November 20, 1929
Today is the birthday of the garden writer and designer Penelope Hobhouse, born on this day in 1929.
When Penelope visited Tuscany, she was captivated by the villa gardens, and she began teaching herself garden design. A 2016 article in the New York Times said Penelope is,
"a fixture in the minds of gardeners who love rooms and bones – the paths and walls and satisfying verticals that form the skeleton of a garden."
Penelope has designed gardens worldwide, including a garden for Elizabeth the Queen Mother at Walmer Castle in Kent, an herb garden for the New York Botanical Garden, and an English cottage garden for Steve Jobs' Woodside home.
Gardens Illustrated recently shared a post featuring six of her garden design principles:
Think about backgrounds
Large trees can be used to frame the sky; hedges provide vertical and horizontal lines as well as a background for planting, while small trees with broad, globular, or pyramidal heads act as ‘ceilings.’ Low continuous hedging can be used to frame pathways.
Create a strong framework
I tend to create a strong structure or framework for my gardens, with looser planting within. The architecture can be supplied by buildings, walls, steps, and pergolas, but also by plants.
Don’t overuse colors
The cardinal rule for planting is to use bright colors sparingly. Form is much more important than color, and flowers are fleeting, so start instead with the shapes and hues of trees, hedges and shrubs, and the leaf form and color of herbaceous plants, the shape they make, and the height they grow to.
Mix plants up
Choose plants that will not only do well in any particular spot but will also associate happily with any neighboring indigenous plants.
Repeat, repeat, repeat
To help unite the house and garden and create flow, repeat hard or soft features.
Don’t forget it’s for you
Gardens should also provide shade and shelter, seats for contemplation, scents, and solitude, and require just the right amount of maintenance to encourage relaxation, because, above all, they are places to be enjoyed."
Despite all of her achievements, gardeners find Penelope relatable and personable. In a recent video, Penelope said,
"I'm still finding my way."