I've known about the National Gardens Scheme for ages and have meant to go without ever making it happen. They open private gardens to the public for only one or two days and let you satisfy that glorious nosiness about other's lives you feel when you catch a glimpse of a garden through a gate or see into a lighted room when the curtains are open at dusk.
This weekend my elder daughter is staying. We had a lovely day yesterday odding about together, going to Bodnant (again! she wanted to see the laburnum walk) and chatting both idly and seriously about life. I stay with her when I go to London so it is not that I don't see quite a lot of her but she is always busy and there are always other people around so a private day is a rare treat. She told me how, as a child, she had always waited impatiently while I insisted on looking in estate agents' windows and tolerated being dragged round garden centres with much sighing and lack of comprehension as to why anyone would think either of these an interesting thing to do. Now she is thinking about buying her first house and finding herself becoming interested in plants and turning into her mother. "Not a bad thing, my dear" I say with a flourish. She laughs at me.
In the early evening we went to a large house about five miles away under the open gardens scheme. A huge Victorian house in a sweep of gravelled drive it stood in two acres of gardens at the foot of the Clydian hills. Something more different to our garden would be hard to find. We are much higher on the side of the hills, most of the land sloping and the scale of everything small and domestic, much left uncultivated and nettles and goosegrass always encroaching. We have large scale vegatables and fruit and old apple trees and bent yews.
This garden was divided into four large rooms by immaculate hedging. In one a beautiful lawn swept in front of the house and deep flower borders overflowed with roses and shrubs and mixed herbaceous planting, everything perfect to the last twig. Another area was a tennis court and nearby a perfect circular herb garden; another an area of woodland with foxgloves and aquilegias at the edges. My favourite room held some fruit and a gravelled area with box balls and lavender. Small apple trees were lined up across the centre of the garden and on the far side there were borders so full of paeonies it looked as if the garden was set for a summer wedding. Every time you looked out of the garden the hills were rising up, golden and green in the evening light.
We had a glass of wine and I bought some plants. It was lovely in a particularly middle class way which I don't really associate with this part of Wales. Ringing English tones and lovely manners and well behaved Golden Retrievers and everyone (including us obviously) being utterly charming.
It was a beautiful place and a lovely way to spend an hour on a summer's evening but also great to get back to the little house and the cultivation encroached upon by wildness and the warm wind. We made rainbow trout stuffed with thyme and sage from the garden and baked with sliced lemon, with new potatoes and salad and white wine. As it grew cooler we lit a fire and sat and talked until it was suddenly midnight and time for bed.