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Posts Tagged ‘Penelope Hobhouse’

The Iowa winter seems to have dragged on interminably. Perhaps it seems that way because I’m preparing to move and deadlines always seem so far off, until, that is, the few days before D-day, and then you’re left wondering, where did the time go.

Enough of this quasi-metaphysical mooning. I planted the garden in front of the house last fall. At last. After nearly six years in Iowa, I finally got serious about my personal landscape. We even put up a sexy — and expensive — fence to block the view of the neighbors’ lurid plastic playscapes and other outdoor paraphenalia — there are now trampolines in four of the six backyards that I can see from my deck. The fence helps, as do the redbuds, katsura, paperbark maple, cornus and parrotia trees that I planted as living screens. It’s all working splendidly, and now I’m leaving. There’s an old Chicago adage, “light a cigarette and the bus comes”. Well, I plant a garden and I move. England. Texas. Iowa. Dare I plant another garden in my new home?

However, at the same time as I ask myself that question, I am making plant lists of all the wonderful things I can grow now that I’ll be in Zone 6. For a start, I expect that bulbs will be more luxuriant in their flowering (perhaps I can start a bluebell wood?); here I lost more than I can count to the endless cycle of freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw. Fortunately, the snowdrops I brought back from Ireland have survived and will be traveling with me to PA.

These ruminations were brought more sharply into focus by Penelope Hobhouse’s column-long story in the April ’09 issue of The Garden, the journal of the Royal Horticultural Society.

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Titled ‘Starting all over again,’ Penny describes how not quite a year ago she moved back to Hadspen House in Somerset where she had gardened 30 years before,  leaving behind the widely acclaimed garden and home she’d made at Bettiscombe in Dorset, just five miles from the sea. That garden, she said, was designed for her retirement. Now, at nearly 80, another retirement garden is called for, and as you might expect from one of England’s leading garden authorities, it is being thoughtfully planned. But instead of describing the low-maintenance features she’s incorporated, Penny talks about her plans for experiments with marginally hardy plants and the tender treasures she has collected. She anticipates draping the walls of her new home with scented climbers, and then reveals her secret weapon; the huge glasshouse she will have, the very one that sustained Hadspen yard’s previous occupants, Sandra and Nori Pope. You can almost hear her hands clapping in glee as one of England’s premier plantswomen contemplates the opportunity her next move offers, to “extend my collection and knowledge!” I completely share her buzz.

Gardening is, after all, an enterprise rooted in tomorrow (and some would say  a triumph of hope over experience). We gardeners are a tough and adventurous lot, always wondering what lies over the horizon, reveling in newness and diversity, griping about the weather, the lack of time, the perversity of Mother Nature, but loving it all nevertheless, and eagerly anticipating the next season’s triumphs. It is, as I’m sure Penny would agree, what keeps us young — each new season is like starting all over again, nevermind moving house and climate zones.

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