THE MODERN MINT BLOG
Penelope Hobhouse is a garden designer, lecturer, historian and writer. Below is her gorgeous book ‘Gardens of Persia’, an unusual gardening book in that it traces the history of paradise gardens – an eye-opener to the use of water and stone to us here in the UK who haven’t (yet) visited Iran.
We have been meaning to write about Penelope Hobhouse for awhile, as it is her books we often dip in and out of when searching for inspiration or a spark of creativity. Especially since hearing of her latest garden ‘Dairy Barn’ in Somerset.
The garden is a tiny, courtyard garden and we fell in love with it the minute we saw photos. Check out our Pinterest page to see for yourself! We think what appeals is that it is so small (around 23 metres square) and the single storey brick house runs on an L-shape around two sides of the garden. Small enough to feel like a minimalist, big enough to look after properly. Or is it?
“Too many plants… I moved here in a great hurry. I bought 64 pots of plants with me and now I’ve got to weed things out.”
Plants that are taking over and packing the space include:
Nnepeta racemosa ‘Walkers Low’
Acanthus sennii (from Ethiopia, which she is growing outside for the first time.)
Solanum jasminoides ‘Album’
Chamaenerion angustifolium ‘Album’
Salvia nemerosa ‘Caradonna’
Hoheria angustifolia (Not reliably hardy, from New Zealand.)
Punica granatum f.plena (A pomegranate…)
Phillyrea latifolia (good for use in organic topiary.)
Lathyrus odoratus ‘Matucana’
Euphorbia x pasteurii
Campanula pyramidalis ‘Alba’
Umbellifers of all kinds
Plus rare species of box and elms from Iran, clipped into cubes.
You will notice many of these plants are not hardy, but this garden is sheltered and so the likelihood (with a little luck) of them surviving is higher. It may also seem a random selection, with lots of unusual species of familiar plants – but Penelope, now in her 80’s, has had a lifetime of experience and travel in order to discover them.
That is what we like so much about her – that she has such a wide knowledge. It inspires us to visit new places and look at the flora there – like when we went to Japan.
What though, is most important to her now in the garden?
“I want fewer annuals, fewer flowers, more green… at least I don’t worry anymore about colour in the garden. Foliage and the shape of a plant are so much more important to me than its flowers.”
For more on her garden you can get a back copy of Gardens Illustrated, where we discovered it.
So do check out her many books on gardening – as we say, Penelope Hobhouse is one place we turn when we seek inspiration and a vast sea of knowledge to swim in…
I recently wrote a piece for Topiarius magazine, the flagship publication of the European Boxwood & Topiary Society – of which Modern Mint is both a member and big supporter. Check out the EBTS here. They frequently run courses and talks too, so worth keeping an eye on. Below is the piece I wrote about the tools I use when making topiary and pruning trees…. Darren’s Piece In Topiarius Magazine I use Okatsune Secateurs, which I started pruning with when working on a large orchard in Hampshire. My Felco’s were too difficult to open with cold hands, but the chunky …
Just inc are you are free in the following dates in June, you can visit my mentor Charlotte Molesworth’s topiary garden… Check out the dates the garden is open here. And you can of course join both Charlotte and I for a topiary workshop in the garden in July, as well as September. Hope to see you there!
The Nunki weeder has been talked about by Jane Perrone in the newspaper (the Guardian, if you are interested. At the weekend.) She said this about our lovely weeding tool… “Getting on top of annual weeds such as hairy bittercress and speedwell can be tedious. The Nunki weeder has a curved blade that allows for precision work around plants….” There you go – a weeder for precision work, not an avocado destoner as someone once said to me. Take a closer look at the Nunki weeder now.