I recently took my wife to see Mary Keen’s garden on one of her very limited open days but, I have to confess, we were a bit disappointed. The beautiful old rectory in the tiny hamlet of Duntisbourne Rous near Cirencester is an idyllic setting for a classic country garden which Mary herself describes in this month’s The Garden magazine as “a bit on the wild side” and “more about atmosphere – a place to be, not one to impress.” I agree entirely, we were certainly not impressed.
It is not for me to suggest that any garden, particularly one which is owned by an eminent gardening journalist and author is not up to the mark. I have no right to say that. However, I do have the right to speak as I find and, in our opinion, it was a waste of £10 on 22 April when we visited under the auspices of the National Gardens Scheme. Mary Keen herself was there and I fully expected her to apologise for the lack of interest but she didn’t . In fact, apart from a few bulbs and woodland anemones which were going over it was all very green and boring. Even the green was disappointing. I have never seen a lawn so full of moss. My wife, who is far more balanced and forgiving than myself, said she found the garden “rather unkempt” which I think is an accurate description.
If I say that the highlight for me was the compost heap, it might put the visit into perspective. I don’t think the garden should have been open for paying guests. I suspect that the opening dates were agreed last year in order to meet copy deadlines for The Yellow Book and had not been altered in spite of the appalling spring weather which has delayed everything by at least a month. It just shows that gardening must be flexible and adapt to the conditions, and opening a garden with very little to see or impress is a waste of people’s time and money. It does no-one any favours and, in fact, does the garden owner and the National Gardens Scheme a disservice.
Having said that, I liked the Auricula theatre in the old outside loo, as featured in the Daily Telegraph 4 years ago by Sarah Raven, though there were was not a single flower open. I am sure they were intended to be a wonderful feature and probably would have been in any ‘normal’ year.
I also admired the climbing path to the old schoolhouse where the tea and coffee was ‘available’ rather than served, something else which irked us.
Sorry about the moan but I had to get it off my chest!