penelope and victoria

Two very significant conversations.

The first with Penelope Hobhouse in April.

About Hadspen, and the history of the garden, and her life in that garden. Plants, about the relationship between the gardener and the garden. About Central Asia, tender evergreens, Iranian plants.  Self-seeding plants, and an increasing love for them.  And her allotment back at Hadspen around 2007 (as the garden redesign was happening) sewn only with poppies from Kabul  – poppies that will continue to self-seed around Hadspen probably for years to come.

Talking with her was great. I liked seeing how she gardened now, in her own garden, away from management or expectation, and a sense of knowing exactly what she wants to grow, and to look at.  Cerinthe seedlings around and in the greenhouse.  A shared love of green flowers.

I love self seeders. I do have to edit them. I love seeing where they turn up. I love the fact that they’re happy enough to do it.

Our conversation recalled something Mary Keen wrote in the Telegraph in 2012 in relation to Hadspen and ‘a garden never lasting’ …

“There is an exemplary no-dig patch and until very recently Penny Hobhouse had a plot where she sowed opium poppies collected in Kabul. Now they seed all over the garden in shades of coral and raspberry pink and blackest purple. I suspect they may continue at Hadspen for hundreds of years, like Reseda luteola, the plant Romans used for its yellow dye, which surfaced after the excavation of a Roman site near Cirencester. It is, in the end, the seeds of former crazes that remain in gardens long after the designs their owners planned are blurred with wilderness.”


The second conversation with Victoria Glendinning later in April, who had moved into the Pope’s house when they retired and left England.

Victoria very generously showed me round her garden, pointing out plants that remained, or she herself had acquired when Niall Hobhouse and Nori Pope had invited gardeners to come in to dig up plants from the parabola, before the garden redesign began.  Victoria had prepared a list of plants that she had from Hadspen or from the Popes, and rather brilliantly, had written it in the back cover leaf of the Pope’s book ‘Colour by Design’.

We talked about the plants she had inherited or acquired from Hadspen Garden, in particular some dusty corms in a box which turned out to be ‘absolute thugs‘.

Victoria's list in the Popes book

And Victoria had created a special border which she had titled ‘Homage au Popes‘ –

“They adored plants with dark red or dark foliage, so I moved them all here to this bed.”

Victoria's list of plants


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