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

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