December 15, 2023

You Are What You Give (Christmas Edition) with... James Horner

You Are What You Give (Christmas Edition) with... James Horner

James was recently appointed head gardener at Benton End, previously home to artist and plantsman Cedric Morris, which is now being carefully revitalised under the auspices of the Garden Museum. Though he worked at Great Dixter for a time before this and our paths must have crossed, in true garden-geek style, it was an instagram post about Malus Huphensis (a particularly beautiful crab apple tree) that brought me to the door of the barn-cottage he shares with his wife Coralie (deputy head gardener at Great Dixter). They gifted me one crab apple, and two near-black tree peonies which they had raised from seed collected from plants in Dixter’s sunken garden that I’d admired and secretly coveted for the past ten years. This ranks as one of the best gifts I received this year (the tree has been planted in our wildflower meadow and I am now earnestly trying not to kill the peonies until they can be planted in our new garden next year). Thanks again for those James, and for this great list...

The House of a Lifetime, Ngoc Minh Ngo & Umberto Pasti, £34

"Photographer Ngoc Minh Ngo’s second book focused on Umberto Pasti’s Moroccan Eden is top of my wishlist. The first book, which documents the incredible garden Umberto and his gardeners have created, is one of my favourite recent garden books. This latest book focuses on the interiors featuring huge flower arrangements!"

"A total dream would be a magical transportation to the Bormio thermal baths in the very north of Italy, which I imagine would be perfectly covered in a thick blanket of snow. We went this summer and a return would be an amazing help in rejuvenating over the holidays."

"Socks are always a welcome gift in my opinion, so long as they are not striped! In February this year, Coralie and I walked a section of the GR221 route in Majorca. The tried and tested best hiking socks were a pair of Falke Walkie Light", £20.

"I absolutely love owls. I always look out for them when out after dark, and am totally floored on the rare occasion I see one. Living in a barn near a large woodland is so special and hearing owls through the night is always calming. It's the tawny owl, not the barn owl, with the twit twoo call. And a nest box specifically for a Tawny Owl from the Barn Owl Trust would make a fascinating gift for any nature enthusiast." Nesting box, Barn Owl Trust, From £110

"I’ve wanted a record player for ages, I had one was I was an art student years ago. The pair of Bowers Wilkins over ear headphones I recently got on eBay give me so much pleasure, listening to music as I walk to work. So a turntable for home would be a luxury gift.' Teac walnut turntable, £329 Selfridges

"Buying the same makers' gear again and again is a habit I've developed, once I find something I like, I stick with it. And I’ve had an Epperson Mountaineering large tote bag for several years, it’s my most commented upon item of grab, it’s been through the wash tens of times, and I use it everyday. It's a really durable bag which climbers use for carrying ropes to the rocks. A fresh one, and a new colour, might be nice someday soon." Mountaineering Tote, £130

"I always give myself a break from the gardens I’m working on over Christmas but a few years ago I started the tradition of planting a tree over the festive period. It’s a good time of year to get a young tree settled in the soil. If I could plant any tree this year it would be a Corsican Pine (Pinus nigra), I’m currently very fond of the one which stands like a guardian over Benton End House in Suffolk. I believe the best spade for a keen tree planter is the Bulldog All Metal Shaft Grafting Spade", £15.42 

"A few years ago my partner, Coralie Thomas gifted me a membership to the Scottish Rock Garden Club, a garden club which shares the seed of hundreds of rare plants. In the midst of winter this is a plants person’s dream." Membership to the Scottish Rock Garden Club, from £20