Agnes Rugosa Rose
In reality I'm a very shy gardener. When friends come and ask to see the garden I shrink. Real visitors get the express tour, the quick whisk around in less than five minutes, the vague sweep of the hand alluding to 'new plantings over there'. No time is given to linger and ask questions, or explore the new paths - and, self-conscious, I return to the house feeling even less confident then before.
And when my friends persevere with encouraging questions, I just fob them off. I can't help it. When anyone asks how I designed this or that I completely dry up, mutter something inane, and feel totally hopeless. When partner asks (later) 'Did they like the garden?' all I can say is that the garden is too small and it all looks the same.
An Awesome Garden
My public hopelessness is not because of humility, for in private I think my garden is pretty awesome. I've sat in the Wattle Woods and given mock T.V. garden show interviews to my cats : 'Well, Lilli-Puss the cat, I often come out here to the Wattle Woods to relax....Oh yes, that's a plant that works so hard for me (gestures to the Renga Renga).... I love the contrast that it makes with the stone edging (gestures to the Waimakariri river stones)...'
In virtuality I'm not shy at all. I'll 'talk' for hours about the siting of the ligularias, the re-contouring of the new path, the vagaries of the Flower Carpet roses. I'll answer questions - any questions! I'll show off my knowledge (or lack of knowledge) of any plant, aspect of soil, pruning, propagating. I'll pounce on e-mails from visitors... What nice people, hope they enjoyed their visit...
The Wattle Woods Path
As a virtual garden host, I am strong minded. I will happily philosophise about my design ideas. I'll explain my distaste of being confined in 'garden rooms', my rebellion against the visual manipulations of a 'vista'. I'll share my thoughts on 'borrowed views'. I am experienced - my neighbour's pond provided a borrowed view last year (a shimmering, shining thing of beauty seen through my trees). Alas this year it is a large expanse of cattle-trampled mud.
A Fearless Tour Guide
I am fearless as I guide virtual visitors through the garden. I'll take a bunch of hardened rose-sprayers past the black spot and the rust, without once apologising. Devotees of straight lines and control-freak pruners are welcome - absolutely - I'm never put off as I sweep around the curves. Virtual visitors who feel a desperate need to label and categorise the garden are humoured and indulged. I'll even help. I"ll explain that I have grown through many gardening phases and each has been overlaid like a transparency over the previous ones.
Rambling Roses - Paul Transon, Alberic Barbier
The 'Rose and Perennial' phase came first, then the rather vague Yellow Flowers phase, followed by the Flaxes and Grasses phase - all the layers are there, their plants a bit squashed but coexisting. The Variegated Foliage phase and the Canna phase are the latest two to be overlaid...
The last real visitor I took round tried hard to engage me in conversation. 'What style of gardening is this?' she asked, peering at the Island Bed. 'Dunno' I mumbled, a wimp, then asked if she'd like a cup of coffee (evasive tactic, often works, requires visitor to return with reluctant garden guide to house).
As soon as she left I took Lilli-Puss the cat out to sit on the park bench. The interview went really well. "What style of gardening is this?" asked Lilli-Puss the cat. I, Moosey, established gardener and bargain bin plants-woman, cleared my throat and replied:
Head Gardener with Lilli the Cat
Lilli-Puss the cat, mindful of her next meal, gazed into my eyes and listened attentively...