Size matters not when it comes to the great gardens
Published 24/08/2016 | 02:30
A recent visit to some well-known gardens in Co Wexford made me ponder on what truly deserves the term "great".
I have, of course, favourites, which I will list further on but in general, opinions on gardening, art, landscape and architecture diverge so widely that one can argue endlessly on what is or isn't worthy of such an accolade. How places are perceived depends very much on the taste and viewpoint of the visitor.
Masterpieces have been created in small suburban plots as well as in better known larger gardens. It all depends on the knowledge and interest of the owners and whether they share that flair and passion for gardening that ensures their properties remain special.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to visit many famous gardens in Ireland, Britain and on the Continent. Some were so interesting and attractive I was reluctant to leave but others were quite the opposite.
Whether they cover hundreds of acres or just a small patch, gardens require constant care, for if left unattended they will rapidly become overgrown and sad.
In large landscaped properties, hedgerows require laying and maintenance, fallen or diseased trees need replacing, pathways must be kept clear and water features managed to avoid silting up and disappearing under an invasion of rushes and pond weeds.
Farms and gardens are living things that rapidly lose their appeal if neglected. In some older properties that were laid out in past centuries, too many rely on a partially invented history to make up for a lack of knowledge and enthusiasm for gardening on the part of the owners.
The statement that a landscape was thought to have been influenced by Capability Brown is typical of the kind of vague hints at past grandeur that are frequently employed, yet Brown would have to have been capable of time travel to have visited all those that are linked to his name.