I’ve been receiving each issue of The Plantsman, then The New Plantsman, now The Plantsman again, for 38 years. I wish I’d been able to keep them; they encompass a vast amount of good information. Especially recently, it seems to me. This month’s issue is full of news as well as the usual meaty plant-related articles. Not all the news is good: there is a serious new plague of Fuchsia gall mite in the south of England, the dreaded Rhododendron superponticum has now invaded 100,000 hectares of this island, and the little Asian hornet, which attacks bee hives, has arrived (in Gloucestershire).
The main articles are on growing proteas, on the importance of gardening in cities, on hunting ferns in the Pacific northwest, on propagating cyclamen by stem cuttings, on Dahlia species in Mexico that few of us have ever seen, on Acer griseum in the wild (and the best specimens in gardens). All are well-written and well-illustrated. The sort of thing, I thought wistfully, that long ago made The Garden so valuable, but is seemingly deemed too highbrow for modern members.
One article made me particularly wistful: Brent Elliot’s account of the late Valerie Finnis and her husband Sir David Scott. We were lucky enough to know them in the 1970s and 80’s, staying occasional weekends at the Dower House at Boughton in Northants where they gardened together. I learned more from them about gardening and the love of plants than from anyone I have met. Valerie was a photographer, too, and in a class of her own. Her square Rolleiflex pictures, often portraits or still-lifes, were somehow infused with her sympathetic curiosity
Sir David was the model of a ‘parfit gentil knight’. In his middle 90’s he retained his curiosity, his wonderful gentle manners, and his memory. He would pick up on a conversation started weeks before. He spent many of his last winter evenings reading the letters his parents wrote to each other daily in the 1880’s, each still in its envelope with its penny stamp.