Having negotiated the M25, and then the quagmire of a field being used for the car park (“there’s some slight surface mud”, warned the steward at the entrance – my, how we laughed), we found that the Whichford folks had taken over the walled courtyard before the entrance, and so we dashed straight in to see if anything was left. Alas, all the seconds had been snapped up, but I hadn’t really come for those. I was after some straightforward, solid, wide-based pots, either from their Wisley or Buxus pot range, and we managed to lay claim to three buxus pots, a delightful small pot with a bee design it, and a seed pan. While paying for them, we noticed that our crafty Whichford friends had brought with them an assortment of ceramics from the shop, and we somehow managed to add five earthenware coffee mugs to our haul. We were pretty close to buying a larger pot from the new Shakespeare range, but since we couldn't agree on Love’s Labours Lost or Cymbeline, that will have to wait for another day. And perhaps a trip to Warwickshire, which will then give me an excuse to visit Fibrex Nurseries in Stratford and drool over their pelargoniums.
Pots paid for and left at the till, we had already achieved the purpose of our visit but, the weather having by now cleared, we wanted to pop our heads into the garden (via, of course, the gift shop for essential ice cream-based sustenance). The gardens don’t officially open until the first weekend in May, so the Spring Fair attendees were being treated to a preview. I was trying out a new camera lens, and so I confess to not wandering around the garden in an analytical frame of mind, content to let the experience of the place wash over me. This is after all my preferred mode when visiting a garden for the first time. That said, the impression I gained was very positive. Two and a half acres of walled garden, with tightly clipped box and yew, fruit trees, pleached hedging, razor sharp edges, well-managed compacted gravel paths and colours so vibrant they burst through the camera’s lens – the bright greens of the fresh growth on the box, chartreuse euphorbias, clouds of blue forget-me-nots, tulips in shades of oranges and reds. Not to everyone’s taste, perhaps, but the combination of formality and joyful exuberance very much to mine (and, rather uncomfortably, bang on trend if what I’ve seen so far of Chelsea 2014 is anything to go by). I’m looking forward to coming back and giving the garden the attention it deserves.
* for examples of synergistic scrumminess, visit the blog of Whichford’s Head Gardener, Harriet Rycroft, at whichfordpottery.com/main/potting-up/. Or better still, pop in to the pottery to see the pots and the plantings in all their glory.