A precious moment in time

Last year I went to the Garden Museum's Garden Literary Festival which was held at Tom Stuart Smith's garden.  I enjoyed my day there so much I decided that this year I would attend the whole weekend so I booked immediately when the tickets came on sale.  This year it was held at Petworth House, a National Trust property and the home of Lord and Lady Egremont.  I had never been to Petworth and it is a bit of a distance from me, but I looked it up and the lure of the festival was too strong.  Knowing that the festival was to be held in the family's own private part of the gardens added to the attraction.
The weather was very kind to us and the sun shone all weekend.  The talks were many and varied and all the ones I went too were hugely enjoyable.  I had the same experience as I felt last year, the weekend is a moment of pause and reflection.  I have always seen my garden as more than just a collection of plants, I have written previously about what it means to me and the symbolism and memories that are attached to various plants and areas.  The festival feeds those thoughts of the significance of the garden.  It gives my mind time to turn from daily life and think more deeply about what a garden is rather than what it does.  I really hope they have another festival next year as I think it is one of the most enjoyable events I have ever attended.
The gardens were beyond expectation, not that I knew what to expect.  I quickly realised that I was not visiting a good garden, but a great garden and that is not a description I use lightly.  What made these gardens particularly special was that they are their private garden, pretty much as private as my garden.  It is where the family go to relax, to sit and enjoy a beautiful sunny evening, to walk and talk and just be.  The spaces worked beautifully.  There are many high hedges creating private spaces (rooms) that link between each other.
The garden works with vistas and openings.  There are focal points to draw the eye but you cannot move quickly, you have to stop and inspect the planting as it is thoughtful, relaxed  and very effective.
If you did not stop to inspect you could miss the real beauty of what you were walking past.  At first this wall planting looked like a green climber/wall shrub of some sort, good green glossy leaves and very well pruned.
On closer inspection it is a Magnolia, just imagine how this must look when covered with blooms?
This gravel area at first sight could have been easily walked through, but I stopped to inspect a rather fine romneya and very quickly I realised what a calm space it was.  There was far more happening than could be deduced in a quick glance around.
It was a garden that needed to be experienced rather than just seen.  It made me think about the show gardens at Chelsea and the like and the time (brief) and the distance (long) involved in viewing them.  The show gardens cannot be experienced, they can only be viewed, to some extent they are just an outside book for us to glance at, absorb as best we can and move on.  I already thought this, but being in a garden this special really brought that home to me.
There are many areas of the garden, too many to show in one post in fact, if you ever get the chance to visit I cannot recommend it enough.  There is much to admire:  the many roses, many just romping along these hurdle fences.
Roses also adorned these apple trees, for a brief moment fooling me into thinking they were still in blossom.
The garden is drenched in the scent of roses.
The walls were alive with wild self-seeded flowers, like foxgloves
and the ubiquitous mexican daisy
I went home thinking I need a wall suitable for daisy colonisation.
and if you get the chance to attend the literary festival, especially if you are interested in reading about gardens or indeed someone who writes about them, then it is worth going.  It is not the cheapest event you will ever go to and the cost is an issue I fully admit, but it was definitely of value as I know I will be thinking about different elements of different talks and the inspiration from the garden for many months to come.


  1. Now I really wish I could have gone ! Can't wait for the thinkingardens review.

  2. I went last year to the one in Tom Stuart Smith' s garden too. It was a beautiful weekend and the garden looked fabulous. Great speakers too. I was sorry to have missed it this year. The garden at Petworth looks amazing and you had great weather again. It is a wonderful way to spend a weekend.


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