Kensington Gardens, London


Yellow flag iris (I. pseudacorus) in the basins of the Italian Gardens of Kensington Gardens, London, June 1924, by Roger Dumas, via Archives of the Planet Collection – Albert Kahn Museum /Département des Hauts-de-Seine.

These water gardens are over 150 years old and may have been a gift from Prince Albert to Queen Victoria.

This autochrome is one of about seventy-two thousand that were commissioned and then archived by Albert Kahn, a wealthy French banker and pacifist, between 1909 and 1931. Kahn sent thirteen photographers and filmmakers to fifty countries “to fix, once and for all, aspects, practices, and modes of human activity whose fatal disappearance is no longer ‘a matter of time.'”* The resulting collection is called Archives de la Planète and now resides in its own museum at Kahn’s old suburban estate at Boulogne-Billancourt, just west of Paris. Since June 2016, the archive has also been available for viewing online here.


*words of Albert Kahn, 1912. Also, the above photo (A 43 199) is © Collection Archives de la Planète – Musée Albert-Kahn and used under its terms, here.

The Sunday porch: County Armagh

Bridget and Maynard Sinton at their family home of Ballyards, County Armagh, June 17, 1921, by H. Allison & Co. Photographers, via Public Record Office of Northern Ireland Commons on flickr.

That retractable striped awning emerging from the terrace roof looks very sleek and was brand new.  A ca. 1920 photo of the house in this biography of the children’s father shows the terrace with no cover. (You can read a brief history of awnings here.)

Ballyards was built in 1872 and sold to the father, a linen manufacturer, in 1908. He almost doubled its size and called it “Ballyards Castle.”

The children playing in a sandpile. (This photo has been printed in reverse from the others.)

Maynard was killed in WWII, but Bridget (age 7 in these photos) lived until 1975.

In a vase on Monday: 1888

Tea Room at the Crawfordsburn Inn, Crawfordsburn, County Down, ca. 1888, by R. Welch, via Public Record Office of Northern Ireland Commons on flickr.

I believe this is The Old Inn, built in 1614 and still in operation as a hotel and restaurant. The mail coach, on its way to the port of Donaghadee and passage to England, changed horses at the Inn. Among the travelers who stopped here were Swift, Tennyson, Thackeray, Dickens, and Trollope.

I’m recovering from foot surgery at moment, so I haven’t been able to make my own arrangement for “In a vase on Monday,” hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  But I did want to share this wonderful photo in which the whole room is an arrangement.  At first, I thought those were peacock feathers fanning out over the portrait of the Queen and on the right, but they are tall grasses.  I would love to have lunch here.

Please click on the picture for a larger view.

My Chelsea list

While we’re all waiting for the Chelsea Flower Show to open next week and for pictures to emerge, here are a few things that I particularly liked when I visited the original Chelsea — the Chelsea Physic Garden — about a week and a half ago.

The four-acre London garden was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in order to grow medicinal plants and train their apprentices. It is the second oldest botanic garden in Britain, after the one at Oxford.

1. The Pond Rockery area (also shown at the top). The sides are planted in Mediterranean and alpine plants.

2. This giant fennel. It was a beacon in the Botanical Order Beds at about 8′ tall.

It did not have a label, but I have since looked it up — Ferula communes.

The species is part of the carrot family, Apiaceae. (Common fennel belongs to another genus, Foeniculum.)

This tamarix in the center of the beds was a star too.

3. The plant supports of bamboo, string, and shrub and vine cuttings.

4. This neat little kitchen garden arrangement and its beautiful cardoons.

And the nearby beehives.

5. This trunk of a Catalpa bignonioide, which is supporting a huge Rosa Brunoni or Himalayan musk rose.

The rest of the tree was cut off.  It may have died, but it may also have been too large for the space.

6. The greenhouse area.

Plants from the Canary Islands, Madeira, The Azores, and St. Helena.

7. This primrose display, which — with the giant fennel — made my “most desired” list that day (along with this).

8. My tea towel from the gift shop.

(And the café is excellent.)

Redistribution of produce

Cabbage distribution, Library of Congress
Lady Henry Somerset and T.P. O’Connor in a garden distributing cabbages to children, between ca. 1910 and ca. 1915, Bain News Service, via Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Lady Henry  (born Lady Isabel Cocks) was an heiress who married the second son of the Duke of Beaufort.  After the couple separated, she turned to charity work on her various properties. She later became president of the British Women’s Temperance Association and a campaigner for birth control and women’s suffrage. In 1913, the readers of the London Evening News voted her their choice for first female prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Thomas Power O’Connor was an Irish journalist who founded and edited several newspapers in London. He was also a member of Parliament for the Irish Nationalist Party and later as an independent (representing Galway and then Liverpool).

I cannot tell what plants are growing in the flower (?) beds, but they are sectioned off — perhaps by bloom color?