One of my (many) goals for The Potting Shed is to provide an outlet for local artists and craftsmen. So I was delighted when this lovely pear was carried through the gate by a former Sydney jetsetter, now semi-retired and living in the Highlands. He loves working with steel he explained, as a hobby, and would I be interested in some of his pieces to sell at The Potting Shed. Yes indeed, I said and next day he pulled up in his ute and showed me a beautiful obelisk he had made for his wife, the legs still covered in dirt fresh from her rose garden! Elegant and perfectly proportioned, it was just what I had been looking for, for my own garden. And therefore I was sure it would be ideal for The Potting Shed. Off you go, I said. Make me more. And so I am waiting for the ute to pull up again, hopefully this week, with more steel woven magically into art by this George Clooney lookalike, who prefers to remain anonymous. I’ll let you know when more goodies arrive – but in the meantime, if you’re looking for a special piece for your courtyard, orchard or on a table in a conservatory, this pear is simply, quietly stunning. It is, as a friend and seasoned collector noted, ‘just right’.
As I was out weeding late last evening, taking advantage of the soft ground after all the rain, there literally glowing in the dark was the beautiful rose Lady Hillingdon. Poor thing, like so many of my roses she’s had to adapt to several different homes as part of the ongoing relocation of sections of the garden. But this autumn, she’s taken charge … she’s put her pretty foot down and said this is where I’m staying. From a spindly, frail little thing she has emerged as the great beauty I knew she should be. Covered from head to toe in the loveliest colour I can’t actually find words to describe. Not apricot, not orange, not yellow, but a blended tone of those – the best I can offer is the colour of the mango gelati at Messina in Darlinghurst where we often used to go for a treat on the way home from dinner. Soft, satiny mango coloured blooms nodding elegantly down – she is the belle of the ball. So unspeakably lovely and graceful. Delicate, captivating, fragile. Hauntingly beautiful. And with a magnificent perfume that is just as hard to describe. It was too dark to photograph her so here are stock shots I felt captured her.
David Austin describes her thus: “A vigorous and hardy climbing rose, and one of the best tea roses still in existence. The blooms are made up of large petals, resulting in long, elegant, waxy buds, which open to large, loosely formed flowers of deep apricot-yellow. These hang gracefully from the branch and emit a delicious, rich tea fragrance. ‘Lady Hillingdon’ continues to flower throughout the summer with unusual regularity. It has fine contrasting dark green foliage, which is coppery mahogany when young. 15ft.”
And these comments from Paul Bardon do her justice – far better than I have managed.
“Lady Hillingdon, a tea. Bred by Lowe and Shawyer, UK 1910.
There is a certain quality about this rose that very nearly defies description. Whether it is the rich warm yellow coloring, the incredibly deep and unique fragrance, or the lovely contrasting reddish-plum colored foliage that makes this such an incredible beauty is hard to say. I have not had this plant of Lady Hillingdon long, and now I cannot imagine why I took so long in acquiring it! This bloom, which is about 4 inches across, opened on May 5th in my greenhouse, and it has been one bloom that I have visited many times daily for its scent.
I believe I have the shrub form of Lady Hillingdon, which is about 3′ tall and 2′ wide at maturity. (Bigger in warmer climates) There is a climbing variety that is more often grown that will climb to 15′ tall and 8′ wide. Although I have little experience with it yet, I understand that it has winter hardiness comparable to most Hybrid Teas. I would grow this rose for the fragrance alone.
As with most of the Tea roses, ‘Lady Hillingdon’ is a densely twiggy, slim-branched rose that gains slowly in size over several years. I find the graceful, finely branched form of the Tea roses to be very beautiful. If you live in an area where you can grow these roses, you should make them a part of your garden.”
Oh to have a rose named after you, let alone one as lovely as this. So who was this Lady Hillingdon?
Alice, Lady Hillingdon was born the Hon Alice Harbord-Hamond and married the second Lord Hillingdon. As a wedding present her father gave them property in Norfolk, where they built Overstrand Hall, according to Pevsner ‘one of Lutyens’s most remarkable buildings, at the time when he had reached maturity but still believed to the full in his own inventiveness’, but Lady Hillingdon reportedly preferred London, for the society.
It is said that in her journal for 1912, or in a letter to her mother (which sounds rather unlikely), Lady Hillingon wrote: ‘I am happy now that Charles calls on my bedchamber less frequently than of old. As it is, I now endure but two calls a week and when I hear his steps outside my door I lie down on my bed, close my eyes, open my legs and think of England.’
Sadly, her journal has been lost. Perhaps on purpose. But whether or not it was hers, what a gift that phrase has been.
The picture above is her portrait by Bassano, who photographed all the ladies of the day, from the National Portrait Gallery.
I know the phrase ‘less is more’ is the catch cry of the fashionistas and stylists … and in fashion that generally is true. But in the home and garden I say ‘more is more’! More roses, more peonies, more trees, more hedges, more art and books, more gorgeous things to beautify our lives.On our farm we have, amongst lots of other things, 32 geese and some of my friends say I should reduce the numbers to lessen the workload … but I can’t agree. To see them all take flight and land on the pond in a flourish of shimmering beauty is a sight to behold … their silhouette in the late afternoon as they come through the pines, and the river of white as they wind their way through the orchard gate each night to be fed is so very lovely. Much more spectacular than say 5 or 6 geese. They add movement and interest to the garden. Plus, they keep our sheepdog Sam amused! Every day he wakes me at dawn to let his geese out. He loves them and swoops excitedly about as they exit the yard into the orchard. He rounds them up all day long splitting them into various groups, regrouping them, dividing them, herding them. It’s funny and uplifting to watch. It’s the same with gardening … one or two of anything looks lonely. If you can, go for mass plantings. Even if you have a courtyard garden, be bold. Better to have lots of one thing than a little, meagre smattering of lots of different things. And repeat the same plant or plantings throughout to bring continuity and settle the eye. Just as lots of one style of plants looks better, so too does a story of similar pots, or matching barrels. So if in doubt, choose a style of plant you like and say to yourself “more is more”!