I’ve been at Hidcote for just over two weeks now. The time has whizzed by but somehow it seems like I’ve been here for ages: probably because of the number of things I’ve managed to cram in, and all the new people and places.
I’m really enjoying work so far, getting to know a new garden with lots of new plants and lots of new type of work. New to me, anyway. No more of the large-scale, “given where we are” work of the SB zone: I am in fiddly central. As a Triad Fellow, I get to work in all areas of the garden and am not confined to one of the three teams’ areas. That gives a lovely diversity of work and places to work in: I’ve been digging up herbaceous in the Old Garden, tidying the Long Borders, weeding in the vegetable garden, deadheading in Mrs Winthrops and all sorts of other things.
And I have been having a good go on the hedge cutting. At Hidcote there are, of course, a lot of hedges. The standard description is that there are 4.5 miles of hedge faces to cut: this takes 4-5 months with 8 members of staff each cutting for two days a week. So as you can guess, hedges are taken very seriously here, with every member of staff (I think) having their own Little Wonder. As part of the renovations over the last 15 years, mains electricity lines have been run to all the areas of the garden with hedges, so no dragging a generator around with you: all you need is a transformer and a looooong cable. Despite the amazing convenience of the electricity supply and the electric hedge cutters (It’s so quiet! It’s so light!) it still takes a long time to cut the hedges because a standard as close as possible to perfect is required. Absolutely straight lines all round, please. Well, unless it’s a bit of topiary, of course. I only work 4 days a week so I will probably only do one day of hedge cutting a week during my time here. So far I’ve spent two days on hedges that “aren’t integral to the design vision” [subtext: it won’t matter so much if you *^!* up] and have been judged as producing a pretty good-looking hedge. Who knows what I’ll be allowed to cut next?! If you’re laughing at this, let it be known that hedges are important and it does matter if they’re perfectly straight or not. And no, a little bit wonky is not OK. I’ve always loved cutting hedges and am quite obsessive so this is perfect for me.
But apart from work, I have been making good use of my weekends and study days and have already visited 13 gardens since I’ve been here. Nine in Gloucestershire/Worcestershire as well as a further five on a trip Matt and I made up to Yorkshire this weekend. Technically, I’ve visited 13 gardens in 5 days! Unfortunately my camera broke after five gardens and I’m currently using A’s ancient mini IXUS until mine is fixed: so my photos are of varying quality. Anyway, more detail will (may?) follow but for now here’s the working list:
- Snowshill Manor: Nice, would be better if the NT gave them some resources.
- Kiftsgate Court: Brilliant!
- Packwood House: Brilliant!
- Coughton Court: Quite good, but the walled garden was closed so I don’t really know.
- Mill Dene: Meh. Don’t bother.
- Bourton House: Good
- Sezincote Estate: Nice bits but the focus is the architecture of the house, not the garden.
- Chastleton House: Titchy but sweet. Jacobian topiary, yeah.
- Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Gardens: You could have such an epic party here.
- Littlethorpe Manor: Brilliant!
- Scampston Walled Garden: Brilliant!
- Breezy Knees Gardens: Brilliant!
- Harlow Carr: It’s Harlow Carr, what do you expect? Immaculate, of course.