My first thought when I scanned down the list of secret gardeners portrayed in Victoria Summerley's latest book, The Secret Gardeners, was, how many of these people do I know? It was only half. Then my second thought was. I am gardener and I visit the gardens of strangers all the time so what does it matter if I know them or not.
The book arrived on a rainy day, deposited outside my front gate, where it spent the night. Thank goodness the postal service had seen fit to put the box inside a plastic bag. It was well protected. I opened the box and could not resist a quick flick through. Wow! Gorgeous color photographs and awe-inspiring gardens. I read the introduction in which Victoria tells how the book came to be and in her usual relaxed style answers some of the questions we might all be asking about the rich and famous and their gardens. Do they really garden, did they really have input in the design, do they have an army of gardeners doing all the work? I was soon to find that it was all of the above.
All of the gardens visited are in England and are the gardens of actors, writers, musicians and artists. Familiar names like Jeremy Irons, Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Branson family and Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. Every garden tells the story of the owners garden styles and hobbies, be it the miniature donkeys and Kunekune pigs kept by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason and his wife Annette or the sculpture in the garden of Andrew Lloyd Weber.
Make no bones about the fact, these properties are often what I like to refer to as 'the country pile' large properties or estates, hidden from the outside world, which offer their owners an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It wouldn't matter what kind of gardener you were you would definitely need a gardener to take care of such a place. But it quickly becomes apparent that the owners were going to have plenty of input and many do spend a considerable time working in their gardens.
The photography by Hugo Rittson Thomas is plentiful and stunning and and Victoria's accounts of her visits are a pleasure to read. Alfred Austin once said, 'Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are' and I think that both writer and photographer have given us a little more insight into the lives of these well known people.
I was sent this book to review by the publishers, Frances Lincoln, and it has been a pleasure.
Victoria Summerley is and award winning journalist and garden blogger and the author of two other gardening books, Secret Gardens of the Cotswolds and Great Gardens of London.
Hugo Rittson Thomas is a leading portrait photographer and collaborated with Victoria on her previous books.
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