There was love there too though!
The gardens of the rich and famous are always an attraction to us; there is a curiosity value to them – we are curious! We want to see what money can do and, perhaps, imagine what we would do if we had the money! The Irish temperament would, of course, sprinkle a visit to such a garden with “Oh, ‘tis easy for them!” or “A money garden!”. We often view the gardens of the rich with a certain resentment (envy, jealousy?) and fail to acknowledge that without people of wealth the very gardens we are visiting would most likely not exist at all but would be lost to us. Were it not for such people our gardening heritage would be so very much the poorer and our gardening experiences so much less enjoyable. It is time to grumble less, to enjoy more and to be grateful and thankful to those who have created and maintained such treasures.
This book I have just read, The Secret Gardeners by Victoria Summerley with photographs by Hugo Rittson Thomas describes a selection of twenty five gardens of well-known celebrities (actually, I knew nearly all of them though I am not clued into the world of the celebrity), chosen because they were people of artistic talent in one form or another – artists, sculptors, musicians, designers, performers etc. among them, purely for purposes of illustration: Kirstie Allsopp, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Cath Kithson, Prue Leith, Griff Rhys Jones, Jeremy Irons, Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Some are enthusiastic gardeners; others have a partner who is such and a very few have little of not interest in gardening at all – but have the where with all to employ competent and talented people to ensure the surroundings to their houses (rather a weak description of the abodes) are to a very high standard. Rather than commenting on the individual gardens – that is a pleasure you may enjoy with the book in hand – I feel it is fair to say that the selection perfectly represents and portrays the English garden in its splendour and its beauty. The houses are grand, generally historic; all impressive and beautiful and the gardens compliment them perfectly. The typical English garden style of good structure and exuberant planting is employed in most of the gardens with wonderful examples of yew hedging and topiary, box parterres and fulsome herbaceous borders. A few reflect more modern trends with a more naturalistic approach and the wildflower meadow’s recent popularity is reflected here also.
When television pundits witter on about the mundane and trivial aspects of gardening, do you long for the section where there is a garden visit? Or when you open a gardening magazine, do you long to see the featured gardens rather than dwell on the “What to do now in the garden”? Does your garden visiting mean walking about, admiring design and plants rather than joining the scone and jam tea brigade? If so, this is a book you will enjoy! The gardens are all excellent and interesting; the garden descriptions and interviews with owners are well written and the photography is outstanding. Nearly all these gardens are private, never opening to the public, which is understandable for people who spend much of their lives in the public gaze and who value home and garden for their sense of peace and privacy but here we have the opportunity to step inside the garden gate and appreciate these beautiful gardens.
[The Secret Gardeners – Britain’s Creatives Reveal Their Private Sanctuaries, Victoria Summerley, Photographs by Hugo Rittson Thomas, Frances Lincoln, London, 2017, Hardback, 271 pages, £30, ISBN: 978-0-7112-3763-6]