Clematis 'Polish Spirit'
There is still plenty of time to go garden visiting. In fact, some gardens reach their full, spectacular potential not until the second half of summer, when the range of magnificent herbaceous perennials seems endless, from asters and dozens of daisy-like flowers to the stately spikes of salvias; not to mention the summer flowering clematis, like the one above.
Sadly, we won't be opening the garden this autumn; I need gardener's help with the hard graft. As it is, I'm having to pay a 'gardener and designer' a small fortune to cut the hedges. While I'm on the subject, I'd like to mention that 'my' gardener is doing fine; he is chirpy and bright and full of hope that he'll eventually be able to do a few days again, although I doubt that he'll work again like he did before his heart attack. It has frightened him into stopping smoking!
If you are planning to spend a few hours looking at someone's garden or if you think it might be a nice thing to do next year, let me give you a few handy DOs and DON'Ts, which would certainly make you into my favourite visitor:
- leave scissors, dampened tissue and plastic bags at home, unless permission to take cuttings has been given.
- keep dogs and children on leads.
- do not march through, looking barely to left and right; the owners are proud of their garden and have expressly invited you in; you do not need to feel embarrassed about being there.
- that doesn't mean, however, that they want you in their house: do not ask to visit the loo, unless you are absolutely desperate; it's best to avoid accidents of an embarrassing nature; never visit if you are unwell, particularly with tummy gripes.
- talk to the gardener about particular plants or aspects.
- but do not give unwanted advice.
- do not criticise; gardens are like children: whatever parents may say about their children, they are proud of them.
- do not commiserate with the owner about weeds until you are certain they are not prized wild flowers.
- do not commiserate with the owner about the demise of a plant until you are certain that s/he has noticed.
- form small groups and and discuss pleasing or interesting features.
- say 'interesting' frequently,
- but keep your superior knowledge well hidden.
- if the owner has temporarily mislaid the name, age or serial number of a plant and cannot find it in the garden books on display, don't hang around waiting for inspiration to strike; use the books yourself, or take a photo and quietly remove yourself.
- do not point and laugh at a feature or plant unless you are absolutely certain that it's meant to be amusing; if you are absolutely certain that it is, point, draw others' attention to it and laugh.
- admire particular features, like fountains, specimen trees, statuary old and new.
- never say : you have enough work here to keep you busy/out of mischief/fit; it's patronising.
- praise the garden, and, if you can't, at least say 'thank you'.
- enjoy yourself and take home plenty of inspiration.