Bodfach Hall Gardens - 2011
I can't remember an April like the one we've just had. Day after day of high summer sunshine and warmth, coaxing all our tender perennials early out of winter induced slumber, only for them to be zapped into a frosty reception in May. We've learnt to be canny and disregard weather reports but how can you even begin to predict that? I think we just have to garden as though we live - for the moment and without fear.
The cordylines which we cut to the ground after being decimated by the winter of 2009 (see note from last year's Garden Open) were showing signs of recovering at the base, only to be hit by the even more severe one of 2010. I know we're meant to cover and cosset those exotics, but habit and intuition have rendered us hopelessly optimistic as we throw caution and pessimism to the wind in equal doses, year by year, in the hope that the weather will, if not get better, will at least stay the same. If you look closely, you may just see their 2011 shoots of recovery. But they are very small.
The main message from the gardening cognoscenti is, if it looks dead, don't write it off just yet - it may recover and so, in this spirit, we have created transitional spaces, somewhere to let those possibly still alive to recover slowly and without pressure to perform. You will see brown bay trees, denuded olive trees, a precious palm from the Lost Gardens of Heligan, bought 15 years ago as a seedling, all doing their best to imitate candidacy for the scrap heap. But I like to hope. Not just because some of them were expensive or are hard to dig up, but also because as a gardener you are, by definition, an optimist.
The unrelenting wind and rain of the past two weeks has laid waste to the flowers of our rhododendrons, many of which are strewn like confetti over the paths. We are grateful, however, that previous owners of Bodfach had the foresight to plant rhododendrons with staggered flowering times so that there is always colour throughout May, to our delight, often in differing combinations.
The iris garden has morphed into an iris-rose-sub-Mediterranean (wishful thinking!) garden, edged with box to deter the pheasants, who love habitually and without purpose, to tug those irises which survived the disastrous initial planting, clean out of the ground. I guess all creatures need to play and what better than to annoy us control-loving humans? Hopefully, the Iris 'Jane Phillips' will still be throwing out for you its wonderful vanilla-rose scent which has pervaded the garden for the past fortnight. If I were to recommend a foolproof iris, it would be this one, uncomplaining, trustworthy and utterly beautiful.
Sadly, we didn't make the Chelsea Flower Show this year. I could blame it on trying to get Bodfach ready for the Garden Open but I find myself enjoying the process of doing my own thing so much more than schlepping off to London for the day to watch the great and the good jump through horticultural hoops, armed with six-figure sums. But that won't stop me watching it all religiously on the Beeb. We'll probably go next year, though. It is wonderful to talk directly to the exhibitors who raised the plants themselves; their passion, knowledge and enthusiasm is truly inspirational.
If any of you has a favourite plant which rabbits won't touch, I would be very grateful to know of it. This year, I'm hoping to create a bed which I won't need to worry about wrapping a metal cage around. All suggestions gratefully received (email@example.com). I can (just about) deal with vandalistic pheasants and squirrels but when you see a prize astrantia, freshly dug into the border, munched down to the ground within a record-breaking 24 hours, it really does break your heart.
Finally, we would like to thank our fantastic team Geoff, Alan, Mike C, Mike M, Wendy and Claire.
I hope you have a lovely day today, rain or no rain.
Maggie Baynes (May 2011)