Today I paid a trip to Sudbury's Open Gardens, in the company of a friend I've been trying to go garden visiting with since February when colds and sore throats put paid to our plan to go and look at some snowdrops. It was the first Open Gardens I've managed to get to this year, as June seemed to pass by in a blur of other commitments and trying to catch up with our own garden.
There were thirteen gardens taking part in Sudbury, and we saw all of them. They must be very keen on Open Gardens there, as they'd opened once this year already, in May. My friend went then and was interested to see some of the same gardens taking part again so she could compare how they looked then versus now, and indeed how some of them have looked in previous years. I was a Sudbury Open Gardens virgin, so to me they were all quite new.
Our visit got off to a slightly tentative start as she expected there to be a stand selling tickets in the High Street like there was last time, but all we found were a couple of signs saying that we could get our tickets at the first garden we visited. Very good. Without tickets we didn't have a map showing where any of the gardens were in order to find one to buy tickets. Fortunately Sudbury isn't very big. We set off towards where there had been several gardens open last time, and found one, and bought our tickets from a gatekeeper who didn't have any change. Never mind, that was two quid extra to the hospice.
I like Open Gardens. They are like windows into the lives and tastes of their owners, some miraculously tidy and blazing with colour, others wild and weedier and geared towards wildlife, nestled behind the Georgian fronts of town houses or spreading around neat bungalows further out of town. The most notable architectural feature we saw today was a superb Grade I listed crinkle crankle wall running around the large, peaceful garden of what is now a nursing home.
The nursing home garden also contained what were marvellously described in the booklet as three tired ponds. I had visions of the ponds sagging into the ground with heavy sighs, while suspecting that we'd actually find was three ponds at different levels, which we did. I wasn't keeping a tally, but quite a few of the gardens had ponds of one sort or another, many with moving water. That means outdoor electrics. I was impressed.
There were quite a few greenhouses, some with vegetables in for the summer, but no plants for sale apart from a few spider plants at one garden, which surprised me. There again, propagation is time consuming, and if you are going to maintain your garden to a standard where you dare let the public in perhaps it's just too much work to raise many of your own plants as well. Our garden would be tidier if I didn't spend whole days fossicking around in the greenhouse.
The roses were fantastic. It has been a good year for roses. There were some fine delphiniums too. I don't even try to grow delphiniums, feeling that what with the wind and the slugs and the habitual droughts and now the rabbits they wouldn't really stand a chance, but I like other people's. Instead I vowed once again that next year I must grow some Sweet Williams.
My friend has a pedometer and checked our step count at the end of our tour. Unfortunately she forgot to check it before we started, but by the time we'd finished she'd clocked up over eighteen thousand steps in the course of today.