Do me a big favour – share this with someone who finds gardens totally boring 

Anne Wareham, editor


I recently published a piece here, by Tim Ingram, asking what the purpose of a garden is. Tim basically said a garden is for botanical interest, for learning and for enjoying the pleasures of plants. And the responses indicated that, yes, this is the sort of thing a garden is for.

At the same time I was remaking the gate to the woods at Veddw, and the difference in perspective hit me hard. Including ideas in the garden about the history of the site, about time, about previous occupants, is obviously a bit remote from the preoccupations of most gardeners. 

And why wouldn’t it be? Why would gardeners concern themselves about such things? Some might. Most won’t.

It’s hard to explain the excitement I feel to stand somewhere and think of the people who have lived, worked, created, built and rebuilt on that very same piece of land or in that very building over thousands of years. It relates to my love of history – an engagement which is at least as big for me as an engagement with gardens, and much bigger than my interest in plants. (see some of my research on our local history here) And a large part of my making and sharing the garden is wanting to share that excitement with others.

That Population Gate, Veddw, copyright Anne Wareham

Soon to become a gate to the woods.

But why would gardeners be especially interested in such things just because I am? They are about as likely to be as any random sample of the general population – which is not none, but all the same, a small percentage. So making such a garden is a bit like writing a novel, only to discover that people are only interested in what words you use and whether they are unusual. (The analogy fails over the food growing, as not many people eat books. I’ll avoid plot jokes too…)

I was also struck once again by how off putting the notion of gardens as art must be to the average gardener. Sounds pretentious and out of reach. And expensive, if you think Portrack… All totally irrelevant if you are most interested in growing veggies, or growing lots of different plants.

The Stone, Veddw, copyright Charles Hawes

This is also not a plant.

Well, people might just visit a garden because it’s beautiful.

I wonder how many people have completely cleared their new garden in order to make a truly fresh start and give themselves the chance of making a truly personal and hopefully beautiful garden? That might be one indicator of how dedicated to aesthetics most gardeners are? And it is very rare.

Why wouldn’t it be? You don’t need to do that mostly to grow the plants you love and/or vegetables. I think most gardeners find beauty in the plants themselves rather than the effect they may create. I was in an audience of RHS members once when someone mentioned garden design. There was an huge groan.

Television in the Woods at Veddw, copyright Charles Hawes

One garden writer was truly offended to find this in our wood.

There are gardens aiming beyond horticulture: Little SpartaThe Garden of Cosmic SpeculationPlaz Metaxu, Patterson Webster’s Glen VillaThrougham Court, and Sir Roy Strong’s exercise in modesty, The Laskett.

So some gardens merit or need a totally different audience, who need to have no interest in growing things. In fact, those non gardeners who don’t get distracted by wondering about the name of a plant or the sight of a weed are some of the most perceptive and stimulating visitors we get at Veddw, rare as they are.

But how can we more generally reach such an audience when gardens exist and are discussed only in such a closed, horticultural world?

Veddw seat, copyright Charles Hawes

I’ve compounded this issue for myself by writing a book, The Deckchair Gardener, which is primarily for non gardeners, about how those people stuck with a garden and no interest in gardening can cope with the thing outside and maybe even enjoy it. Without much tedious gardening. But it has ‘gardener’ in the title and is marketed in gardening sections of bookshops and websites – how will it ever reach such people? This really brought home to me what a closed world gardeners are in.

Television in the woods at Veddw, copyright Anne Wareham

Shameless advertising


So – just to help, (not with selling the book, though you never know..) perhaps you might put this post in front of someone you know who is not a gardener and has no interest in gardens.

And discuss it with them? Open the gates of the garden ghetto and let the whole world in?

Happy Christmas! Xxxx

Anne Wareham



Subscribe to the thinkinGardens Blog

Enter your email address to get new articles from the thinkinGardens blog by email:

What is the Purpose of a Garden? by Tim Ingram

November 30, 2017

We have frequently discussed whether gardens could be art. This piece by Tim Ingram presents a totally different vision of what a garden may be. Are these ideas of gardens contradictory? Mutually exclusive? Or do both miss the point? Anne Wareham, editor            What is the purpose of a garden? by […]

Getting youngsters into horticulture: why bother? by Rachel the Gardener

October 19, 2017

Our regular readers will observe that we have a new advert in the sidebar. I had practically given up on adverts as worthless clutter, apart from our trademark and faithful Everedge. But this is good stuff by another reputable company. If you want to learn how to plant like Piet Oudolf and be taught how […]

Natural Selection: A Year in the Garden by Dan Pearson reviewed by Tristan Gregory

September 27, 2017

Someone somewhere may have been wondering why Thinkingardens had disappeared. My apologies – I’ve been on a post garden opening holiday and recovery break. I am especially grateful to Tristan for this review, knowing how fraught his life also is these days. Whoever thought garden makers have a quiet life? Anne Wareham, editor     […]

Bring Me Stories, Bring Me Songs, by Caleb Melchior

August 23, 2017

This is effectively the third post about Conceptual gardens. Or at least, about concepts and gardens. Does it take us forward? Anne Wareham, editor          Bring Me Stories, Bring Me Songs: Growing a Richer Garden Ethic by Caleb Melchior. I come from a family comfortable with teetering back and forth on the […]

The Problems with Conceptual Gardens by Charlie Bloom

August 3, 2017

I believe that Jay Sifford’s interesting piece about garden design suffered because I accepted his use of the word ‘Conceptual’ in the title. Some people got little further, due to the feelings they have about Conceptual Gardens as understood in the UK. The term has come to be quite specific, as Tim Richardson discusses here. […]

Designing a Conceptual Garden by Jay Sifford

July 13, 2017

I’ve never been quite sure what a conceptual garden is. Victoria Summerley made a brave attempt at defining it, as “a garden that seeks to portray an idea, rather than provide a landscape design solution.”  And very recently, on the back of Hampton Court ‘Flower’ Show the idea became controversial.  Renamed strangely as a ‘statement […]

A Chelsea garden in Monmouthshire reviewed by Patterson Webster and Anne Wareham

June 22, 2017

I recently had a very welcome visitor – Pat Webster of Site and Insight and garden maker of Glen Villa. Arne Maynard’s garden, Allt-y-bela is only half an hour away from Veddw, in Monmouthshire, and is basically only open to Bed and Breakfast guests (or people attending events) so Pat booked in for B&B and obtained […]

Chelsea 2017 – this ghastly fame phenomenon, by Catharine Howard.

June 6, 2017

I had intended to join the sponsors and give Chelsea a miss this year, but I can’t turn down a good offer. Catharine was less than delighted by Chelsea 2017…..   Anne Wareham, editor Chelsea 2017 – this ghastly fame phenomenon, by Catharine Howard.  Chelsea is the mother of all flower shows but this year it […]

What style? by Kate Cox

May 11, 2017

If you’re a garden designer, do you design gardens based on what you love? On what originally inspired you to become a designer? On your own garden? On major public gardens? Or what the client wants? I hope Kate won’t mind me saying that she struggled with this piece, developing her thinking as she went […]

The Deckchair Gardener reviewed by Catharine Howard

April 27, 2017

When Catharine asked me if she could review The Deckchair Gardener for thinkingardens I just felt pleased – as you do when someone wants to review your book. I had no idea originally whether she would slam it, knowing my declared commitment to honesty, and I was anxious. It was only later, after I read her review, that […]

Posh Day Out for Katherine Crouch

April 13, 2017

Although this took place quite some time ago, it seems to me that many thinkingardens readers will find interest in what goes on at this prestigious annual event. And others will simply find it very entertaining. With thanks to our willing victim, Katherine Crouch. Images courtesy of Society of Garden Designers. Anne Wareham, editor   […]

Essay on Gardening by Henk Gerritsen, reviewed by Catharine Howard

March 30, 2017

This review made me buy the book. It’s a real thinkingardens treat. But the cost on Amazon made me blench. Couldn’t find it cheaper. I ended up with the paperback at £27, with all the photos in black and white (see below). And I wanted to buy  Site, Sight, Insight: Essays on Landscape Architecture (Penn […]

The Ultimate Visitor Experience by Janna Schreier

March 15, 2017

This is the question that a great many of us would like to make sense of, and here is someone actually seriously researching it for us – with your assistance, I hope.  It would be great if you would answer the survey and help add to our understanding of our experience of gardens. Anne Wareham, […]