Editorial                          John Hudson
Why doesn't everybody grow Cyclamen hederifolium? 


No doubt keen gardeners, like our Rutland HPS members, already do. But surely it ought to be in every front garden, however tiny a strip that may be. Its pink or white flowers have been lighting up me garden for several weeks now, many in odd shady corners far from where I planted them. The first flowers usually appear at the end of July. In October the leaves begin to unfurl. Their varied shapes and patterns will carpet the ground far into next spring. 'Ivy leaved' is descriptive of some of them, but doesn't do justice to the variety. The only time this cyclamen does not contribute is high summer; it modestly disappears while it isn't needed. In some regions -I remember a committee outing to Malvern- it flourishes under hedges to such an extent that one wonders if it is on the way to becoming an English wild flower.

Crocus speciosus is even more spectacular than the cyclamen, this warm and sunny early October). It is equally easy going, preferring a sunny spot, but does have the disadvantage of its long linear foliage in spring, which can overwhelm its smaller neighbours.

      
Crocus speciosus

I bought a white Magnolia, Mag's Pirouette, from Kevin Hughes after his talk in September. I have planted it in a small sheltered bed near the house, formerly occupied by a much-loved but superannuated Cistus laurifolius (and a good deal of Enchanter's Nightshade). Under the Magnolia I have planted Chionodoxa sardensis, the white form of Fritillaria meleagris, and a Triandrus narcissus. Let us hope that the actuality matches the expectation.

This issue of our newsletter coincidentally features two articles about gardening books, which should help to while away the dark winter nights.

From the Chairman                                  Brian Taylor
It has been over six years since I last drafted a note to the Newsletter under the title 'From our Chairman' - since when the group's first editor Mary Slater [she with the infinite patience - she needed it when I was chairman] has left Rutland with her husband to live with her family in Scotland and John Hudson, who took over from Mary, has introduced a style of his own as well as coloured illustrations. I miss the contributions of 'Organoman’ and wish that more members would help out with, say, accounts of garden visits or garden tips.

Throughout the past six years, the group has continued to thrive despite a falling off in overall numbers, not I suggest through lack of interest in the HPS but rather because, as with other societies, members have conflicting interests and commitments, older members are averse to going out at night and we are failing to attract a sufficient number of 'younger' people prepared to accept some responsibility for the running of the group's activities.

The annual Plant Fair at Ashwell House continues to be our main fundraiser and is gaining a reputation for being an event that all stallholders in the East Midlands, and beyond, aspire to be associated with. This is not only because of the excellent location but because the stallholders are made to feel welcome and are given a helping hand in setting up and dismantling their stands - an excellent example of good group spirit.

The Celebrity Lecture, which dates back to 2002 when Roy Lancaster gave a talk on 'Plants, People and Places' to a packed Uppingham School Theatre has proved to be a successful and enjoyable event in bringing together a wide range of garden lovers, hardy planters and horticulturalists. I have every confidence that next years speaker, Tom Hart Dyke, an undoubted celebrity with a sound understanding of horticulture, will attract a large audience to a new venue for this event in Oakham. I am looking forward to hearing at least something about his experiences in Colombia and his creation of what he describes as his 'World Garden' at Lullington Castle in Kent, his parents home.

The lecture programme, where I began my association with this group, and currently organised by Mark Bird, has managed over the years to provide a rich and varied selection of topics that aims to entertain and instruct, not an easy task as I am sure Mark will agree. However, this Autumn's programme began in grand style with a superb talk by Kevin Hughes who ,without drawing breath, gave a bravura performance on new and uncommon shrubs and trees. Relayed with a great deal of passion and conviction, he may well have induced some members to scrap what plans they had for their garden and start anew. Furthermore, if the group had ever entertained the idea of using a lecture to stimulate an interest in the HPS, Kevin's lecture would have represented an inspired choice.

Our current meeting room, a comfortable Methodist Church hall, has excellent kitchen facilities, which were put to the test at our last meeting when the group celebrated its 20th anniversary in the presence of the HPS national chairman Vivienne McGee and her husband John. A non-alcoholic toast was drunk to the past and future success of the group and Vivienne cut a special cake made by Penny Snedden. On behalf of us all, Penny, thank you.

Finally, at the first committee meeting under my chairmanship, it was unanimously agreed that because of a sharp increase in speakers fees and travelling expenses, the cost of attendance at lectures would have to be increased to £3 for members and £5 for non-members. This decision was not taken lightly as increases are never very welcome but the committee hopes that attendees will understand and perhaps reflect on the costs of other forms of entertainment. Thank you.

Old gardening books                                 Henry Woolston
At our monthly meeting last December we heard an interesting talk from Glyn Jones on the garden at Hidcote, which he manages. He revealed an interesting fact, of which I was not previously aware, that Laurence Johnston, who created the garden, was heavily influenced by the garden designer, Thomas H. Mawson, in particular in his book "The Art and Craft of Garden Making". I possess a copy of this book and was eager to see whether mine was a first edition, which Glyn said would be worth several hundreds of pounds. Alas, it is "merely" a second edition!

However this inspired me to write this article about old gardening books, some of which I am fortunate to own. Amongst the latter is one of the very early gardening manuals, Philip Miller's "The Gardener's Kalender" (sic) which I was given by an elderly relative and which I do know is worth several hundred pounds, more if it was in better condition. Other 'originals' that I have collected over the years are Mrs C.W.Earle's "Pot Pourri from a Surrey Garden" (24th edit. (!) pub. 1900), S.Reynolds Hole's (he was Dean of Rochester) "A Book about the Garden and the Gardener" (1st edit. Pub. 1892), Mrs Bayle Bernard's "Our Common Fruits" (1st edit. Pub. 1866), Beatrice Parsons (illus.) and E.T.Cook's (text) "Gardens of England" (pub.1908 "2nd impress.1911) and Alfred Austin's "The Garden that I Love" (pub. 1894). Other 'classics' that I own are only reprints, usually in paperback, including Canon Ellacombe's "In a Gloucestershire Garden" and several of Gertrude Jekyll's writings ("Wood and Garden", Home and Garden" etc.). Whilst a lot of these books are very outdated in their content, they nevertheless have a charm of their own, often contain some timeless and useful advice, and, in some cases, delightful illustrations. There is a human quality about some of them, as indeed there is about more recent works by good writers such as Christopher Lloyd, where one feels in touch with those who gardened long ago, gaining some insight into how their authors obtained their enjoyment from that age-old pastime which we enjoy ourselves.

Among the well illustrated are several gardening books for children of which I have a small collection. Familiarity with some of these goes back to my own childhood when my early interest in gardening was nurtured by the ability to borrow from the public library, including two or three books with lovely illustrations, subsequently bought. "Gardens shown to the children" by Janet Harvey Kelman and Olive Allen has thirty-two coloured plates and although without a publication date it was a gift at Christmas 1918 from 'C.M.K.' to 'M.K.'. Geoffrey Henslow's "The Young Gardener" published 1927 has a coloured painted frontispiece and a large number of photographs and line illustrations. "Children's Gardens" by The Hon. Mrs Evelyn Cecil (otherwise better known as Alicia Amherst), published in 1902, has fifty photographic illustrations. Perhaps most delightful of all is "The Children's Book of Gardening" by Mrs Alfred Sidgwick and Mrs Paynter (pub. 1909) with twelve coloured plates, drawn by Mrs Cayley-Robinson. These almost all have industrious little girls beavering away in them. Perhaps little boys didn't garden in those days.

The gardener's library must be the gardener's consolation for the long evenings of the dark days and the wet days and all the other days when gardening is impossible, as well as for instruction at other times. Some books rank as Literature with a capital letter, worth reading for their style alone, or in the case of old gardening books for their historical interest, revealing how they used to garden in days gone by. The great E.A.Bowies' trilogy on gardening in spring, summer, autumn and winter is a classic, as are Woodcock's "Lilies", Wilkie's "Gentians", Bunyard's "Old Garden Roses" and Markham's "Clematis", for example. Many old gardening books are memorials to old varieties of plants, swept away by the constant search for greater colour range, resistance to disease and novelty. Amongst the enduring works of gardening literature one cannot omit to mention William Robinson's "The English Flower Garden" (of which I have the 8th edition, one of many). It was the work of several hands, though most of the more irritating polemic was from the pen of the great man himself. Nor must one fail to include the books of Reginald Farrer, in particular his great work the "English Rock Garden", rudely reviewed by the same William Robinson in the November 1916 issue of the magazine "Gardening Illustrated", which led to a sharp and well-merited response from Farrer. One could go on but suffice to say that the literature of gardens and gardening stands as a fitting testimony to that greatest of pastimes, which so many of us enjoy so much.

Autumn colour and last buds in my garden                             Sue Graves
Looking up the garden you may notice the golden masses of tall Heliopsis, but better by far is the Rudbeckia fulgida "Goldsturm", which have pushed their way along the 4 yard border. 


Rudbekia 'Goldstrum'

Both these plants need dividing every two or three years as they take over. Further gold leaves are found hanging on the wandering stems of Actonidia olomikta and paler colour of the Potentilla bush. Leaving yellow behind, you find pink blowing about from Anemone japonica, late Phlox, a lone Nellie Moser on the fence, a few 'Cecile Brunner' roses cluster high on one arch while buds appear of 'Golden Showers' take the highest point on the other arch.

The star on the patio is Agapanthus 'Blue Giant', the humble second growth of Nepeta is very straggled over the lawn but standing up to five feet tall is the one clump of Aconitum charmichaelii, its colour not so good this year. Two Campanula Lactiflora, pale blue and the pink 'Loddon Anna', are showing only a few flowers and threaten to be huge next year. But cutting the main stem early results in a wider spaced shower of the sky blue flowers on side shoots, which have still not finished. The prize this year was finding my Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' up north in a nursery in Northumberland called "Bide-a-wee". I always said no Hydrangeas, but this one looks good further back with the giant white heads bobbing behind my giant Persicaria. Though these will have to have their roots taken back to leave moist soil for the other plants. If you take cuttings, I would love to know how many of your Penstemon survive the winter. My 'Maurice Gibbs' and 'Apple Blossom' are fine at the moment. The challenge are the hybrids, my new colour was Czar, a strong, rich purple. But if they fail, I know I can buy new colours from Froggery Cottage Garden in Desborough, though for a wide selection in a small garden, you have to order early.

For sheer courage, you have to give credit to the white or pink cosmos. They are annuals, but provide such a show, late in the summer, as do the Dahlias, one of the Bishops with dark red flowers, I must not forget to dead head. My last job this week was to tidy the Hemerocallis which had taken over ground from the tiny pink cyclamen flowering in their shady lawn edge position.


Summer reading                                       Jane Skipp
I know this is the Hardy Plant News Letter, so I hope I'll be forgiven if I write a little about a few books I have been reading and have much enjoyed over the summer months. They are loosely "gardening related", and it seemed a shame to keep their pleasures to myself, especially with the winter fast approaching, and the need to stay in by the fire with a good book fast approaching too. Last Christmas I was given a book by a friend who is an artist and excellent gardener. The title of the book is " Wildwood, A Journey Through Trees" by Roger Deakin. Deakin, who died in 2006 lived in Suffolk, and was, as some of you may know a writer, broadcaster and film maker with a special interest and love for the environment. His journey through trees is divided into four sections, with short essays on things relating to the section headings. Among the essays I found most enjoyable was the one entitled "Among Jaguars", where he explained what burr walnut is, where it is found, and how the veneers on dash boards of Jaguar cars are able to be matched so perfectly. I had often wondered how cabinet makers got veneers so perfectly matching and now I know. Another essay was about the origins of Walnuts, another on the development of apples. Towards the end of the book is a chapter on trees and hedgerows in Suffolk, holding out a hope for the possible regeneration of the Elm tree. The book is of the "can't put it down" variety and gives a fascinating insight to the world of wood and the interesting and unusual people who inhabit it have connections with it.

Later in the summer, I found in our local LOROS shop a copy of "The Curious Gardener", a collection of Anna Pavord's gardening articles from the Independent. I must confess I bought it originally for the pictures, wood engravings by Howard Phipps. I did read the words though, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but the wood engravings (a medium I have loved and wondered at for very many years) sent me back to my bookshelves to look at other books with these incredible black and white illustrations. I think it must be wonderful to have the skills to convey so much life, light and shade, moving clouds and water with just a block of boxwood and a few tools, with such living reality. Among my treasures are several books by Yvonne Skargon, whose "A Garden of My Own" is a short anthology of garden related poems and snippets in alphabetical order, with her own wood engravings to illustrate some of them. (For cat lovers her books about Oscar, Lily and Hodge (her cats) are also a delight). "Allotments", another anthology, this one collected by R.P. Lister, is illustrated by Miriam Macgregor, and has an abundance of interesting decorations.

Charles Tunnicliffe must rate among the greatest of twentieth century illustrators. His flower and animal wood engravings in the autobiographical books of Alison Uttley are really amazing as a small selection of his overall output, which includes books on birds, nature study and travel not just illustrated with wood cuts, but also scraperboard, watercolour and oils. He also worked as an artist for advertising agencies the 1940s and 50s Bob Martins advertisements among his output. I have a substantial collection of books with his illustrations, and often spend an hour or so just admiring them! 

Joan Rickaby, Claire Leighton, Val Biro and Helmut Weissenborn are all illustrators to keep an eye open for, and if you find any of their work, I hope you will enjoy looking at it as much as I do.

The Rutland HPS Committee trips                       Brian Taylor
1 was introduced to the Committee Trip in 1998 when I became the group's programme secretary and have been participating in these self-financing events ever since - as chairman [twice] and as one of the co-ordinators of the Plant Fair and the highly successful display stand at Gardeners World Live in 2003.

Initially, the Committee Trip served as a precursor to a group's day or half-day excursion by coach, but when several members said that they could not support an unbroken coach journey of more than two hours, group visits were confined to gardens within a reasonable distance of Uppingham. However, when all 'local' areas had been 'exhausted', the annual Committee Trip, undertaken by car, became a more expansive affair often involving long distances and one or more stopovers - but for those Committee members who would admit to being plantaholics the time spent on the road, sometimes involving several unforeseen detours, was justified when a beautiful garden or an interesting nursery appeared.

The Committee Trip is planned by one or more members who, having decided on the area to be visited, select a number of gardens based on the RHS 'Yellow Book' and advice from the local HPS chairman - who might also suggest places to stay and eat and nurseries that one might otherwise overlook. Accommodation can be difficult to arrange, especially when numbers reach double figures and at times, those who prefer a single room have been obliged to share. On a trip to Suffolk that I organized, I overlooked the marital status of several members and found myself, in the Old Vicarage at Little Horkesley, having to sleep in a child's cot!

The Committee Trip, has been, and I hope always be an enjoyable experience, a reward if you like for services rendered and an ideal opportunity for getting to know fellow committee members. Every trip has been a rich source of happy memories and every member will surely have his or her favourites, but for me that list must include visits to Brook Cottage near Banbury, Treaclebenders', near Bury St.Edmunds, in the rain, Sticky Wicket, in Dorset , the seamless grandeur of Bourton House in Gloucestershire, darting back and forth between the island beds and jetting hosepipes at Bressingham Hall and standing in awe before an all white bed of Miss Wilmot's Ghost at Glen Chantry in Essex.

But just a moment - how could I forget my first visit, in August, 1999, to Dolwen, an ancient longhouse deep in the Welsh marches where we visited Frances Denby's fascinating cottage-style garden and, if that was not enough, witnessed a solar eclipse in the rear window of my car, and then there was Sleighthome Dale Lodge, set on a steep hillside in a secluded Yorkshire vale with its spectacular one acre walled rose garden and row upon row of terraced herbaceous border that rose up from the valley floor in a glorious tapestry of colour and form.

In short, the Committee Trip is a bonus- an exhilarating one or two days amongst friends, enjoying the fellowship of enthusiastic gardeners like, for example Angela Whinfield of Snape Cottage near Gillingham, Dorset, Sue and Wol Staines of Glen Chantry in Essex and Michaelmas Daisy specialist Paul Picton of Colwall, near Malvern and then returning home with a carload of plants that one cannot possibly do without. What could be better than that!