Unlike many of my readers (I suspect) I don’t like visiting gardens. Not usually. I like poking around in ditches and hedges. I value surprises above choice; nature when left to its own devices rather than careful planning. So what on earth am I doing liking this book? Even the wild-plant meadows in it have been put there on purpose by enthusiastic gardeners and enthusiastic owners.
|Stephanie Richards of Eastleach House, Eastleach. (p.79)|
The other reason I was more open to this book than usual is that I recently visited the National Trust gardens at Kingston Lacy in Dorset. I didn’t expect much to like it. It was there so I went.
|p.48 Chapter on Colesbourne Park, Colesbourne|
|Not Kingston Lacy but p.71 in the book: The Orangery at Daylesford Houses, Kingham.|
|p.63: in the chapter about|
The Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford
Now, the gardens in Victoria’s book (apart from one with a zoo) are not the kind you can pay to see on a regular basis – if ever. They are privately owned and privately cared for. That’s what’s secret about them. Nor are they of the Frances Hodgeson-Burnett kind - wild and neglected places behind walls with locked gates. They are gardens lovingly tended by the people who live there and their gardeners. For these are ‘posh’ gardens. Gardens owned by wealthy people who can afford ‘staff’. People from another world than mine. - If I were rich and had a big garden maybe I wouldn’t be as struck as I am by ditches and hedgerows!
There are outbursts of topiary (disgustingly ugly in my eyes). And there are knot gardens of box (elegant and entrancing from my inconsistent view).
|Antony Gormley sculpture - p.41|
Burford Priory, Burford
But for the most part - sometimes despite the artifice and sometimes because of it - these gardens have an air of spontaneity. Not that this feeling of nature itself being the artist really comes from nature; it comes from effort and wealth and a sense of time. And you need to know time to create gardens like these. (And money!) You sort of have to know where you’ve come from and what a tree looks like when it is old to make them this way. I don’t know what I should do with my left-wing principles here so I’ll put them temporarily aside. But the people, the history behind these gardens, is why the text is important. This isn’t a picture book with text thrown in. The text is engaging. It’s well written. It’s interesting. It’s the basis of the book.
|Pergola path. p.83|
Eastleach House, Eastleach
Oh, just go and buy it.
It’s published by Frances Lincoln, costs £20 and its ISBN number is 978 7112 3527 4. No excuse!
P.S. The publishers sent me this book absolutely ages ago (January).
Apologies for the delay.
But better a late review than never.