November 2010

After a lengthy wait for the speaker (!) John Drake eventually appeared at our November meeting and now holds the record for the length of time to get to Fowlmere from Fen Ditton! Never mind, we eventually settled down to learn a few tricks from Ottoman Turks!

When creating their gardens they sought practical solutions that would suit the particular topography, dimensions of the garden and the climate rather than adhering to a particular set of fixed rules. They would embellish upon what nature had already provided – for instance instead of building water courses they would create gardens where water already existed.

Ottoman gardens were functional as well as beautiful planted not only with flowers but also with fruit and vegetables. Gardens were for enjoyment and relaxation – not for ‘show’, places where the sultans could spend a few pleasurable hours and even days in privacy. Maybe we should pause for reflection today before we purchase the latest gardening ‘fad’ – be it decking or masses and masses of modern bedding plants totally out-of-keeping with, say, the garden of a period property.

So impressed with the flora of Turkey were the travellers of long ago that they started to bring back to Europe many of the flowers we grow in our gardens today. Early pictures, drawings and tiles show tulips – think of tulipa sprengeri – blooming still at Great Dixter and available from Parkers bulbs. Then there are snowdrops – drifts of galanthus Elwessii will welcome you at Colesbourne Park, home of the Victorian plant hunter. H J Elwess. Imperial Fritillaries, double white daffodils, hyacinths, gladioli Byzantium, Turks cap lilies, allium, lilium svitziana – the list is endless.

Even today new plants are regularly found in Turkey so if you spend your holidays in that wonderful country next year, keep your eyes open wide for that unusual plant that no-one has ever identified before – admire it, photograph it but please don’t bring it home like the Victorian plant hunters – they weren’t always right!

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