Wednesday, 4 June 2008

A Nice Green Leaf: With a little help from their friends


Would you ever dare to open your garden to the public? In my case it would require crates of prescription medication from the Xanax/Diazepam school. But every year, some brave people take the leap: sometimes, by clubbing together and getting friends to do it at the same time, in the hope of diluting the stress.

The best I could do was persuade a friend to come and look at gardens with me: the lovely Miss Joanna and I checked out four gardens in Kew on the Green which are opened by four chummy neighbours under the Yellow Book scheme. I love it when a group of gardens open all together, as there's more of chance everyone will find something to like. But the Kew Green gardens also give a chance to compare four different approaches to roughly the same plot - a long, narrow south-facing garden which leads towards the river.

All the gardens had shared elements: aquilegias and alliums were in full supply. And probably my favourite former allium, too, Nectaroscordum siculum.


And there were some gorgeous views exploiting the length of the space, allowing you to glimpse the whole distance. Check out these artfully arranged urns: the terracotta shapes make the whole view look so collected and intentional. They have a sense of self-possession, and the suggestion that they are somehow restraining the vivid green growth all around.

Dsc_1407jpeg_4 However, the best test of a Yellow Book garden is how many people are scrabbling around in their handbags trying to find bits of paper to write plant names down on. And as far as the handbag test goes, Kew Green passed with flying colours.

Other monster garden openings to try:

Sunday 8th June

Edington Gardens, nr Westbury, Wilts. Five country gardens, ranging from cottage to former monastery.

Newton Village, Portcawl, Glamorgan & Gwent - Five maritime gardens overlooking the Welsh seaside, with views over the Bristol Channel; 1- 6pm. Two gardens in driveable Llanbethian are also open.

Clifton Gardens, Bristol, 2-5:  Four exemplary gardens in Bristol's pleasant suburb, near to the Suspension Bridge.

Brize Norton village, Oxfordshire - over 30 gardens open to the public from 1-6, with Flower Festival in the church and home-made teas.

Wednesday 11th June

Whixley Gardens, on the A59 between York and Harrogate. Five gardens including a tiny courtyard: 11.30-5. 

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