Though accused recently of being London-o-centric, if you gave me a choice I'd often rather be out of the city. Sometimes I think that's how I ended up living in the last street in London - walk round the corner to post a letter and you cross a slate parish boundary into Middlesex.
Over the weekend I took advantage of the weather and my excellent local proximity to the M25 and headed for Great Dixter in Rye, East Sussex.
All I can say on the matter is bloody hell. I walked round the entire place with that funny feeling of almost wanting to cry, it all looked so beautiful. Meanwhile, in my head I composed an over-the-top thank you letter to the gardeners.
Dixter was the garden of England's finest old codger Christopher Lloyd, who died last year (when I bought my plants in the nursery, I noticed from the till receipt that I paid my money to "Great Dixter Executors").
Fergus Garrett, who is now in charge, was much in evidence, helping to round up some wayward sheep. I guess that's hands-on gardening for you. He was quite busy with the sheep, so I thought probably not the best moment to bring up the thank-you letter.
But if you have time, go now, go, go. It all looks amazing. I will continue to maintain that it's really good for you to go to a garden where everything is done quite so perfectly - it increases my belief in the possibility of humankind actually being any good. Which is more than I can say for the elbowing hell that is the Chelsea Flower Show.
One tip: I was "lucky" enough to get really lost travelling from an unfamiliar end of Sussex, thus arriving at about 4.15pm when the light was just shifting towards gorgeous (recently, a photographer finally explained to me why gardens look better in the late afternoon- apparently it's all about colour saturation and shadows).
There were only about ten cars left in the car park, so I'd actually recommend the
whole getting lost thing, because apparently the place had been heaving all day. But whatever time of day it is, just go.