When one helps people re-establish their private gardens and they decide after a period to start opening the area to the public, the gardener can feel a little re-assured. The barrier is instantly raised and one receives a wider audience with some excitement, but also hoping that beside a general oohing and ahhing there will be some in-depth appreciation together with critical advice about what might be improved or changed.
The whole event was envisaged in a way that visitors would be able to explore the gardens before a concert (taking place in the adjacent barn) whereas a prolonged break should bring them back into the gardens where I would explain, discuss or “defend” plants or arrangements.
For this Ulrike (now back in Germany) produced a flyer with a garden map and came over for the event to help me with the final bits and pieces, like flower arranging or last minute advice. As it happened, we did this in pouring rain (for which I am otherwise sometimes as grateful as for heavy winds since they indicate branches or other things which might be staked, secured or cut), but since that day there has been a proper heat wave without any rainfall for three weeks without an end in sight.
Together with postcards (with the “best or easiest” motifs of Houghton) we placed some introductory notes to explain the area and our gardening style to give visitors something to mull over if they wished while having a glass of wine in the several permanent and provisional seating areas. Then they could have a stroll again. Those strolls are (ideally daily) events Ulrike and I are looking forward to in our own gardens, wine glass in one hand, secateur in the other, but we didn’t hand out these tools for the occasion…
In addition to those thoughts it might be added that we didn’t plan for any flowering highlights, just hoping for fine weather whilst being dependent on the time frame of the performing musicians. Although I would have wished for more preparation time (which presumably would have been the case in any circumstances) this somewhat underlines my hesitation to plan for “highlight”, which is so difficult (if not pointless) to anticipate “in the open”. Ideally, the area should speak to and correspond with its surroundings in all seasons regardless of the customs or lipsticks of the vegetative actors, which I still like to show and change.
As can be seen on the map (which we will produce in a more scaled version in due course), the herb garden and the borders are only a tiny part of the area. Hence and with the time frame to be spend in the garden, it is necessary to set priorities and improvise, even though I would love to give more attention to detail. Yet, expanding into new areas or corners and trying new ideas is always tempting, but the maintenance of those ideas needs to be borne in mind, too. And wild gardening is not necessarily low maintenance and jazz (or improvisation) not necessarily a Cinderella of music.