A Paroxysm of Undiluted Sorbet

Gosh. it really is a bit dusty around here.

I know that almost every post I have written tends to begin with an apology for the continued neglect and my excuses must be wearing a bit thin by now. “The blogger doth protest too much, methinks” would be the phrase that springs to mind. Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother says it and, interestingly (those who have been with me on blogs for a while will know that I tend to stretch the tolerance of that word quite a lot) the word ‘protest’ in this case probably means “promise” rather than object. Anyway either interpretation is apt in this case. Protesting and promising the earth.

A lot of stuff has been going on recently, I will give you a brief resume as I actually have an issue of mild seriousness I wish to raise with you and this seemed to be the appropriate place rather than on one of my other blogs.

intoGardens has a grown a very beautiful new website since we last talked. It is absolutely stuffed with usefulness and was built by the very clever Luke and Petra Hoyer-Millar. If you need things like that doing then go and pester them. You could also do worse than read Petra’s fine blog here. She is Dutch but that is easily forgiveable.

intoGardens also has a thriving YouTube channel with loads of little helpful films about pretty much anything you want. Plants, pots, children’s stuff, cooking, growing etc etc etc. Worth going to have a squizz if you are at a loose end. This is a little film about leaf mould made by Alys Fowler and Paul Debois: charming and delightful. Just to get you started. I apologise in advance that many of the films include me: the main reason is that I am not only available but dirt cheap.

Three Men Went To Mow, who have also been getting a bit dusty recently have also made a new film. Joe and Cleve came up here and we ran around in the woods having a lovely time.

I have also done much of the usual stuff: gardens, swanning about etc. You know the sort of thing. It was the Garden Media Guild Awards t’other week (a beano about which I have written before here, here and here (i)) and a very good one it was too for me: intoGardens won Best New Media and my other blog (for the nice people at Crocus) won best Blog. Which was particularly gratifying. I won the first and second GMG Blog awards and it is nice to do it again. When I first won I think there were only about five working blogs: now the field is a bit more crowded.

I was in Sussex last month hanging around the rather delightful town of Rye. It has a walled centre, a lot of shops that sell interesting junk and very narrow streets. My plan for Rye (if I were asked) would be to ban cars from most of the town: it would then be extra delightful. We stayed at a fine hotel called The George if you feel the need to spend a couple of days loafing on the south coast.

While there we dropped in to Great Dixter. I have not, to my eternal shame, visited for about a decade. It was a drippy day with every bit of colour squeezed from the sky and the garden was in the process of being dismantled – Fergus and the gardeners had taken six and a half thousand cuttings in the last week! Still it is always a pleasure to visit even if I have no idea what many of the plants are!

This is the matter of mild seriousness I mentioned earlier…

Does that actually matter that much? Do we hanker after labels? sometimes they are undoubtedly helpful but at other times the rather jar with one’s appreciation of a planting combination. The other garden which we visited on that trip was dear old Wisley which is, as you are doubtless aware, the RHS’s flagship garden. It has bits that are fabulous and other bits that are quite dire. This is a garden that positively drips with labels. Every tree has a tag and each clump of herbaceousness is singled out by a signpost.

Naturally, in my fuzzy compromise-searching outlook on life I appreciate that we are looking at two completely different animals here. Wisley is there to educate and to document as well as delight. The stated purpose of the RHS is to promote the science, practice and art of horticulture and one of the central tenets of this is to ensure that the inquiring membership knows one plant from the other. Dixter is a private garden and does not have such iron clad ambitions – although the late great Mr Lloyd was forever writing down plant names and combinations, in fact I believe he looked very sternly upon garden visitors without notebooks. He preferred conversations to labels.

A balance needs to be struck between the frustration of not being able to find out what a plant is without having to go and ferret out an overstretched gardener and the irritation of a dangling label. On one hand we need to know for, without knowing, how can we replicate? all gardeners like pinching ideas from others and, fortunately most gardeners are also happy to be intellectually burglarised. The danger, of course, is that something has been mislabelled in which case we will get terribly hot and bothered. The answer, probably, lies in technology: the day is approaching when we can point a telephone at a plant and be instantly appraised of its name, its likes and dislikes, its sexual proclivities and genetic disadvantages. Labels will then no longer be required.

And we will also be able to point our telephones at people and find out all about them as well: let’s hope nobody tries it on Cleve West, they will be terribly disillusioned.

The picture is of the fluff inside a Cirsium tuberosum.

I am listening to Too Drunk to Karaoke by Jimmy Buffet and Toby Keith.

(i) That blog post (in 2010) got sixty-eight comments which is pretty much unheard of nowadays. I suppose it is the inevitable side effect of there being so many blogs nowadays that not all of them get read much. I never look at statistics so don’t really know. That and the fact that people find it easier to respond on Twitter rather than here.