Acceptability Brown

January 2, 2007

How would Capability Brown have got on with English Heritage, I wonder. Or with Planning Guidelines or Building Regs. He would have had a fit, and we would be looking at a different landscape. No greensward sweeping down to winding water; no hanging clumps of oak or beech. Overgrown topiary would  be  towering  everywhere, and avenues fanning out all over the country. Still, the weeding industry would provide thousands of jobs….

How did we let ourselves be dictated to like this? It is one thing to acknowledge a public interest in what we do with our houses and gardens, but quite another to accept dictatorship by bureaucrat. We all have our stories. Mine is how we invited all the relevant planners for coffee and a tour of the house. In its 500 years everyone has had a go, adding wings or subtracting them, building new staircases and corridors and chimneys. The listed buildings officer dropped himself in it. “What I love about these old houses,” he said, “is that each generation leaves its mark. “Funny you say that. this,” said I, producing plans, “is the conservatory we are going to add.”

Don’t try to chop a tree down without a permit, though. Not even a self-sown sycamore. Not even an elder. Plant whatever you like; no one questions the innocent little tree you bring home in a pot. Just remember when it reaches 50 feet high to ask permission to cut it down.

Fashion extra

January 1, 2007

Will Salvia uliginosa be the next Verbena bonariensis? I hope so. V.b. is the lanky but resolutely upright plant with purple tiny  flowers that has filled fashionable gardens in the past three or four years. Seedlings take until late summer to flower, but gardeners, even gardeners with thousands of visitors and doubtless strict planting plans, can’t resist letting it spread. Wisley, the Savill Garden, the rose garden at Mottisfont – it’s everywhere.

And this salvia? Another lanky self–sower, with an even later season but with flowers of a unique sky blue. They are tiny too, in litle panicles at the end of many branches, but wave high above the border, here among pink Japanese anemones, white cosmos, pale  pink roses (and of course V.b.), in just the sort of nursery colour combination that made Christopher Lloyd so indignant.

Uliginosa means from boggy ground. Compared with some heat-seeking salvias, may be, but droughty summers here have only encouraged it. It comes up everywhere, especially in the brick path. Just like Veebee, but brighter, later, prettier and so far more special.

Hugh’s Gardening Books


Trees was first published in 1973 as The International Book of Trees, two years after The World Atlas of Wine….

Hugh’s Wine Books

The Story of Wine – From Noah to Now

A completely new edition published by the Academie du Vin Library: When first published in 1989 The Story of Wine won every…

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The International Dendrology Society (IDS)