THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Aug20

Penelope Hobhouse

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’

Lepechinia hastata

Verbena bonariensis

Acanthus sennii (from Ethiopia, which she is growing outside for the first time.)

Stauntonia hexaphylla

Carpenteria californica

Solanum jasminoides ‘Album’

Acacia pravissima

Valeriana officinalis

Chamaenerion angustifolium ‘Album’

Self-seeded poppies

Eryngium ebracteatum

Phlomis fructicosa

Salvia nemerosa ‘Caradonna’

Alliums

Nectaroscordums

Hoheria angustifolia (Not reliably hardy, from New Zealand.)

Boltonia asteroides

Olearia ‘Waikariensis’

Punica granatum f.plena (A pomegranate…)

Teucrium

Phillyrea latifolia (good for use in organic topiary.)

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Matucana’

Euphorbia x pasteurii

Bupleurum fructicosum

Campanula pyramidalis ‘Alba’

Umbellifers of all kinds

Myrtle

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…

Mar19

Wasting Water

Well worth a read in the BBC today – a note on how wasting water in the UK “as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby.” Read the report here. I have written a talk about how we use water in the  garden. It was written when I moved from Hampshire to Essex and found out for myself just how dry this area of the UK is. It completely changed the way I garden. The lack of such a precious resource as water made me question what we can do to save it, store it and …

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Mar14

The Foie Gras That Tastes Like Nature

Ethical Foie Gras? Is That A Real Thing?   Foie gras – can it be ‘grown’ ethically? The video showing how this farmer works suggests it can… We first read about this in a book called The Third Plate by Dan Barber. I loved it and I love how Eduardo the farmer, who farms on the Dehesa in Spain, has a ‘take half leave half rule’. When talking about how the geese eat his olives… “They’re always quite fair. If you make sure the geese are relaxed and happy, you’ll be rewarded with the gift of fatty livers. That is God’s …

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Mar04

Hardy Orchids Via James Wong

Hardy orchids – here is a subject I would love to know more about – so lo and behold, James Wong has written about it in the Guardian! Read the article about hardy orchids here. I love having orchids in the house, just your usual run of the mill buy them in any shop orchids, but it is a pleasure to read about the plants that will grow outside and cope with this weather. (This insane weather! From the hottest days of February on record to Storm Freya, all within a week. Weather is always such a factor in gardening, but …

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