Penelope Hobhouse

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Penelope Hobhouse
Penelope Chichester-Clark

(1929-11-20) 20 November 1929 (age 89)
Moyola Park, Castledawson, Northern Ireland
NationalityNorthern Irish
OccupationGarden writer, designer
Spouse(s)Paul Rodbard Hobhouse (m. 1952; div. 1983)
John Melville Malins (m. 1983; died 1992)
Parent(s)James Lenox-Conyngham Chichester-Clark
Marion Chichester
RelativesJames Chichester-Clark (brother)
Robin Chichester-Clark (brother)

Penelope Hobhouse MBE (born 20 November 1929), née Chichester-Clark, is a British garden writer, designer, lecturer and television presenter.

Early life[edit]

Born into an Anglo-Irish family in Moyola Park, Castledawson, she is the daughter of James Lenox-Conyngham Chichester-Clark and a sister of Lord Moyola, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland from 1969 to 1971, and Sir Robin Chichester-Clark.[1]

She was educated at North Foreland Lodge and Girton College, Cambridge,[1] graduating with a BA in economics in 1951.[2]


The Queen Mother's garden in Walmer Castle, designed by Hobhouse in 1997

Hobhouse walked through Tuscany and taught herself gardening by examples of the Tuscan villa gardens she saw; she went on to be a garden writer and designer, publishing many books on the subject. She started work at Hadspen House, Somerset until leaving in 1979.[3] Until 1993 she was in charge of Tintinhull House gardens also in Somerset.[2]

In 1996 she hosted a television series for Home & Garden Television in the USA.[4] Her publications include; Colour in Your Garden, Plants in Garden History, Penelope Hobhouse on Gardening', Penelope Hobhouse's Garden Designs, and Penelope Hobhouse's Natural Planting.

Hobhouse is "a fixture in the minds of gardeners who love rooms and bones – the paths and walls and satisfying verticals that form the skeleton of a garden."[5] She has designed gardens in England, Scotland, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the United States. They include a garden for Elizabeth the Queen Mother, at Walmer Castle in Kent, 'The Country Garden' for the Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley, a renaissance-style garden in Italy, the Upper Walled Garden at Aberglasney, in Carmarthenshire,[6] a herb garden for the New York Botanical Garden,[2] and a garden for the fashion designer, Jil Sander, in Germany. In 1996, she designed an English cottage garden for Steve Jobs' Woodside home, a perfect fit for Tudor-style architecture.[7]

She is an associate editor of Gardens Illustrated magazine. She has taught at the University of Essex. She then lived in Bettiscombe, Dorset until 2008.[2] She then moved in September 2008 back to Hadspen, where she is started a new garden outside her quarters which are in the yard. Her new garden is a south facing and 17 m × 17 m (56 ft × 56 ft) enclosure at the back of some converted stables surrounded by mature box hedging. This may be a challenge as her Bettiscombe garden was a good deal warmer than this one.


Hobhouse married firstly, 17 May 1952 Paul Rodbard Hobhouse (d 1994), son of Sir Arthur Hobhouse (d 1965), of Castle Cary, Somerset; this marriage was dissolved in 1983, and she left the garden she had restored at the Hobhouse seat, Hadspen, Somerset. By Paul Hobhouse she had one daughter, Georgina Catherine, and two sons, Niall Alexander and David Paul. She moved to Tintinhull and met her second husband, Prof. John Melville Malins, at a Garden History Society meeting;[8] they married in 1983, he died in 1992.[2]


She was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to British gardening.[9]

A variety of Oenothera was named after her, called Oenothera 'Penelope Hobhouse'.[3]


  1. ^ a b Debrett's entry
  2. ^ a b c d e Donald, Caroline (30 March 2008). "Gardening guru Penelope Hobhouse sells her Dorset house and garden". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Julia Brittain Plant Lover's Companion: Plants, People and Places, p. 95, at Google Books
  4. ^ Rodkin, Dennis (5 January 1997). "Two Wonderful Cable Series Will Turn Your Television into A Magic Window To Spring". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  5. ^ Raver, Anne (22 January 1995). "Gardening Is So Much More Than, Well, Plants". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  6. ^ Mahon, Stephanie (13 April 2016). "ABERGLASNEY – OUR WELSH GARDEN OF THE WEEK". The English Garden. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  7. ^ Eaton, Joe; Sullivan, Ron (26 February 2012). "Steve Jobs' gardener describes mutual appreciation". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  8. ^ Raver, 1995.
  9. ^ "No. 60895". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2014. p. b20.

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