There are things which irritate me when I visit gardens – but, I must confess, that I am easily irritated. Nonetheless, oftentimes, these are things which could easily be avoided and it is the fact that it would not have taken any great effort on the part of the garden owner or gardeners to remedy such situations which adds so very much to my annoyance.
Those who know me will now be thinking that Paddy is off on one of his Victor Meldrew (TV programme character in “One Foot in the Grave”) moments and…they may be perfectly correct!
We are back, my long-suffering garden-visiting partner and I, from a week of garden visiting in Devon, a beautiful area of England and, based in Exeter, a delicious area of restaurants – something we find quite lacking in England but, on this visit, were absolutely delighted with the quality of food in local restaurants in the centre of Exeter. To mention just one, my favourite of the holiday, “Ask Italian”, in view of Exeter Cathedral was outstanding, delicious, fabulous, with welcoming and friendly staff and food that made me want to marry the chef, though his beard didn’t really appeal! Ah well!
But, back to the gardens and that which irritates me. It is an unfortunate truth that gardens alone, regardless of how beautiful they may be, will not attract sufficient visitors to make a significant financial contribution to their upkeep and the most usual venture to bring in the cash is a cafe or restaurant. There’s a lot to recommend a nice cuppa and a slice of cake to replenish the tired garden visitor and some gardens we visited went well beyond such offerings and had extensive lunch menus available, something which rarely attracts me as I am happy with a substantial breakfast, a midday snack, and a good dinner, after scrub-up and drinks, on return to base. These restaurants, judging by the huge numbers seen in them, are attractive to a great many people and I say, good for them and long may they enjoy it. However – you knew there had to be an “however” on the way! – However, I do not wish to have the smell of the Sunday roast beef overwhelming the fragrance of the roses in the garden nor malingering, as unwelcome as an open-sewer pong, among the herbaceous borders. It’s a needs-be situation, perhaps, but I do not visit a garden for its food and would prefer not to include it as part of the garden experience.
Of a more immediate horticultural nature, a lack of maintenance is always a disappointment – more than a disappointment, to be honest, for any garden charging an entrance fee should make the effort to present the garden at its best and, though I have grumbled about the poor efforts of the gardeners, it has struck me in more than one establishment that there were more employed in the reception, restaurant, gift shop and plant-sales areas than in the garden itself. The garden is often no more than the lure to bring people to the various cash registers and over time the garden is often neglected. It saddens me, but it is true, for I go to a garden to see the garden first and foremost and these other areas hold little attraction for me. It has struck me that when such conditions develop – the emphasis moving from the garden to the non-garden areas – that the gardeners may well become disenchanted, demoralised and less than diligent in their work. It’s a pity but it is true and the garden and the garden visitor are the losers.
Killerton House in Devon with beautiful views to the surrounding parkland with its mature trees. Using Photoshop I have spared you the littering of picnic tables which the National Trust thought were appropriate in this view and I have framed it to exclude the games area!
Is it this, I wonder, which leads to a lack of weeding, a lack of general maintenance and a general lowering of standards? I would hope that those in a management position in gardens would realise that the garden is at the centre of the enterprise and that sufficient resources be allocated to their maintenance and development.