The borders, pathways and, of course, the house were there long before I rocked up and started messing around. When I first saw them these borders were fine: they had a good variety of plants and there were Yuccas at the path junctions. We just thought that the time had come for a different look – it is one of the dilemmas that gardens open to the public have to grapple. You need people to keep coming back which means that you have to give them new things.

We started by tweaking it a bit and then it dawned on us that really it would be best to strip it all back to nothing and start again. The yuccas went (spiky plants are never ideal too close to paths) and we piled tons of manure into the borders before replanting them. We still have a good smattering of tender perennials (dahlias, salvias etc) as Cottesbrooke has always been well known for that.

The first year that they were planted lots of people came up to me: I was hoping that they would congratulate me on my excellent taste and interesting planting but my vanity was left unstroked as almost all of them asked the same question. “What is that lovely white flower running through the borders?”. It was a white Agrostemmon (corncockle) that was planted by the very talented head gardener, Phylip Statner. Nothing to do with me!

Still, the rest of looks pretty good too. Cottesbrooke Hall, Northampton.