Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Arts & Crafts Garden: It Did Fly

From the Edwardian garden, down a slippery slope to many purposes. Or was it up?


Essay and photos by John Levett

In her chapter on “The Arts and Crafts Garden” in her [still] wonderful book The English Garden in the 20th Century, Jane Brown refers, in turn, to Gertrude Jekyll’s Gardens for Small Country Houses. I had a copy of it many decades ago but gave it to a friend when a new move couldn’t house all my collection.

The ‘small country house’ designation is relative. What we think of as a small house in the country these days might easily have referred to the gamekeeper’s cottage in the long-weekend of Edwardian England. Nevertheless, Jekyll’s recommendations are still adapted and muddled through albeit with less of the hard graft that it took then. If I were to redesign my garden now, I’m sure I’d find a copy and hatch a scheme accordingly.

That thought came to me a week ago before the snow arrived. I’d just finished the tidying up of the climbers and ramblers, finished pruning the deadwood and started tying in. Standing back and taking note of what else I could be doing before February is out, it came to me that a redesign over the next couple of years might be prudent. I’ve taken a few falls off the ladder in the past couple of years and the tall growths are getting to be ‘Small Country House’ size. Making changes would be a wrench. There are moments in late May when I sit there and want to be nowhere else. There are a ridiculous number of roses for this patch but I know why I built it this way and the reasons haven’t changed.

I think that maybe the turn-and-turn-around of garden life may push me into change. I think that three or four of the species roses (the earlies) have taken a dive. There’s usually a bud or two showing by now and, with the mild winter we’ve had, I should be seeing some growth; but not so.


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Posted by Julie on 02/12 at 03:15 PM
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Friday, February 03, 2012

Widely Winged

After years of assiduous transnational work, botanists at Kew coax an iris into bloom for the first time.


Iris stocksii bloomed in cultivation for the first time 1/23/12, at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

Photo: Andy McRobb

We imagine Tony Hall swinging through the door of a hospital maternity ward: “It’s an Iris stocksii!”

Congratulations to Tony, to Kit Strange, Juan Piek and everyone else involved in finding the rare bulbs in Afghanistan and handling them with such wisdom and care that the first flowered last month at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. (And our thanks to Allen Bush for informing us all along the way.)

We are delighted and grateful to post in full Tony Hall’s fine description of this beautiful flower, its “gestation” and birth. A more complete scientific description may be found here.

If you’ve ever wondered how a top notch working horticulturist thinks (hyper-observant, meticulously historical), this account is revealing. (We’ve taken the liberty of dividing Hall’s four paragraphs into shorter passages for ease of reading online.)

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Posted by Julie on 02/03 at 03:32 PM

Thursday, February 02, 2012

HFQ #11: A Freight Forwarder?

Transporting plants internationally takes special expertise. Can anyone help this farmer in Austria find a “travel agent” for sweet potato slips?


Do you know of a reliable freight forwarder with experience handling plants?

A reader in Austria writes:

“We are a family farm in Austria, trying to import young specialty plants from the U.S. for a farm-trial this year (ipomoea batatas ‘slips’; 2 or 3 palletts (450kg each), in May 2012, to be specific).

“The nursery in the US producing them for us has no experience in overseas shipping and could not find any freight forwarder willing to take on the shipment… they all claim they categorically “don’t do plants,” the nursery tells us. Neither have I found any freight forwarder this side of the Atlantic interested/willing to do this, much to my chagrin.

“Therefore, may I ask if you could maybe recommend a freight forwarder, specializing in plant-transport? Or, would you happen to know a possible source/weblink for such freight


“Thank you so very much, any help is very appreciated.”

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Posted by Julie on 02/02 at 11:42 AM
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