About Noel Kingsbury

Noel Kingsbury is a gardener and writer based in the west of England. Author of over 20 books, including four collaborations with Dutch designer Piet Oudolf, he is passionate about wild-style planting and bringing nature into the garden.

Author Archive | Noel Kingsbury

Privacy, greed and gardens

There are no photographs heading this post, because there are NO PHOTOGRAPHS. The whole point of this post is that there aren’t any.

Some years ago I was interviewing a garden design colleague, a well-known one, who was complaining bitterly about how he was increasingly finding that clients would not let him have ‘his’ gardens photographed for publication. Continue Reading →

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Spring into Summer

This flower arrangement, picked from our garden somehow encapsulates the place. We had Daniela Coray staying, who used to be a florist, hence the arrangement.

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Chelsea Flower Show – a view from the past

"Now this could have been the 1920s!"

“Name’s Fossington-Williams, Sir. John Fossington-Williams. I’m dead, died in 1957, but in my time I was a great lover of the Chelsea Flower Show, so every now and again my ghost goes back to have a look, see what’s changed, what hasn’t changed etc. Here’s what I’ve got to say about the show this year.”

“Chelsea got going early 20th century, but really hit its stride after The Great War, in the 1920s, its hey day really. Chaps like me, gentlemen, would go up on the train, sometimes with our head gardeners traveling in third class too, they’d follow one along, at a respectable distance, and carry the nursery catalogues one picked up, and in my case, he would have a satchel with a big ledger in it with all the plants we had bought over the years, so we wouldn’t order anything twice over. Ordering plants from nurseries was what Chelsea was all about in those days. One saw a fine stand of plants, looked at the catalogue, spoke to the fellow on the stand, made one’s selection, one’s accountant paid the invoice in due course, and come the autumn, the plants would arrive, usually at the nearest railway station.”

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Looking south over the walled garden over loch Ewe.

This is one of those really famous gardens, but in such a remote location that you don’t just drop in. Fifty miles from the nearest supermarket, inform my hosts, as if this is now the definition of distance from civilization or maybe survival. Inverewe on the north-west coast of Scotland is famous as a ‘sub-tropical’ garden, which is nonsense, but it is an illustration that with a bit of shelter, the climate here is amazingly west-coast mild, rarely that cold, and never hot – ideal for New Zealand flora and good for a lot of Himalayan foothill stuff. The contrast with the surrounding barren treeless scenery is extraordinary and gives the place its magic. Continue Reading →

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From the seventeenth century

Godolphin House in Cornwall, is a relatively recent National Trust acquisition. A great house until the 17th century when the money began to run out, it never got ‘modernized’ by Capability Brown or his cohorts, so retains old formal features. Previous owners popped in the old rose bush and tree peony but little else, or at least not much else has survived a period of neglect. The primroses have gone mad as they do in Cornwall, self-seeding everywhere, loving the wet, the mild winters and cool summers which gives them the long growing season they like; truly a flower of the Atlantic fringe, where the weather is remarkably similar through the year. This is a pavement of stones set into the ground. For some reason primroses flourish here better than grass.

Why the odd pink one I don’t know. Possibly because primroses-gone-wild in gardens have some genes left over from crossing with garden polyanthus. Seems pretty universal in ‘feral’ populations. Continue Reading →

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