Friday, July 23, 2010

Sable paintbrushes

At the FT, Robin Lane Fox on Susan Dickinson's work in Lord Rothschild's private garden (FT site registration required):
There are no weeds to be seen and the crops are grown in elegant, black whalehide pots. Each section smells delicious, even in the middle of a blistering drought, and there is not a whitefly to be seen. “We damp down the houses three times a day,” she told me, “because the reason other people are so troubled with whitefly is that their houses are left to become too hot.” Every plant is watered by hand and, as there are now eight supporting gardeners, there is no artificial watering-system. While we looked at the big potted trees of a cherry called Gloire de Heidelfinken, Susan picked up a wooden hammer and hit the sides of each pot. “If they ring out like a bell they are too dry and need watering,” she explained. None of them did, of course. “But the hammer must be made of boxwood if it is to give the pots a proper test.”

“How are your aubergines this year?” she asked as we walked through a section lined with fruiting aubergines, aphid-free and already 3ft high in each pot. I told a purple-tinted lie about their failure to set proper fruit. “Pollination by hand is essential,” she advised. “But the older books say it should be done by using a rabbit’s tail. They are wrong. We only had good results when we changed to a more delicate instrument. We use sable paintbrushes instead.”

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