LEARNING FROM GARDENERS PAST with LANDSCAPE HISTORIAN JUDITH TANKARD
This week – we visit and learn from gardeners-past as we look to the future in conversation with Judith Tankard, a landscape historian, author, and preservation consultant.
Tankard is the author or co-author of twelve illustrated books on landscape history, including her most recent publications, Beatrix Farrand: Garden Artist, Landscape Architect (Monacelli Press, 2022); Gardens of the Arts and Crafts Movement; and Ellen Shipman and the American Garden, winner of the 2019 J. B. Jackson Book Prize.
Across her long career, Tankard has traced and made visible the lives, struggles, and achievements of some of the most notable female garden designers and landscape architects of the early 20th century.
One of the things I love about this conversation is how it illuminates that while Ellen Biddle Shipman may have ended her career in anonymity and Judith Tankard might have dismantled her hoped-for horticultural and design center at Reef Point in Maine because it was not going to be what she had hoped for in her lifetime - it is in the work do such historians as Tankard that these garden designers and luminaries live on and continue to teach in the broadest and farthest reaching sense.
Listen in! All images courtesy of Judith B. Tankard, all rights reserved.
Follow Judith Tankard online: http://judithtankard.com/
IF YOU LIKE THIS PROGAM,
you might also enjoy these Best of CP programs in our archive:
Generosity & Mutual Care of Seeds, K Greene Hudson Valley Seeds
JOIN US again next week, when we have a special pre-solstice treat for you in gardenlife conversation with the inimitable writer, thinker, cultural historian, and sometime-gardener, Maria Popova – of daily online literary and cultural journalThe Marginalian, and curator of the annual charitable gathering of the poetic-among us, The Universe in Verse. Listen in.
Speaking of plants... and place:
This week I can’t help but turn to a rose – in part because so many of mine have their final blooms on them – a little last ditch effort at glory after our very hot summer here, and encouraged by the fall and early winter rains. The blooms are getting nipped at by nighttime frosts, but they just haven’t given up yet.
I specifically want to talk about the gorgeous English border rose Rosa 'Gertrude Jekyll' who has a handful of pink blooms as I write. This rose is named for one of the notable British garden designers landscape historian Judith Tankard has studied and brought to life for readers everywhere: the esteemed British plantswoman: Gertrude Jekyll.
Born in London in 1843, Jekyll was a horticulturist, garden designer, craftswoman, photographer, writer, and artist. She created 100s of gardens in the UK, Europe and even here in the U.S. Jekyll died in 1932 at her well-known house and garden Munstead Wood. To this day she is considered highly influential in British and American garden design and beloved for her plantings rich in color, texture, and perennial flowering plants, shrubs, bulbs, and vines and which unfolded right across the garden year.
This would, in part, explain why when British rosarian David Austin set out to breed blousy, fragrant so-called “English garden roses” that were lushly flowering, fragrant, and loose in form like old garden roses – blooming not just a single time in spring, but across the season, he named many of his roses after famous garden people. His first rose, introduced in 1961, was a spring flowering climber named for the floral maven and designer Constance Spry.
While the deep pink, wholly double many petaled Rosa Gertrude Jekyll was not one of his earliest introductions, it remains one of the best -selling of Austin’s English roses since its introduction in 1986. In my mind and in my garden, Rosa 'Gertrude Jekyll' is one of Austin’s finer creations, it has that round, open classic English rose shape with repeat bloom to boot.
Growing to 5′ or so in our zone 8b garden in interior Northern California, ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ is listed as hardy in zones 5-10. While roses do need water, once established good shrub roses can be very fairly drought tolerant requiring deep watering just 1 or 2 times a week in summer. While Gertrude the rose was born in the damper conditions of the UK, she is in fact well-documented as struggling with black spot fungal disease, and therefore is a better choice in more arid condition, and she seems fine in our hot DRY summers and often damp, but cool, winters here.
I’ll begin pruning and feeding my roses in January or February here, but in colder climates you’ll want to wait through the hardest parts of your winter. One hint that you should be ok to prune is when your rose canes are pushing out fat green leaf buds themselves. More on pruning the different kinds of roses another time – or look to the American Rose Society for more information on your exact location or your exact kind of rose.
‘Gertrude Jekyll’ is one of the thornier roses – so wear gloves and long sleeves as your approach pruning, and thorny clippings are perhaps best put into your greenwaste bin rather than your home compost bin for safety sake now and later.
Gertrude blooms on new wood, so during the blooming season deadhead (or simply pick flowers for indoors) to keep flowering going throughout the season. Each deep pink-bloom holds for several days on the shrub in weather that’s not too hot, and each bloom – born singly or in clusters of 2 – 3 - is incredibly fragrant. Some say that due to one her parents being ‘Comte de Chambord’, Gertrude has a very strong, damask rose scent, while others describe it as a classic and deep old—rose scent. Either way – close your eyes and inhale a stem or a bouquet of Rosa 'Gertrude Jekyll 'and you will know – everything’s coming up roses. A garden grown rose is among the finer things in life.
Heck - any garden grown anything is among the finest of things in life. Grow more flowers!
Thinking out loud this week:
Pure luck – pure luck. I am thinking about this – about the idea of luck, which next week’s guest Maria Popova describes as an anthropocentric term for that “baffling blur of both time and chance”….and effort aggregated. Nothing happens by pure luck, as the very very accurate saying goes – you cannot win if you don’t play – and you cannot grow something if you don’t plant and tend.
As we near the solstice I ask myself daily: what will I resolve to grow and tend in the next circle around the sun? What about you? What will you grow and tend? What seeds will you plant, what will you pay attention to, what compost, what lessons will you commit to learning – a healthy handful of you have written to me recently allowing that the inspiration they have gleaned these six years of Cultivating Place have propelled them into the advance degree studies they are currently undertaking. Wow. So what about it? What are we wanting to grow next?
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