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 am running a topiary workshop in 2020 with the wonderful topiary artist Charlotte Molesworth at her spectacular topiary garden in Kent. This is a topiary workshop where you will learn to clip, so be prepared to do some cutting. We start with a tour of the garden, which Charlotte and her husband Donald have been cultivating for 34 years. It is organic, full of wildlife and has the most extraordinary pruned shapes made from yew and boxwood. You can see more photos of the garden in an article in the Guardian here: Topiary Garden In Kent What Else Will …
On Monday night I gave a talk to the Hardy Plant Society Middlesex. Below are a few links for further information based on some of the ideas discussed in the talk: Real Seeds – a fantastic supplier of fruit and vegetable seeds for growers. Boxwood Caterpillar Advice – from the European Boxwood & Topiary Society. I will also write a little companion piece this winter with more information and some topiary techniques, so watch out for that on this website. Boxwood Lure & Nematodes – my preferred option for dealing with the caterpillar. Discount code for 10% off is EBTSBOX29GBZ …