I have been reading Jane Brown's inspiring book Gardens of a Golden Afternoon, the story of the partnership between Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. The iconic Thakeham seat originally designed for the garden at Little Thakeham, near Storrington in West Sussex, also featured in Gertrude Jekyll's garden at Munstead Wood, and in many of their subsequent collaborative gardens. The Thakeham has now become wonderfully symbolic, an emblem, and an indicator that nearby, maybe, there just might be some evidence of Lutyens, Gertrude Jekyll or both, so my hopes were raised when we saw one at at Cheristow Lavender Farm.
And as we rounded the corner there it was... the most beautiful surprise of a secret garden...
Purposefully landscaped and new planting, but I am convinced, if this isn't a replica Gertrude Jekyll garden, perhaps from one of her original plans, then I'll eat my sunflowers (and they are huge, I will be gone some time)
Who'd have thought it tucked away secretly in off-the-beaten track Devon, and with all that salty coastal air to contend with, but for sure someone here is a kindred Jekyll-loving spirit..
Lilies were central to many of Gertrude Jekyll's favourite planting schemes and I doubt I will come across a finer batch anywhere than these...
Someone has worked incredibly hard with this garden, and must work hard on it every day, but I suspect it is a garden that brings them huge pleasure, along with a well-deserved and tremendous sense of achievement.
As well as every book there is on the subject of lavender, I have a stack of gardening reading on the go at the moment too, so much wisdom, and many thoughts which chime so well with my own as I rediscover my inner plantswoman. Anna Pavord suggests this, in her book The Curious Gardener - A Year in the Garden,
'The point of gardening is the doing of it, not having got it done. It's the process that matters, though of course it is directed towards an end result... we live in an impatient age, used to quick results...'
And as I walked around this beautiful garden I could see and sense how much pleasure the 'doing' of it must have given, because this hasn't happened overnight. For starters someone has taken a field and landscaped it, edged and dug the beds and prepared the ground with meticulous attention to detail. Then the winters of poring over designs and catalogues, the researching and sourcing of the plants, and the excitement of the arrival of the infant specimens or the seeds followed by the nurturing, the watching and the waiting and the weeding and the watering and the wondering.
It's all a concept for which I would have had little time or energy last year, whilst this year I am understanding it, and the 'doing of it', and that wondering. If you could know how much time I have spent 'wondering' what things will look like when they eventually flower, or how much they might have grown by the next day (the sunflowers) ...well it explains why I haven't read the Booker longlist yet. Miss a day of looking and wondering and there's a chance I would miss a moment, add in Monty Don's advice to be sure to sit and stare and enjoy the fruits of our labours and frankly it's no wonder little else gets done. Once I step outside the door each day that's it, one job leads to another, to another and before I know it four hours have gone.
So if you are down West any time definitely take a detour and visit the Cheristow Lavender Farm, I am so glad we found it (eventually) the colour and scent of that lavender will stay long in my memory, I'll think of it in the depths of winter, and this garden really does deserve to be seen, enjoyed and recognised, and in case you had forgotten, the Lavender and Coconut cake is to die for so please do help yourself to another slice...