More Keen and Keener This Time

010A return trip to Mary Keen’s garden was called for to see what we had been missing back in April. At that time we were disappointed and wondered if we had done the garden an injustice with our unflattering comments. This time was different and although it is still not one of our favourite gardens, it made more sense. I suspect the rather wild and unkempt look belies a lot of planning and hard work although some things did not make sense. The rhubarb and radishes allowed to go to seed for instance.053                                                 Was there a reason or was it just neglected? My inclination is that someone of Mary Keen’s stature must have had a reason though one doesn’t readily spring to mind.014

The Auricula Theatre in the old outside loo was now given over to Pelargoniums and lilies which also featured in the lean-to greenhouse attached to the old schoolhouse. A clever idea and an unusual attraction for visitors. Sometimes it’s the little things which make the most impact.023

The borders were stuffed with herbaceous perennials amongst the trees and large shrubs and made a good show although the weeding regime left a lot to be desired. 031

In the kitchen garden, next to the seeding rhubarb, I really liked this area of Delphiniums, Cornflowers and Ammi which, I assumed, were for cut flowers. There was a row of Sweet Peas too weaving themselves through hazel twigs which I preferred to canes or obelisks.038

Some areas of the garden were inspiring and no more than this small area, perhaps 6m x 4m next to the greenhouse.                                                                                                045Here the hot plants sizzled in full sun and Knifophias mingled with Eremurus, Heleniums and Eryngiums while white Lychnis coronaria ‘Alba’ cooled things down and provided just the punctuation needed. 040

A beautiful clump of Alstroemeria caught my attention and I made a mental note to try this as an occasional border plant in the hot border at home.049

This grass path bordering the church and graveyard and shaded by apple trees in the fruit garden was lined with wildflowers, mostly poppies but also with toad flax, corn marigolds and grasses.051

It had a certain wild quality about it but it could easily have been mistaken for weeds which had taken over fallow ground. However, who am I to say; Mary obviously thought it was a good idea and that’s what matters.064

This ‘wild’ area, on the other hand, was beautiful and purposeful; a charming place to sit and relax under the old trees and amongst tall waving grasses. Pass the gin & tonic!070

Finally, a lovely arrangement of an old chair, blue clematis and Lillium regale against the house wall which took my eye.


Sadly, Mary took exception to my earlier post about her garden in April and we exchanged comments in this blog. I thought it had ended there but no; Mary decided to mention the criticism again in the Daily Telegraph. She labelled me a spy, although as someone pointed out, I am not sure how you can be a spy on a public Open Day! I am sorry Mary was upset by my comments. At no time have I ever set out to upset her or anyone else I write about. However, as I said in an earlier blog post, if you are going to open your garden to the public, it is likely that not everyone is going to like it (or understand/appreciate it) and so you must be prepared for criticism and take it on the chin. I think it is very brave to open your garden and I applaud those who do. We have seen some wonderful gardens this year but it is clear that my wife and I prefer tidy well tended gardens with perfect lawns, neat edges, colourful planting at the peak of perfection and creative combinations of plants, flowers and foliage. We don’t like modernism in gardens, we are cottage gardeners at heart but we get confused when ‘wild and atmospheric’ actually turns out to be ‘untidy and neglected’. We think that gardening is all about taming nature, manipulating plants and flowers, artistic creations and a pursuit of perfection. Are we wrong? One for ‘The Big Debate’ I think!