We attended two outstanding talks yesterday at Altamont Plants, part of the Carlow Garden Festival. I could not exaggerate how much I enjoyed both talks and what a wonderful credit the occasion was to Robert Millar, at Altamont Plants, and to Carlow Tourism who are the leading promoters and organisers of the festival. On this occasion, as it was within Altamont Gardens, it would be very remiss of me not to mention the work done by the garden staff and staff of the Office of Public works both in preparing for the event and helping to manage it on the day.
Chris Beardshaw gave a tour de force performance with his “Planting Composition: Exploring Planting and Sculpting with Plants in a Garden” which was, in effect, a combination of two talks, one on the history and development of gardens and garden design which then morphed into consideration of colour combinations and plant selections. It was a talk presented with passion, humour and enthusiasm and was enjoyed by all despite being considerably longer than normal presentations.
Fergus Garrett gave a wonderful insight into the gardening philosophy which informs and drives the year at Great Dixter. The experimentation of Christopher Lloyd continues with gusto – and with some colours combinations which were not to his taste. The solid structure of the garden allows for a flamboyance of planting but, as Fergus explained, it is a flamboyance which comes after much trialling of plants and experimentation with colour combinations and, though perfection may be achieved, there is always a desire to move along and try something else, new and exciting. Not since reading Christopher Lloyd’s books have I enjoyed such an insight into the gardens at Great Dixter. It was an outstanding talk.
The Alley Cats?
This was the pre-show “entertainment”. We arrived before eleven o’ clock in ample time for an event starting at midday. We wished to be sure of seats in a good position within easy hearing distance to allow for poor hearing. As we arrived and strolled towards the marquee a busload of attendees moved, in what I was told afterwards was a practiced manoeuvre, towards the venue and quickly placed coats, or umbrellas or scarves on the front seats of the first few central rows of seats. They then left the marquee with their seating secured. We took our seats a row or two behind this and sat and chatted to friends as they arrived until the beginning of the talk. Of course, as people arrived and wandered towards what they thought were prime and empty seats they were taken aback to see the lines of coats etc holding seats. The group was quickly identified and it seems that this is their regular practice. There were grumbles that the organisers should surely not allow such carry-on but, in fairness to the organisers, it is not unreasonable of them to expect adults to behave in a mannerly and polite way and the shock of seeing such a display very often leads simply to silent discontent and a wondering how it is that these people believe it is acceptable to behave in such a manner.
One lady arrived, simply removed the reserving items from a seat and sat down in prime position for the show. The lady (an inappropriate use of the term, I suppose) who had “reserved” the seats returned and challenged the intruder. The lady (an accurate use of the term) who was sitting beside me moaned, “Oh, no!” with the foreboding that an argument was about to break out and further spoil our enjoyment of the occasion. Fortunately, claws were bared, some snarls exchanged and the street cat went off – bums on seats is the only way to reserve them!
I had initially thought that the lady who removed the item from the seat was being – I’m not sure what the word should be – unreasonable, provocative, as bad as the first person? However, on reflection, I feel that this was simply because of our wish to avoid confrontation and it is this commonly held desire which gives these bad-mannered people the confidence to behave as they do. They don’t expect to be confronted and are brazen enough to face down the quieter people attending. There are people who do this regularly but it was shocking to see whole bus-load of people doing it.