more volunteers to do this, if anyone is interested? It’s a sitting-down job!

What's in Flower - display
What’s in Flower? Examples from the garden.

Kathy was very pleased to be awarded a Certificate of Recognition from the Volunteer Centre Greenwich/ RBG, although she considers that the recognition is for all the volunteers, not just her! Terry accepted the award on her behalf from the Mayor of Greenwich. Thank you to the Trust for nominating us, we do feel appreciated.

And here are some more recent photos from the gardens this month: