As Seen Through Others’ Eyes1st August 2017 • In The Garden • Stephanie Donaldson
Opening the garden to the public is always an interesting exercise. There’s all the preparation in the weeks beforehand, the worries about lack of colour, the last minute tweaks and the anxious watching of the weather forecasts as you hope for a fine day. Our house and garden are completely hidden behind a high brick wall, so there is always a great deal of curiosity about what lies behind the small wooden door, especially as we only open our garden every three years or so. In between we can go away, make major changes (most recently rebuilding the terraced vegetable garden) and even allow for a little relaxation of standards!
Our latest opening has just past and was a great success – nearly 350 visitors oohed and aahed their way round the garden, oblivious to the shortcomings that I had been worrying about for weeks and the rain only arrived half an hour before the garden was due to close, by which time I had answered so many questions that I was more than ready for a slackening of the pace. Reflecting on it afterwards, I was struck by the consistency of the visitors response to the garden – they didn’t see the lack of colour, the areas that needed tweaking, or comment on nearly grass-free bio-diverse habitat that masquerades as a lawn – it was the atmosphere that they commented on. ‘Magical’ was a much-repeated word. The sense of enclosure that comes from a walled garden is very special and when the garden is on a hillside, sloping away from its protective wall, with great views, yet entirely private, it is good to be reminded that this would be a wonderful spot even if the garden were an overgrown wilderness.
With this in mind, I have been viewing the garden differently, appreciating the textures and the plant associations and reminding myself that there is always beauty to be found – who would of thought that our log store would have induced so much envy! The courtyard is an enclosed garden within an enclosed garden and is where I grow the most tender plants including Canna iridiflora and Campsis grandiflora.
Of course, I’m sure that I will soon slip back into my old ways, but for the moment I am basking in the pleasure of having shared my garden with so many people who loved every minute of their visit. One nice man said “It’s better than Dixter’ which clearly isn’t true, but great to hear and a young girl visiting with her family told me that it was the loveliest garden she had ever been to – a gardener in the making perhaps? If I can instil a love of gardening in the next generation who needs a velvety lawn or swathes of colour – not me.