Sorry, no photos of where I went today, but I’m telling you, the Queen’s garden at Buckingham Palace is one vast sward on top of which (if one is lucky enough) one might be given tea and cake, along with rather a lot of plane trees and a huge amount of roses and rhodedendrons. I don’t know quite what I was expecting when I arrived there this morning, but I had hoped (being a rather nosy person…and see Nosy Corner for proof) for a glimpse of something private, or personal – something like a treehouse, or the remnants of a picnic, or a corgi poo perhaps. But no, nothing like that. It was beautifully maintained, with care and love, and you could tell this because every inch of it was immaculate, and it was full of things that didn’t quite fit, but that were obviously presents from people and had to be included (eg all the rhodedendrons, for which ericaceous soil had been studiously added in bulk)…I was kind of moved by this – the thought of being the master of so much but at the mercy of having to accommodate and diplomatically display every last foreign dignitary’s passing gift…Well of course it doesn’t hit you between the eyes and bowl you over…it’s not the product of one person’s passion, but a fabulous collage of heritage (the plethora of trees planted by members of the royal family) and obligation (an entire bed of yellow roses given by someone or other in honour of one’s golden wedding).
But there were deeply charming patches – the island in the middle of the lake – allowed to grow wild and home to many many nesting birds, the areas of un-mown meadow (cow-parsley, bluebells and-we were told- orchids) and yes, the achingly, painstakingly perfect mixed borders (which we couldn’t get anywhere near because it would have meant stepping on that grass) but which at this time of the year, seem innocent and naked – a multitude of delphiniums, dwarfed by their stakes, peonies reaching up, huge clumps of lily of the valley, and oddities I had not seen before, like Syringa pinnatifolia, (a lilac I had never seen before) that has flowers like an osmanthus but with beautiful delicate leaves…an absolute must-have that will join my lust list. I was struck by the never-ending drone of traffic and I’m not surprised that this garden isn’t the private haven I had imagined it would be…it’s in the middle of a massive round-about, complete with hectic fumes….I think I too would rather spend my outdoor time somewhere a little quieter (like MY garden!)
The very best bit of the whole morning though, was our guide, who was not a gardener, but someone who worked in the Queen’s Gallery, and who explained explicitly that the tour would be more ‘historical than horticultural’…as he was ‘no gardener’…however, he had been taken round the garden, along with the other guides, by the head gardener in preparation for these new-fangled garden tours, and had, he admitted, been quite enthused by the whole experience. He had obviously planned the tour meticulously, taking what he had learned and deciding where to stop and what to talk about. Most of these stops were devoted to admiring the plane trees that were a very important part of the garden, but he had memorised and boned up on other things too, and was about to wax lyrical in front of a witch-hazel when he turned round and realised the flowers were all gone. Slightly downcast, and with a sweet smile, he owned ‘Shucks, you learn all about something so you can talk about it and then THIS happens!’…Utter heaven…I want to take him home with me.
It’s been a busy weekend, but at LAST I managed to plant my fig tree, which had been languishing in a corner for too long…yes yes yes I planted it IN a pot IN the ground….AND I bought a lawnmower and finally mowed the lawn (I do find that everything is SO much more fun when you have shiny new tools to play with. The lawn was mown in my nightie because it was the hottest of hot days and I got enthused early in the morning (don’t know what my neighbours thought of that, but still). I was supposed to sow masses of hardy annuals this weekend but the baby got sick, so that’s now become next week’s project….I’ve still got masses more weeding to do, and a huge amount of planting in the apple garden. Tomorrow tomorrow, tomorrow.