Going round these gardens is a breathless gallop. We were slotted into a strict timetable and managed so that we did not dawdle, get lost in the bushes or come up with silly questions. Renee, our guide, had thought of all things we might want to ask and, most impressive, she had pretty well covered it all.
Of course you can’t wander about or take photographs. Security has to make it like that but somehow the conveyor belt impression lingers in my mind, as I write, two weeks on from a visit that timed itself before a single spring bud had opened. That had its own advantages as concentrating on the structure and form is a winter gift. So no getting carried away by columbines or the like. I digress and offer 3 reproductions of Rothko works to add a visual element.
So what are HRH’s gardens all about? Incredible in terms of the lavish labour expended. The compost gets turned every day and there are 15 acres looked after by a team of 14 gardeners. The meadow gets seeded annually. The linear acreage of hedges alone must keep a few of them at full stretch.
We had gone in a group by coach. A very long jaunt, which though fun, had turned us back into infants. Too much talking and jostling as we were moved on round from lawns to shrubbery to strange wood land. We developed a crowd tendency to gawp and giggle and nudge.
It was disappointing to be hurried as the best way to see a garden is on your own. To see how branches cast shadows or how the wind on your face affects you. But at Highgrove there was absolutely no time to linger and soak up the genius loci.
What seemed evident to me is that HRH has had exactly the same problem whilst designing his garden. All has been done at a gallop. There is the sense of the kid in the sweet shop who must have it all, and NOW.
Why? There is the distinct disadvantage of the tedious culture of present- receiving as part of his royal job spec. This must be a curse. When Renee showed us a strange medley wall in the Stumpery and said that Julian and Isabel Bannerman had devised a way of using his swag-bag of presents, I nearly fell out of my walking boots. Who else would have to put up with random lumps of masonry as presents.? We lesser mortals get off lightly. Imagine confronting the contents of the hold of a plane to find a haul of tasmanian tree ferns that are rare and now your problem.