Category Archives: garden books

Travelogue: Chelsea Physic Garden

IMG_3352 ifirst herbal book sign.jpg In the 1600’s, the engaging study of botany and plants, really depended on only 3 sources: herbals (such as Gerard’s), collections of plants (pressed, dried, glued to sheets of paper and labelled), and excursions to countries where teachers were learning from living plants. The challenge-some plants were being studied by looking at dead plants glued to a page. It just wasn’t the same as learning by growing a living plant, nor very diverse. So a group called the Apothecaries set out to find land in London just after the great fire, where they could cultivate rare plants and sow seeds and slips from plants that were being brought in from other countries.
And so begins the garden intended for study and the advancement of botany and not just a garden to grow plants used for drugs. The reputation of a garden for medicine is steeped in history. Because truly medicine men and healers became the only teachers of botany. Early descriptions of plants were written by them. Even digging deeper into history, a wonderful old book I bought at a bookshop at Hay-On-Wye, The Romance of the Apothecaries Garden at Chelsea (1928) states:  Primitive man crawled out of his cave and had to “discover that the roots and leaves of wild cabbage were wholesome, but that the plant monkshood nearby would stop his breath” …and so the cave man became, of necessity a field botanist–a better one than many a modern Londoner.”img_8824-bookjpg
Today, a walk through this 4-acre plot that is surrounded by  brick walls and iron gates to keep out the hustle and bustle of  London is still following its original intent. A place to study, learn and experience useful plants. For me, it was truly a reminder that seeing a plant, touching and smelling it are the best ways to learn about plants.img_3353chelsea

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A bust of Joseph Banks, the plant hunter who donated stone for use in the building of  the Pond Rockery Garden

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Sign, sign, everywhere a sign!

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In case you are tempted to pinch a plant to take a cutting home…here is your warning

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Bad Tempered Gardener?

Travelogue Wales: South of Abergavenny, just over an hour drive past Raglan Castle  was a visit to a private garden. We walked down a small gravel lane off the main highway to a gate almost hidden under a tree. A hand-written sign led into the garden of Anne Wareham author of the book, The Bad-Tempered Gardener.  Prior to our visit, I did wonder what a bad-tempered gardener’s place would look like (I had not heard of the book.)  I don’t remember being bad-tempered in any garden, even when stuff dies, explodes (yep, a hose), overtakes (horsetail, ugh!), and just flat-out defeats me after a day spent in it.
Veddw House Garden

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The artistry of hedging at Veddw

We were greeted near the small conservatory by Anne’s husband,  Charles Hawes, a talented, well-known photographer. He mentioned she wasn’t home (I won’t spend too much space here telling who I later saw sneaking out the back door, while I was alone photographing one of the back gardens.)

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A peek inside the Conservatory

Charles gave us a warm welcome and spoke about the garden before he let us explore on our own. His described it as “a garden with edges being rough and ready”, which is a good visual for the way the lush planting borders threaten to spill over and have the run of the place. I did like his description  of simply letting the plants “have it out”. As I looked around, it made me think how I’d love to pursue that garden method.

“I have seen gardens gardened within an inch of their lives. I have seen gardens so “tidy” it makes your soul cringe. The kind of garden where the lawns are “edged” with a special tool, designed to keep the grass and the plants forever apart and weeded to death. Such gardens prickle with discomfort and control.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener
Yes, the plants were let to go wild, reseed, spread and fill every inch of soil, but the intricate maze of hedges somehow made it feel less rough. It was more like walking through rooms of an art gallery with works from an abstract artist. The  hedges behaving like picture frames all around to bring it together.

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Hosta en masse

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“Florist Cardy” (Cynara cardunculus)  with a side of Heuchera

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“I have met gardeners who make the sign of the cross at the sight of Alchemilla. This is because it seeds itself so generously. Well. be grateful that there is such a beautiful essential plant that does that for us and then find a good use for it.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

After our visit to the garden, I had a lucky find-out of thousands of  used books crammed on a shelf in a little book shop at  Hay-On-Wye (a village famous for books. The streets are lined with dozens of used and antiquarian bookshops.)  IMG_8657Here area  few snippets from the book:

What do you think? Bad tempered?
“Gardening is boring. It is repetitious, repetitive and mind-blowingly boring, just like housework. All of it-sowing seeds, mowing, cutting hedges, potting up, propagating is boring and all if it requires doing over and over again. If there are enjoyable jobs they’re mostly enjoyable for the result, not the process.”   Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

Or simply telling it like it is

“The very best trick is to try things and see. Experiment; take risks, particularly if they involve less work. This way innovation rises and innovation is badly needed in the gardening world. If a job seems exasperating, expensive or boring, stop and think whether there might be an easier way. Plants want to grow; they are on your side as long as you are reasonably sensible. If they don’t like what you offer, offer them something else quickly and see if it suits better.” Anne Wareham, The Bad-Tempered Gardener

 

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veddw wood edging

Next Travelogue: Going Herbal at the Physic Garden

 

 


Travelogue: Check mark off the bucket list: Aberglasney

What is a bucket list? A list of things, whether written out or virtual, of places to go or things to do before you die. Mine is also known as the “someday” list and includes  gardens I’d like to visit. I could walk through gardens all day, every day, but sometimes one I have read about captures my imagination. I think about what it would be like to walk in and get sensory overload just by being there. Touch, smell, feel-those things photos or the internet can never do.
Aberglasney in Wales was added to my bucket list in 2007. I attended a lecture in Seattle given by the head gardener, Graham Rankin. It was a story of a garden lost in time (a book and BBC series) and its restoration. Just the idea of how a garden and home of that magnitude dating back 500 years, could simply disappear into rubble, was fascinating. Looking at the photos, I envisioned myself walking along the upper course of the  Elizabethan cloister garden. Back then, I never thought I would get to Wales, so visiting this garden was on my list, but really almost forgotten. Fast-forward to 2015 and the planning stages of traveling with a group to the UK. I notice we will be staying in Abergavenny. My mind began to wonder, is it possible that Abergavenny is near the Aberglasney on my bucket list?  Google maps said it was just over an hour drive away. It wasn’t on our itinerary, but I couldn’t get THAT close and not go! Uber, cab, bike, hitchhike, walk…I had to figure it out. Marianne, our tour planner,  did some searching to add it to our itinerary and found out they were closed on our one free day in the area. NO! But, yes, with Marianne’s keen negotiation, Aberglasney was added for a visit on the longest day of the year with dinner included.
Misty eyed
It was late afternoon in the lovely country side of Wales. As we drove up the coach parking, I felt lost. Was this the place I had seen in photos? It just didn’t look right. We started in the restored main entry of the house, and then walked through a door at the back of the room. It opened to the Ninfarium and that was the moment I recognized it from the photos that Graham Rankin had shown; I almost started to cry. Yep, that’s me (what a nerd), I had a moment of overwhelming gratefulness that I could travel and walk through this place that I had only seen in photos.

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The Ninfarium,  the central ruins of the house covered with glass to create an atrium.

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The Cloister Garden

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All the lovely angles of ancient stone in the Cloister Garden

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A look back at the house from the Upper Walled Garden

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A walk through the Yew tunnel planted in the 18th century.

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The Kitchen Garden

It was magical for us to spend the summer solstice walking the gardens with head gardener Joseph Atkin. Dinner was cooked from food grown in the lower walled kitchen garden and served on the terrace overlooking the pool garden as the sun was setting. The perfect way to check
this one off the bucket list. And yes,  I finally got to take the walk I had only imagined, on the upper part of the cloister walls, what a view!  If your journey ever takes you into the heart of Wales, you must go visit this place.

 

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The Upper walled garden designed by Penelope Hobhouse

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Gardens by a few degrees of separation: I visited a garden in LaMalbaie, Quebec, Canada, Les Jardins de Quatre-Vent, (checked off my bucket list in 2013) that has ties to Aberglasney. Frank Cabot and family, owners of Les Quatre Vent, gave money to help with the restoration of Aberglasney. Add the gardens of Les Quatre Vent to your bucket list too!

Next Travelogue: Visiting Eden


Seasons!

Green Friday at Urban Garden Company


In Love with Lavender

a drift of color greets guests to the front door as it spills along a walkway.

Every season about this time, I feature an article in my newspaper column on growing lavender. The subject and fascination with this plant makes it one of my most requested herb talks. There is a romantic allure to the purple haze of blossoms in the garden this time of year. The festivals begin in mid-July and fragrance fills the air on a hot summer day as the essential oils are released.  The charm is not only about growing it in the garden.  The legend, lore and history of lavender can be just as enchanting as growing it.

I once heard it termed as the Swiss army knife of herbs and that is an apt description. It does just about everything a herb should do. The use of lavender buds and essential oil  dates back thousands of years.  It has recorded uses for over 2500 years, from medicine to cooking; it has stood the test of time. Many herbs go in and out of favor as their attributes are found to either not work or to be too powerful to be safe.  Lavender has never gone out of favor and is as popular as ever.  The essential oils are in all parts of lavender from roots to leaves, but the flowers are the only part that oil is distilled from. The aromatic oil of lavender has powerful natural ingredients that are prized in perfume but also for medicinal qualities.  The principal components of the oils depend on where it is grown but include properties that are antibiotic, antiseptic, skin renewing and healing, calmative, pain relief, insect repellant and nerve tonic. Culpepper’s historical herbal gives testament to many “interesting” healing properties including sluggish maladies, strengthening of the stomach, a gargle against toothache and to reduce the trembling and passions of the heart.

The name lavender is derived from the Latin lavare which means “to wash”.  It was used extensively in history by Romans as perfume for the bath. In areas of Europe and the middle east where it was native and plentiful is was used as a strewing herb; harvested stems were strewn across the floors of home and churches to cleanse and repel flies and mosquitoes.

English lavender and its cultivars are the most common grown in our gardens and of note; English lavender did not originate in England but was a plant introduction as it spread its way into France, Italy and Spain.  The first notation of lavender cultivated in England was in 1568, and has since become synonymous with English gardens. An air of Victorian melodrama comes with lavender lore as it was used as an aromatic spirit to prevent fainting spells and swooning.

Capture the use of lavender and its legendary attributes:

(Use caution on sensitive skin and test for allergies first!)

  On your next camping trip take a bottle of lavender essential oil: Dab it on bug bites for itch relief, dab on minor burns for fast healing and soothe a headache with one drop of oil on each temple and gently massage for 15 minutes.

 Mist sunburned skin with a cooling lavender water mist: To make a mist, simmer ½ cup of fresh lavender buds in 4 ounces of purified water for at least 15 minutes. (Do not boil, just simmer). Allow to cool, add 10 drops of lavender essential oil (found in health food stores). Place in a glass bottle with mister spray top. Shake well before use and mist on sunburned or itchy skin.

Fill a fabric sachet with dried lavender buds and place the car as an air freshener. The added aromatherapy properties have a calming effect for tense times in rush hour traffic.

 

(Recipes from the second in the series of Creative Garden Guides- “In Love with Lavender” by Susan Goetz

Booklets may be purchased by post or online. For more information www.thecreativegardener.com


Green Graffiti

Green quote of the day: “If nothing else, reuse is all about having fun. Yes, it conserves energy. Yes, it’s an appropriate response to the wastefulness of our disposable times. It can even be seen as an act of sedition, undermining the status quo. But mostly, it’s about having fun. We get to bring imagination and creativity to the table and indulge in an adult form of play.” – The Revolutionary Yardscape by Matthew Levesque

So here it is, finally arrived. Nine months of planning come down to the next ten days. We begin building today at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, YIKES.

One thing I learned this past week: Kids from generation Y and Z are intelligent. They are the future. “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

For an activity this week, I gathered up a long strip of butcher paper and asked my AP Government and Politics class, “Green is the color of…?” I had them ‘graffiti’ this piece of paper with everything that the color green meant to them. It was such an awesome experience. Then, I went to my old middle school, Kopachuck Middle school in Gig Harbor to do the same activity. Boy, the differences were intriguing.

Kopachuck Middle School visit

6th graders at Kopachuck Middle School doing some "green graffiting!"

For example, some of the high schoolers said “envy, money, Starbucks, Lord of the Rings, and Yoda” reminded them of green,while the middle schoolers said, “football fields, jello, school binders, salad, and blue+yellow” being green to them. Ask an elementary student and they reply, “Lettuce, frogs, grass, plants, trees, apples.”

So, it’s your turn. What does the color green remind you of? Keep that thought and bring it to the show. You’ll see just what I’m doing with these ‘graffiti’ sheets. You don’t want to miss it. 🙂

I will try to blog every day during the building process and the show. Plenty of pictures and videos to come!

P.S. Another thing I learned this week? Never leave Sue Goetz unattended with a can of purple spray paint. Trust me on this one. Anyone who knows her gardens… knows this well.


Reading the Garden

I am often asked this time of year; what would be a good garden book for gifting. As my mind wandered to this latest inquiry, my thoughts also strayed to one of those annoying advertising strips that flit across the computer screen.  Electronic books are the hottest thing this Christmas…or at least that is what the advertisement said.

Really?…where the heck am I going to press plant leaves on a Kindle™—I like pages, I like opening a book and the musty smell of old paper. I like when a dried leaf flutters out – a reminder of a day in the garden identifying plants.  I find joy in discovering gardens in my mind by beautiful descriptive words. The floriferous words of Constance Spry in her Garden Notebook; “Perfection in living seems to me to consist not in the spending of large sums of money but in the exercise of a selective and discerning taste in the use of what we may possess, and flowers and plants can in their judicious use contribute in a high degree to the elegance and graciousness of life.”There is also the matter of fact verbiage of Gertrude Jekyll, the humor of Beverley Nichols, the realism and wit of Henry Mitchell in his pursuit of a garden in The Essential Earthman.

 Yes, they take up more space than a stream of electronic pages practically the size of a credit card; but how will I feel surrounded and comforted without bookcases doubled layered and overfilled. I may have to go kicking and screaming in the electronic age but I will cling to the earthy smell of my garden library the whole way.

 On a recent foray to Goodwill, my husband handed me a book that he had dug from the bottom of a bin. The green fabric cover was a bit tattered and there was scribble from a tiny hand learning to explore with an unwarranted marker.  The title… Making things Grow outdoors…catchy?  Not really, but the words on the pages drew me in.  I tend to flip through, read randomly, and then go to the last page of the last chapter to decide if it will come home to my overburdened bookshelves. Here is a quote that made me take this one home “…A tennis victory is forgotten, a golf card torn up and your past triumphs in those fields are remembered mainly by yourself. But a garden ….stands as a monument to what you have put in it as well as your involvement with nature in an era of ever increasing divorce from wild things…” Thalassa Cruso.  If you do not know who the writer is check out a tribute to her in the New York Times.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990DE6DF163EF93BA25755C0A961958260

Now how would I have discovered the “Julia Child” of horticulture without a treasure hunt at the bottom of a bin of books?

Read a garden book the real way… turning paper pages and getting crumbs in the center crease from eating cookies while reading.   

But I digress…

Going back to the original subject; gifting books for a gardener. 

Take a journey to your local hometown used bookseller, and haunt the shelves. Dig into anything by Beverley Nichols, Henry Mitchell, Vita Sackville-West, Gertrude Jekyll, Christopher Lloyd, and Rosemary Verey first, and then journey to lesser-known authors.   They may not have the glossy photos of modern garden books, but the words will paint the pictures for you.  As you peruse shelves  take a  moment to  just read the names of books; A Feast of Flowers, the Language of Gardening, Adventurous Gardener, The Complete Book of Garden Magic…you get the pictures without even needing a photograph.


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