Whether or not you prefer British garden writing or the Stateside variety (I just like good writing wherever it originates), you have to admit that the Brits do a pretty good job at the actual gardening part of it. We were just there, not on a garden tour mind you, just an ordinary holiday, and creative gardening was everywhere, whether we were seeking it out or not.
There are caveats, of course. The climate for gardening over there is just better. While we may not have preferred mid-sixties temps and frequent precipitation on an August holiday, I suspect the plants were loving it. With exceptions, you just do not see the harsh extremes in either direction that US gardeners suffer under. And they have a much older gardening culture. I don’t really envy any of this; it’s just a great reason to visit.
Don’t expect any descriptions and images from Sissinghurst, Great Dixter, or even Kew in this post. Except for Eden, which is a worldwide destination, most of our visits were to historic, artistic, and/or architectural wonders. Along the way, we admired:
Rail station gardens
Over here, we do like to put trains into gardens, but flowers into train stations? Not so much. It’s a charming tradition in the UK, starting with the beginning of train travel in the mid-nineteenth century, but reaching its height in the mid-twentieth, when station managers often lived nearby and tended the gardens. There are even competitions for the best station gardens, many of which are now taken care of by volunteers. Not all stations have them, but most I saw did; it’s just another fun part of train travel there, which, with cabs, was our main mode of transportation.
Parking lot gardens
This was below our hotel room in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, which was beautifully landscaped. There were three of these, and they’re maybe not looking their best, but they break up what would be a rectangle of concrete used mainly for cars. Are they even needed, given the vista beyond them? Maybe not, and that makes the effort more laudable.
There are a pair of fuchsia specialists in our garden bloggers group; how they must envy their British counterparts, who can grow them as hedges. I don’t know who planted all the perennials and shrubs along the paths we walked between St. Ives and Carbis Bay, but every day I admired the wild patches of acanthus, crocosmia, and autumn clematis (below) we saw everywhere. Some of it would be considered overly aggressive, but I’ll take these over our goutweed and celandine any day.
We did see actual show gardens, notably at Hampton Court. And we loved the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden in St. Ives. It’s one of the best and most seamless combination of art and plantings I’ve seen.
Of course, the streets of London were lined with gorgeous planters. I also enjoyed the unkempt grass in Hyde Park (above). Lawn culture seems under control here, where environmental waste (try asking for a plastic bag) seems much more under control. Though I loved getting back to my own garden, coming back to more news of environmental deregulation and loss of protections was not heartening. Oh, well. For another day.