Horticultural Hates

May 11, 2007

Continuing the subject of standards —plants not morals —I was surprised to find good little rosemary and French lavender standards (excellent for the centre of large pots) in the garden tent of our local Tesco. This is usually a mortuary for green things as they don’t water them properly and indeed ours is encircled by plastic troughs filled with gingerly dead dwarf conifers. Some would say that the only good dwarf conifer is a dead one and I’m sure the late David Hicks, interior and garden designer and arbiter elegantiarum would agree. He gives a long list of hates in his enjoyable book but does not mention conifers of any kind, perhaps because he swept them from his mind long ago as loathsome things. It is important not to feel snubbed or swayed if one’s loves are despised by these self-appointed judges of taste. He hates flowerbeds, rockeries, aster, aubretia, marigolds, tapestry hedges, arboretums, mixed avenues, orange lilies, forsythia, valerian, scarlet geraniums, salvias, aubergine-coloured shrubs, fuschia, lupins, Michaelmas daisy, red hot poker, lavatera, impatiens, snapdragons, begonia, Leylandii hedges, pampas grass, dahlias, gladioli and commercial chrysanthemums.

I really like snapdragons and lupins so long as they aren’t dwarf. I also like valerian and adore the tender salvias such as involucrata, patens, uliginosa, microphylla and buchananii which I find invaluable for the second half of the season. Could he have meant those scarlet fluffy things that people used to grow everywhere with white alyssum and blue lobelia in a flourish of patriotic fervour? You never see that now. Has the nation grown more sophisticated or less proud to be British, I wonder?