National Garden Scheme: ‘Thorny Problems’

Saturday’s session in aid of the National Garden Scheme, held in the little hall across the road from my house in Wadhurst, and followed by a leisurely stroll around my garden, glass in hand, was a lovely low-key event, one that I am due to repeat this coming Saturday, June 14.

I decided (more or less at the last minute) to make it a problem-airing session on ‘downsizing’, using a PowerPoint presentation I had put together with pictures of my former gardens (mostly of Ketley’s) taken by Jonathan Buckley and by me, enhanced (I joke) by some ‘before-and-during’ pictures of my new place taken by me and Martin Pope from the Telegraph.

These included some mind-boggling shots of a giant pampas grass (thank goodness, now gone) a digger (manned by friend and landscaper Geoff) , piles of concrete and earth, tree removal, borders and paths and a pond under development and construction etc.

There were also some of Jonathan Buckley’s glamour pictures of the garden as it was exactly this time last year (less than 18 months after I started work on it) – the ones that are now on the cover and in the current (July) issue of The English Garden magazine.

The pictures and the presentation pose – and I think answer – some difficult questions: in both practical and emotional terms, what do you take with you from a large much loved rural garden? How do you do it? How do you translate what you created in a rolling hectare into something that works in a little jungle that you measure in square yards?

What comes out of all the mess and sorrow and hard work is the fact that you will miraculously take with you the most important thing – an individual garden style that you have (possibly unconciously) created out of a passion for, and an ever expanding understanding of – plants.

Although it may sound on the face of it really mundane, I have found immense comfort in the fact that I have been able to make a garden that feels fundamentally so like my previous ones. I really didn’t want anything new, I just wanted to feel at peace and ‘at home’, and I do.

Real gardeners, you see, really can do it with plants.


4 thoughts on “National Garden Scheme: ‘Thorny Problems’

  1. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening last Saturday Having downsized ourselves (voluntarily) and created a small garden over two years also, it was a bit daunting to see how much more voluptuous your garden was than ours! It was great in the Spring with the bulbs and forget-me-nots, but is looking a bit bare waiting for the cranesbill geraniums to get going. I’m going to Sarah Raven’s Open Day this weekend and will try and get some Libertia “Helen Dillon” and the pernnial stock – and probably a few more bits and pieces. Hope this Saturday is also successful. Jeanette Brown (the one who took photographs for inspiration!)

  2. Helen, I’d dearly love to come and poke around your garden and try and nick some seed pods without anyone noticing, and worship at the alter of THE Helen Yemm who wrote a defining article about Titania’s bank in the Saturday Telegraph, but I’m far too lazy to leave my house and garden at the weekends. Is it too appalling to ask you to get your son to upload a page or two of your pp presentation to your blog? Go on, Helen. Go on, ask him to do this. Get him to do it, then lazy trouts like me can stay in our gardens and save petrol and worship at home.


  3. please may I and some of my friends visit your garden this summer??? I kive in Maresfield East Sussex.??? Thank you marion Myers

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