I started by calling this post ‘Garden Open – not mine, phew’, and then decided against it (I was never a sub, they’re the ones who are hot with headlines), but that does convey something of the essence of Sunday.
The Artist’s Garden was open for charity under the NGS (National Gardens Scheme, aka the ‘yellow book’), and I was one of the friends
roped in who volunteered to help.
I am so relieved it wasn’t my garden (not that mine would make the grade, especially in its present denuded state). There’s the agony over the weather, and Sunday opened with rain and mist and general unpleasantness. Mind you, Karen’s garden still looked lovely.
I played hooky from my kitchen duties for a few minutes to take a few shots – be warned, this is an image-heavy post – before people came surging through the gates. The paths were a little slippery but the rain was slacking off and temperatures were rising, and before long the slates were completely safe.
Walking down to the studio at first, though, was an exercise in how often you could get water down the back of your neck from overhanging grasses. But the raindrops on the grasses were spectacularly lovely, and it was good to be able to appreciate their undisturbed beauty.
Soon visitors began to arrive…
One of the interesting comments which was overheard again and again was about attention to detail, and not just in planting. I don’t find it surprising; Karen is a textile artist, and the principles of layering and detail are equally as evident in the garden as they are in the studio. Below, for instance, you can just see a couple of contrasting stones placed on the rock just right of centre, and the blue glass globes in the foreground (as well as some lovely plants – that pink is a huge lily).
I think we’d better have a close up of the lily:
I have to get this. I don’t mean I ‘want’ it (after all, ‘I want never gets’), or that I would like it, but that I have to get it. Ahem. Back to non-plant detailing.
There are ceramics too, and interesting pieces of wood:
here forming a background to Echinaceas ‘white swan’ and purpurescens, and a rudbeckia. And the colour combinations, oh, the colour combinations – like the Echinacea purpurescens again but with a grass this time:
But my duties called me back, and soon we were essentially running a tea and cake production line. Elegant tea cups, delicious cakes, no rain: perfect. I think the double gazebos for shelter were a brilliant idea – if they’d not been there, I’m sure it would have rained all day…
Relatives of the cake maker (and of two of the waitresses), these three knew that the lime tray bake was well worth choosing. Delicious – but there was soon a distinct shortage. Sigh. Man, and particularly this woman, cannot live by Echinacea purpurescens alone, that’s what I say.
As the afternoon wore on it got warmer and warmer – quite sultry, in fact (and not just in the kitchen, either). The demand for teas dipped, and again I was able to zoom around. The medlar is fruiting nicely, and though it is some time off being ready, I have my foodie eyes on it.
I’m sure there’ll be plenty to go round. That’s a hint, by the way.
There were a huge number of insects, including lots of bees, all encouraged by the sudden appearance of sub-tropical conditions on the coast of west Wales – another thing that many visitors commented upon. I was especially taken by one which was coordinating so beautifully with its favoured plant,
a yellow and black bug on a yellow and black rudbeckia.
I fell terribly in love with some of the colour combinations. I’ve been doing quite a bit of natural dyeing lately, and I was especially taken with the subtlety of this Eryngium plenum matched with a pale yellow grass (I’m no good at grasses – I can identify about three – so please forgive me):
Hmm, can’t think how I would get anywhere near that – but I’ll bear it in mind… and extraordinarily I met three other spinners, and I only knew one of them. Either a textile artist’s studio being open had drawn them in, or there is a deep link between spinning and gardening. I’m opting for both. Ahem. Back to the garden.
And then there are those plants whose colour combines well not with another plant, but with their surroundings:
This is Lobelia Russian Princess. It’s not subtle, but against the grey of the stone wall it really works. For me this is a plant to be used with care – it could so easily overwhelm and clash with others. Lovely here, though, and it lights up a dark area.
There are plants where I fell in love with the form:
I’ve always liked the flower heads of echinacea (yup, sorry, that again). They almost look as though they should be soft, but of course they’re not. Very, very tactile though…
And there are plants where the dipping light gave them rather special quality, like these pelargoniums (‘Mystery’) in a container.
By now the clock was moving remorselessly towards 5 p.m. The cakes were running out, the kitchen staff were only able to crawl and Karen had developed a sore throat from talking to visitors. It was time to close the gate, take down the road signs and indulge in the traditional open-garden-helpers’ perks:
Apparently these ran out at about two in the morning, and if it isn’t a tradition, it certainly needs to become one. I’m an old hand now: got pinny, will make tea and cut cake, can be hired again for
extortionate minimal fees, not to mention the traditional helpers’ perks. Phew, until next year – or the year after, since Karen will only be open by appointment next year. Well worth seeing…
And farewell from Digger too, who guarded the veg all day and didn’t get as much as a sniff of a helpers’ perk. The Gnome Liberation Front will be meeting next Monday at the village gardening club.