One of my favourite things to do in the summer is to visit gardens of English country houses. These are not formal, manicured, geometric gardens like the ones you’d find around a French chateau, where not a single leaf is out of place, but are rather more rambling and eccentric, consisting of ornate wooden benches. I say that because two of my favourites are Sissinghurst (home of the poet Vita Sackville-West) and Charleston (home of the Bloomsbury group of writers and artists). And this year my daughter Tate has come along as well. Like me she enjoys the combination of a blooming garden, the opportunity to take a few photos, and the gay literary connections.
Tate’s personal style is quite old-fashioned, and she’s also a poet and a lesbian, so she fits right in and makes it easy to imagine being in these gardens in the 1920s and 1930s. We like to say that if she ever fell through a time warp and landed in the first half of the 20th century, either at a Bloomsbury literary soiree, or among the codebreakers at Bletchley Park, she would fit right in, both intellectually and sartorially. You could say she’s always ready for time travel!
And for me, visiting these gardens is a form of time travel in another way, too. When I was younger my mother (who is an avid gardener) used to bring me to these gardens, so it’s a reminder of my own teenage years. We still visit the gardens together sometimes, and I have lots of pictures from previous trips. But this summer I’ve passed the tradition on to Tate. She too has come to appreciate the joys of wandering around in an English country garden.