The Jaded Garden Visitor
I have run out of enthusiasm for garden visiting, a sensation I am finding quite surprising.
Garden visiting is something I have done for some 6 years or more on a fairly regular basis. Until the last year I felt excited and enthusiastic about visiting a garden. It was like unwrapping a present on Christmas morning; that feeling of anticipation, wonder and curiosity. Now that feeling has gone and instead when a garden visit is suggested my emotions are of reluctance and a feeling of ‘do I really have to’. The only thing that got me to visit Sezincote a few months ago was meeting up with friends, Victoria and Michelle and I struggled to write about it on my blog. There has been one further garden visit since to a garden I had heard positive things about which left me completely cold and very disappointed, to the extent that I couldn’t bring myself to write about it on my blog.
In fact I am wondering whether it is the blog which is to blame for this aberration. I know that a few years ago when I had press passes for various RHS shows in order to write posts for myself and also the Guardian blog, I found this completely destroyed my enjoyment of the show; I spent the whole time thinking about what I should write about rather than enjoying it. I am not aware of that sensation when I visit gardens but I am keenly aware that many readers seem to expect a critical review of a garden rather than a post saying you had a jolly nice time and really liked this plant or that.
The garden media has been criticised in recent years, by myself included, of being dull, banal and not at all critical. There is also a movement which calls for gardens to be considered and reviewed as works of art which I think has some merit in it. Now I do not profess to be, nor do I want to be considered, a part of the whole garden media world so why should these arguments bother me and what and how I write about the gardens I visit? I suppose it comes down to peer pressure and a feeling that you want your writing to be taken seriously and not seen as yet another garden blog, saying I sowed these seeds and visited this lovely garden. But is that right? It comes back to that oft repeated question of why we blog in the first place. For me, my blog is a personal record, a weblog in the original sense of the meaning of ‘blog’. As such I try and write for myself and hope that readers like it, I don’t try to be clever or elitist but for some reason when it comes to garden visits it isn’t working.
I am deeply conscious when I write about a garden that there are some, often quite vocal, who criticise the ‘lovely’ approach. Consequently I have found myself driving home from a garden considering its design, planting, ethos etc not something I did a year ago. I agree that it is good to visit gardens to get inspiration and ideas but I do believe that this need to constantly analysis and criticise stops you enjoying a space for what it is – a garden: a place to relax, to be, to enjoy the outside and plants. What is wrong with that? If we go through life constantly analysing and dissecting everything to find some deeper meaning, which often isn’t there in the first place, we run the risk of missing out on so much more.
The last gardens I really enjoyed visiting where those in San Francisco and I think this is partly because they were, in the whole, very different to English gardens and also because of the company. But again despite enjoying them I have found it hard to write about them, feeling that I need to be erudite, considered, intellectual etc. I need to throw off this feeling and get back to my blogging roots. I also need to stop worrying about what others think, something that has plagued me throughout my life and that I have to work hard at since it has periodically caused me a lot of unhappiness.
So I doubt there will be many garden visit posts on the blog for a while, anyway they aren’t that popular with readers who, if the stats are to be believed, are more interested in day to day things in the garden. I am hanging up my garden visiting boots for a while with the hope that at some point in the future my interest and curiosity will return but this time if, and that is a big if, I write about the gardens there will be a good dose of ‘lovely’ and ‘beautiful’.