The back garden

A little diversion for this post: instead of waffling on about my vegetables I thought I’d give you a little tour of the back garden.

In the background you can see the East Wing of Drooling Towers, and in the foreground is my herbaceous border.

I know what you’re thinking. “Drooling old bean, the alliums are looking a bit shabby. And what were you thinking with that yellow-purple colour combination in the background?” Truth is, I’d just had a minor altercation with one  of the servants when I was sorting out the planting scheme and I wasn’t really paying attention.

No? Fair enough. I had a spare day last week so I took myself off to Great Dixter, home of the late Christohper Lloyd, professional gardener and contrarian. And very beautiful it was too.

The garden is famed for many things, but most notably for being innovative and somewhat iconoclastic in the choice of planting combinations. I’m going to struggle to tell you anything intelligent or insightful about the design or planting, other than to say it was all eye-wateringly beautiful.

The garden consists of a series of “outdoor rooms”, demarcated by yew hedges and encircling a gorgeous 15th century manor. Each garden is packed full of plants notable – to me, anyway – for their colour and architectural structure. For such a traditional setting the gardens are much more interesting than your average English country garden – much more variety.

Great Dixter

If you go to enough National Trust properties you can pretty much predict what you’ll find in the garden – lupins, roses, hemerocallis, foxgloves and so on. Nothing wrong with ’em, all gorgeous, but not a great deal of variety. No bamboo, for example, let alone an exotic garden with gingers, cannas and bananas.

I never read Christopher Lloyd’s column in The Observer, but I gather he had something of a repuation as an endearingly grumpy old sod. He may not be around any more, but the spirit clearly lives on: I wanted to know the names of several plants, but couldn’t see any labels for love nor money. All was revealed when I got to the shop and saw a sign, written by the great man, that stated that he didn’t bother with labels because it was his garden (although he happily takes everyone else’s cash to look at it) and anyway people trample over flowers to read the labels and they pick them up and put them back in the wrong place and they put them in their handbag instead of writing down the names and there’s always someone around to ask so yar boo sucks.

I paraphrase slightly but you get the gist. Naturally there were loads of plants I wanted to get named and hardly anyone around to ask on a quiet midweek day. And when I found someone I didn’t feel I could drag them round half the garden asking “just one more plant, it’s round here somewhere…”

So, if anyone has any idea what this beauty below is, I’d be very grateful…

Insert name of plant here

Still, this did prove inspirational in another respect. It turns out that you can treat your paying customers with open contempt and they will love you for it! This has encouraged me to take a slightly different tack with the blog.

Look out therefore for the next post: “What’s growing on my allotment? None of your @£!*ing business!” in which I shall give you lots of exciting…

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On the ipod while planning how to spend my first million: The Wonder Stuff / It’s yer money I’m after baby

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