Major Lawrence Johnston and his Plant Expeditions
Ethne Clarke paints a fascinating picture of an American expatriate who designs one of the foremost gardens in Great Britain pre and post WWI in her book, “Hidcote, The Making of a Garden,” published by W.W. Norton & Co., 2009. Major Lawrence Johnston’s garden, Hidcote is a garden treasure in England, the first garden to be taken on by the National Trust in 1948. One of the ways Johnston collected plants was by subscribing to a plant exploration or by going on an expedition. Ms. Clarke explains that Johnston’s prowess in propagation, cultivation, and the recognition of his masterful skills at Hidcote affirmed his application to the Royal Horticultural Society. As a Society member (voted in in 1922) he could subscribe (help underwrite) or travel with the Society in search of new plants. That he did. The author of the revised edition of “Hidcote, The Making of a Garden,” writes, “His plant-hunting began gently, with a trip in 1922 to the Swiss Alps in the company of the great alpine plantsman E.A. Bowles.” Johnston’s expeditions took him to South Africa for four months. Back again to Mt. Kilimanjaro a year later where, Ms. Clarke writes, “…he found a fine hypericum (today Hypericum ‘Hidcote’ is a favorite yellow-flowered shrub in mixed borders.)
Serre de la Madone
Major Johnston created a second garden in the South of France, Serre de la Madone, close to Edith Wharton’s French garden, Chateau Sainte-Claire in the hills about Hyere. Johnston’s wordily expedition “in the gardens of the northern hemisphere; thus the mountain ranges of Africa, China, India and Persia were (their) prime hunting grounds, since the conditions of these temperate regions most closely simulated those in European gardens,” explains the author, Ethne Clarke. Indeed Major Johnston had the enviable sites of a Northern and Southern European garden to cultivate his new found plants.
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