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’



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

Boltonia asteroides

Olearia ‘Waikariensis’

Punica granatum f.plena (A pomegranate…)


Phillyrea latifolia (good for use in organic topiary.)

Lathyrus odoratus ‘Matucana’

Euphorbia x pasteurii

Bupleurum fructicosum

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…


Save Ryton Organic Gardens!

There seems to be some underhand shenanigans going on here. Bob Flowerdew is threatening to resign. We face losing the UK’s cornerstone organic garden. So please take a look at what is going on via the Facebook group…. go on! Go Now! Save Ryton Organic Gardens!


Garden Design Trends 2018

shed garden trend

Today we will be looking at Garden Design Trends in 2018. Just so you are in the know about what is cool and what is not cool in the 12 months ahead…. For the past like, million years I have shared my thoughts on what the gardening industry tell us the latest trends are going to be. If you are interested, you can see here the garden design trends for 2017. Or take a peek at my favourite of all the posts I have written – Alternative Garden Design Trends. This is my individual take on what the latest garden design …



Northern Forest – UK Plans For 50 Million New Trees

Well now, this is interesting…. UK Plans 50 Million New Trees in Northern Forest Likely? See the pitfalls? We love the idea and wholeheartedly support as much tree planting as possible. But are seriously doubtful that this is more than a sticking plaster solution to England being so vastly ‘under-treed’…. or should that be ‘overfelled?’ Yet whether this idea happens or not, all we ask is that you please make sure you plant as many trees as you can in your garden!