Sunday, 15 October 2017


Yesterday Chris and I, together with our friends Ann and John, paid a visit to Thenford , the home of Michael Heseltine and his wife. The house dominates the hamlet and virtually is Thenford. Dating largely from the late eighteenth century, the house is doubtless very fine but we, and hundreds of other visitors, were concerned only with the gardens. The weather was unusually warm and we counted ourselves very lucky.
Such was the wealth of plants, even this late in the year, that I suffered a sort of mental overload. This, coupled with the need to cover as much ground as possible in the time available, meant that I took very few photographs. Furthermore I made the error of photographing the more colourful, as distinct from the more interesting, plants. This Red Hot Poker for example - I believe it to be Kniphofia rooperi - is dramatic but not scarce, being readily available from a number of nurseries. Unfortunately these plants become very untidy when flowering is over but are certainly striking.
A fine clump of Red Hot Pokers, probably Kniphofia rooperi, were backed
by a warm wall. Thenford, 14 October, 2017
Then there were the Tulbaghias growing against a warm wall. The species is probably Tulbaghia violacea but, as with the Kniphofia, there was no label to be found. This and the Red Hot Poker both hail from South Africa but the Tulbaghia is a little more tender and is safer with the shelter provided by the wall together with a well-drained soil. I grew Tulbaghias in Byfield a few years back but a cold winter finished them off and I haven't tried them since. It is a very attractive genus and is well worth cultivating but don't use them as cut flowers: the distinctive smell shows its relationship to onions!
Tulbaghias also benefited from a warm siting. The species is probably
Tulbaghia violacea. Thenford, 14 October, 2017
Requiring even greater protection is Hedychium. This is a very large genus of plants and again, frustratingly, I could find no label. It is almost certainly Hedychium gardnerianum but it could be any one of several hybrids available. Hedychiums are in the ginger family and are thus closely related to the ginger of commerce, Zingiber officinale. Most require the protection of a greenhouse but can be potted up and spend the summer months outside.
Hedychium gardnerianum may cope outside unless winter is unusually
harsh. Thenford, 14 October, 2017
In contrast to the herbaceous plants, most of the trees and shrubs were clearly - or reasonably clearly - labelled. Roy Lancaster had been deeply involved in the selection of species and I suspect that the unusually fine range of ash trees, Fraxinus species, was instigated by him.  Properly labelled too were most of the plants in the several glasshouses, here seems to be a law in operation: if I'm unsure about a plant, it doesn't bear a label.
We enjoyed the obligatory tea and cakes - very good they were too - before meandering back to the car.
There is little doubt that Chris and I will return next year, when much more should be in flower.
So why, if am so keen to return, did I leave with a feeling of unease, bordering on repugnance? Why did the house and grounds bring to mind certain streets in the less salubrious parts of Banbury, less than six miles away?
To expand upon that subject would make this blog distinctly political. Not the done thing at all.


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