In Conversation with Miranda Janatka
We catch up with established BBC Gardeners' World Magazine writer Miranda Janatka, to discuss favourite plants, growing advice, and her new book 'A Flower A Day'. We are very excited to be hosting Miranda for a book signing in our Reading Room on Mother's Day, 19th March. Please see our event page for more information.
I initially studied History of Art, learning about the concepts behind great works of art. This taste for the fascinating led me outdoors to study plants, where humankind originally found inspiration and pleasure. I found myself training and then working at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which itself could be described as one of the greatest art galleries in the world. While it’s believed that Leonardo da Vinci came up with his design for a helicopter by watching maple seeds spin as they fell from trees, I myself didn’t make any grand discoveries studying plants. However, I did very much enjoy the privilege of being surrounded by such beauty and the wonder of evolutionary adaptation.
The book contains a huge variety of flowers (366 in fact!), from the smallest in the world to the largest, the most expensive, and some of those used for medicinal purposes, among other culturally significant reasons. A dose of both the flowers you'll see unfurling on your local walks and exotic ones blooming around the world means that you’ll not only have a guide to help you recognise the beauty around you, but also support your enjoyment of the rarer blooms that we see in bouquets or spot in botanic gardens.
I have to credit the design team at the publishers for the choice and design of the beautiful front cover, but I do agree that poppies are both incredibly emotive and fascinating plants. From the intriguing opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) to the common field poppies (Papaver rhoeas) – which are themselves such poignant signs of remembrance, these plants are a great example of how flowers all hold much history and meaning.
Oh, that really is a cruel one. Part of the joy of flowers for me is the seasonality of watching different ones burst into bloom and then fade each year. Almost like waves in the ocean, they peak and fall, comforting in the cyclical nature of it all.
I’ve had obsessions with many different plants at different times, however scented flowers hold a special place in my heart. The fresh complexity of natural floral scents can be almost dizzying in pleasure to experience. Nothing beats the spicy vanilla scent of the white ginger lily (Hedychium coronarium), which is so clean yet musky. That the flower was also worn by women to conceal and transport secret messages during the fight for independence in Cuba, only adds to its interest.
Part of the joy of flowers [...] is the seasonality of watching different ones burst into bloom and then fade each year, almost like waves in the ocean
Of course, grow what you love, but aside from that, look to grow a range of easy, prolifically flowering and multicoloured blooms. Dahlias will produce more flowers the more you cut from them, and when cared for, will provide blooms every year. While roses grown in the garden won’t last anywhere near as long as those bought from the florist, the scent they create is vastly superior and so worth growing if you enjoy fine perfume. Finally, I find something so wonderfully carefree about a vase stuffed with cornflowers. Cornflowers will grow so easily when sown outside and you’ll quickly be able to roughly cut huge bunches of them for a very wild, natural looking display.
I think it’s wonderful that gardeners continue to want to grow alongside nature and support wildlife. Many gardens are becoming less rigid and more relaxed, architecture created by plants left to stand once they have gone over into winter. Lower maintenance plants such as ornamental grasses are also now available in so many forms and colours, creating wonderful movement in the garden. Lastly, I hope we continue to see gardens incorporate veg growing into planting schemes, producing plants that look beautiful both in the borders and on the plate!
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