Kent Alpine Gardener's Diary
This entry: 11 February 2014 by Tim Ingram
A Homily on Opening a Garden
A Homily on Opening a Garden
Gardens for most people are private places - a personal space; playground for some, respite for others, a place to share with friends and family. What is it that leads you to open your garden more generally?
It can be an artistic temperament, a pride in what you do. In the specialist plantsman's world of gardening it can be a way of showing something to people of which they are simply not aware - and a chance to meet others of like mind. For the nurseryman it is a vital resource from which to collect seed and propagate, and to gain experience of different growing conditions. It may also be the result of misfortune, sometimes personal, bu often in others that you care for - a way of contributing to charities that you believe strongly in. A lot of the time it is simply an enjoyable and stimulating pursuit.
Opening a garden though can have its downsides. There is an expectation from visitors, often impossible to fulfil, or just the result of different ways of viewing what a garden is. The weather often does not co-operate, even though it is the weather that actually contributes more than anything else to the wonder of British gardens in the first place. Here is a group of Kentish gardeners, braving the wettest and windiest February day so far to come and look at snowdrops. No wonder an alpine show can have a little more appeal!
In a seemingly overly litigious society worries about wobbly steps, poisonous plants and the general foolishness of others (quite apart from yourself) can take on nightmare-ish qualities until you are placated by the small print of legal and insurance documents! The fact that in 30 years of opening a garden and the only accidents that have happened have been to the garden owner themselves doesn't seem to compensate. With all this and the additional worry that visitors might look through the window and notice the Ming vase and Rembrandt on the wall, and there can be the tendency to keep the garden private.
So do pride in your achievements and charity over-ride these qualifications? They may do or they may not, but the simple enjoyment that comes from meeting people who appreciate your garden certainly does, and the friendships that result. As a way of proving to others that the plants of interest to you (and within a society that you may belong to) may also interest them, there can be few better expressions. A garden can actually have as much value as the Ming vase or Rembrandt viewed in a different way - though few are likely to do so unless they are also gardeners themselves.
After the Christmas storms one neighbour wished us good luck clearing up but added that we wouldn't have been popular if the Cedar in the front garden had brought down the power line. The others, away at the time, contacted their friends to help us clear the debris across their drive. I will leave it to you to guess which come closest to being gardeners!
1. A sermon, especially one intended to edify rather than expound religious doctine.
2. A tedious moralising lecture or admonition!
(from Greek, homilia, discourse, intercourse, association)