P-house, the first disc

I ended up buying the Penelope Hobhouse DVD, The Art and Practice of Gardening. I blogged my notes about the second disc in the 2-disc set here and here. Now I have the first disc and I've probably watched it two, maybe three, dozen times in the last two months.

I'm not even remotely tired of it. As soon as the disc is done, I reach for the remote and press the 'play' button. Thank goodness I have other things going on in my life that demand my attention. Otherwise I don't know how or when I would ever peel myself away. It's driving Guy nuts.

She starts the first disc talking about roses. She wants you to know that you can grow roses in different ways--as shrubs, climbers, and hedges. "You don't have to grow them massed in beds all by themselves." I think we're all on board with that.

She takes us to Graham Stuart Thomas' garden of of old roses at Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire. Old roses are uniformly pale whites, pinks, mauves--all with a touch of blue. Harsh notes of orange or yellow in a rose are strictly modern.

Climb roses up old apple trees. Keep them nearby for fragrance.

Old roses typically bloom once per season in the spring (but the season of bloom can be long). P-house's docent, writer and historian Patrick Taylor, tries to spin the non-repeating season by invoking the pleasures of seasonal variation. He tries to explain that having constant blooming could get tedious, but P-house cuts him off sharply. (I love it when she does that.)

Rosa complicata, Rosa mundi, 'Alba maxima', 'Constance Spry' (an Austin rose), some others, get discussed. Rosa mundi is one of the oldest garden roses. Passion and dedication saved the old roses which would otherwise be lost to us now.

By the end of the 19th century, people were tired of the "old" roses and wanted long-blooming roses of uniform height and proportion. Interest in the old roses was revived after WWII. During that time, the modern shrub rose was introduced; its key features are repeat blooming, graceful form, and fragrance.

We meet David Austin in central England. He wanted to cross old roses to get the fragrance and shape of old roses, but with repeat-flowering. He says no flower varies as much as a rose, no flower is more difficult to photograph, or paint. Hmm.

'Constance Spry' and 'Chianti' were Austin's first crosses, but they did not repeat-flower. So he back-crossed with repeat-flowering types until finally he produced 'Wife of Bath'. It was 'Graham Thomas' and 'Mary Rose' however which signified the breakthroughs that made him famous.

In the next garden we get a lesson on the unique feel and attitude of ramblers. Where climbing roses are formal and architectural, English gardeners in the 1920s enjoyed using wild, romantic ramblers to "destroy" their otherwise formal, geometric garden patterns.

Think nothing of pruning wayward rambler stems that obscure the flowers. Ramblers are pruned immediately after flowering. Pliable rambler stems can be used to achieve diverse effects. Any free-standing shrub rose that grows to 5-feet will grow to 8 or 10 feet while trained against a wall. Ramblers make strong companions for other plants, especially evergreens. Examples are shown that combine different textures and feels.

P-house shows us some of the roses she grows. She praises 'Irene Watts' most of all. She concludes by reinforcing the idea that roses have diverse habits that you can use in different ways to make your garden "as beautiful as possible". There's that tyranny of the beautiful again. I'm against that, but I get it.

That's the end of the unit on roses.

The next unit is landscape gardening. The 18th-century English landscape garden, she says, is the greatest art form England has ever produced, having been copied all over the world. These gardens banished intimate flower gardens from near the house in favor of oneness with nature. Sheep and cattle grazed on the grass while trees grew into natural shapes. By the Victorian era, people were tired of this and revived the old intimacy. Ye Olde Intamacie. William Robinson is much discussed and soon we're off to Henry DuPont's garden at Winterthur.

While I love the subject matter, I have a hard time bonding with this unit. I think it's the plants. For a natural garden, may I recommend my Aug-06 visit to the Bloedel Reserve in Washington state, or better, go visit Outside Clyde.

I do like the discussion about growing plants in layers to let them show in succession. I appreciate the admonition to always ask where a plant comes from so that you can benefit from that knowledge when building your garden. P-house gets philosophical when she says that natural gardens move all parts of one's soul, whereas a formal garden appeals to logic and intellect which affects us too, but in a different way.

The discussion of Gertrude Jeckyll could be more. P-house sums up her philosophy on natural gardening by saying she's editing nature, not dictating to nature. Okay, we're good with the natural garden.

Next: Structural Elements. We're talking about the bones now.

P-house includes the color of paint you use in your garden as a structural element. She uses black. Her garden gates and garden furniture are all painted black. The walls are red brick. The paths are a gray, clayey gravel local to Dorset.

She hides her car under a pergola hidden by a hornbeam hedge. You should always think about your car when you lay out your garden because cars reflect light and spoil a view.

Rosemary Verrey's garden is next. What a charming, lovely lady she is. Her house dates to 1697. She calls it a humble country manor garden. Well, it has a Grecian temple. Gardening began in 1954. Your garden should always curtsy to your house according to Rosemary Verey citing Gertrude Jeckyll. In summer, a garden should be full of careless rapture. Terribly important to have verticals as well as horizontals. It's very important to copy ideas from other people. Verey copied a French garden's linden trees under-planted at the base with ivy and pruned into little balls...

Oops...okay, time for an abrupt halt. One of those other things going on in my life is calling me away from the Art of Gardening. Turns out it's bedtime now.

More P-house later.


Anonymous said...

Now I don't have to watch it. ;-) Thanks for the summary and critique.

Anonymous said...

Oh Chuck, the gardens of Outside Clyde, old and new could be the subject of a whole set of dvds. It boggles the imagination at what is growing there, some added that escaped back into the wild to blend with the natives. I think you really like writing P-house too.


lisa said...

I appreciate this review, because I am stubborn and never really investigate gardening "rules" or techniques, except by reading blogs. Very interesting.