What makes a great garden for you? Lots of colour, thousands of different plants or unusual trees, maybe? Or strong design and impressive statues? Perhaps its the heated glasshouses or the hot chocolate they sell in the cafe!
Or maybe it's something more intangible. You know you're in a great garden but you can't quite put your finger on why? Maybe it's more about how the garden feels, its ambience, its sense of place?
For me, sense of place is something I always think about at this time of year. Not during the hurly-burly of summer (too much on the to-do list!) but in the middle of winter.
Usually up a ladder on a day where the sun refuses to shine, where one is slowly losing the feeling in one's toes and you start to wonder why it is that you think hand-pruning 70-odd fruit trees with a pair of old secateurs is clever. You're on your own with just the ghosts of past gardeners for company. You can't see them but you can see all around you the fruits of their labours. Indeed, you are as close to them as it is possible to be, you're on the interface between the present and the past. You are working on those self-same trees as they did, every winter. Trees that they planted, fed, trained and harvested. When the blossom comes in the spring, it's not your work that should take the credit but the combined efforts of your predecessors. In our garden, they have created that sense of place - their legacy to us, and future owners. So you feel a sense of obligation to continue their work - that is a very powerful motivator, for sure, but at the same time, it is a real privilege to spend time in their company. You don't need to talk to them, although I like to think they're quietly watching.. perhaps in future years I might start to make their acquaintance...