Being Difficult

by AnneWareham on April 15, 2016

Post image for Being Difficult


We open normally every Sunday afternoon in June, July and August, and take visits in afternoons and evenings from parties of 10 or more from May to September, inclusive. So why, you may wonder, do we have a group visiting the garden today, in April?

Well, basically because Charles said ‘do it’ and offered to do the meeting and greeting. And then the staying around, because we have never yet ever left parties without someone there for them should they need. And besides – they might want to buy a book. (yey!) (They didn’t, not one. CH)

But earlier in the year I had had to refuse to have a guide from a touring company visit to do a ‘reec’ in the middle on winter. This is part of the response I got to that (there were two long emails) :

“You are the first garden owner ever! who has refused me to pre visit a garden. Sad. I have been doing this job for over 10 years now and have been around the country (England) for a bit! a long bit.
For that reason you (and your garden) will always remain in my memory, for the wrong reason unfortunately
….And yes, THE GARDEN WORLD IS SMALL AND PEOPLE TEND TO KNOW EACH OTHER (page 38 in the bad tempered gardener), I belong to the garden world as well, because I am foremost a trained gardener..
would you at least be so kind to give me some directions, so that when I come in February, I can at least check where you are ( I will have to find Veddw sitting in a large coach when visiting in May and getting lost with 40 people sitting behind you is not a lot of fun). and check where the coach could park and perhaps have a distant glimpse towards your garden wall…..” (as written – the directions are on this website, of course.)

January 2016 Veddw Copyright Anne Wareham 113

Can be OK in sunlight and frost. Less so in pouring rain..

So – why am I so difficult?

Firstly, there are obviously (to me obviously) times when it is a problem to have someone visit. You might possibly have another exciting commitment.  You might have people working in the garden and making a muddy mess. There may be illness, bereavement or your partner may just have left you for a teen aged bimbo and you are in no state to cope with anything. You may, oddly, not wish to tell some stranger about these things. (This last wasn’t the reason, but – hey – who knows?! He’s pretty cool.)


Sometimes we have been away at the time someone wished to visit, and to let them visit when we’re not here involves getting someone to unlock and relock the gates and the house (loo) for them, at a minimum.  Ideally to also do some of the prep below.

People might have the imagination and politeness to accept a ‘not convenient’ without throwing a hissy fit.

Then there’s the business involved in actually having someone visit the garden. I imagine that most people make allowances for the fact that a garden looks different in winter, but generally they do approach us as if the garden is just ‘there’, looking fine and presentable at all times. Sadly, this is not the case. A garden demands as much housework as the house does, and would you want to ask a paying guest into your house without a clean and tidy?

So cleaning and tidying it is. In today’s instance, an attempt to clear up winter debris. There are a lot of paths to clear, Charles tells me. (his job) It took him several days in between the deluges. You’ll generally also have to mow to get the grass respectable and that’s not easy midwinter. You hope the mower will work and not make more mess than it’s worth.

Veddw House Garden, Monmouthshire, Wales. Designed and created by Anne Wareham and Charles Hawes. July. The Reflecting Pool and Hedge Garden with view to the Coppice. Yew Hedges (Taxus baccata)

Blacked up – for reflections…

On the day or the day before we have to clear and maybe black up the pools, mend and get the electricity driven water things functioning; find and put out the signs to make sure people can find us; put out books for sale and sort out the cash box and float. These days too, if we’re up to it, we have to set up the connection of smart phone and machine to take card payments, just in case. (I bottled out of that today. It’s tech terror)

And you need to clean the bathroom and conservatory. Always. And when they’ve gone you need to check all the gates are closed. (rabbits…)

March 2014 Veddw Copyright Anne Wareham 061 Population Gate

This could be FATAL!

And then you have to undo things and put stuff away again..

Sometimes, people just turn up. We have bathrooms and a bedroom on the ground floor, so you can imagine how disconcerting it is looking up and seeing someone wandering round the garden. My first impulse is to hide, especially if I’m not dressed….

I know I sound a total misery and you’re all thinking how grateful I should be to be having paying visitors, helping to keep the garden going. And I am, truly. The garden and us would be in great trouble without the help that this is. But I thought it would be useful to be able to let people know why we don’t say a totally welcoming ‘yes!’ when they want to visit outside of our opening times.

Apart from anything else it will be useful to put in front of Charles when he tells me to say ‘yes’, totally forgetting that it will involve anything but meeting and greeting….

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Katherine Crouch April 15, 2016 at 3:39 pm

never explain, never apologize – a policy I remind myself when my natural oh-so-British reaction when caught on the hop is to blush, gush and stammer a dozen excuses. I have found it most useful in such circumstances to simply repeat ‘It’s beyond my control’ at every protestation. See the film Dangerous Liaisons at the bit where John Malkovich is giving Micheller Pfeiffer the boot.

AnneWareham April 15, 2016 at 5:57 pm

I will practice. But I suspect I might still get abusive emails!

charles hawes April 15, 2016 at 3:42 pm

All true. And you are very kind to not point out that despite my taking on this opening on today, it was you that cleaned my bathroom and put all the stuff out and put it back again. Was it worth it for the £70 odd quid? Well, I was tired after work so not up to much else, am glad to have got my paths clear (Anne and Jeff please note – no more dropping stuff on them this year) and I did have a nice chat with a pretty Lithuanian photographer who loved the Reflecting Pool. So yes. Despite the fact that they didn’t buy anything.

AnneWareham April 15, 2016 at 5:58 pm

Dropping stuff???? Would I!?

Hmm- see Paul’s comment….!

John Kingdon April 15, 2016 at 5:20 pm

Is sir/lady Hiss blind or illiterate? Your website has. for years, contained a request not to ask for a recce during the closed season. Apart from anything else, Charles could be doing a spot of impromptu naked rabbit hunting (Charles, not the rabbit). And, no doubt, sir or lady Hiss would not turn up on time, keeping you hanging around for hours or catching you in the bath. Damned cheek!

AnneWareham April 15, 2016 at 5:56 pm

O – if people would only read things like that! And you’re right – I forgot to mention the frequency with which people are late ….(slightly better than early) Xx

Sacha Hubbard April 15, 2016 at 5:34 pm

I suspect the disgruntled garden tour guide is more used to NT gardens or gardens attached to large houses with a permanent staff available. It wouldn’t occur to such a guide that a private garden opened occasionally but not every day or even every week, might say “no, it’s not convenient to allow you into our home.”

AnneWareham April 15, 2016 at 5:55 pm

I hadn’t thought of that – could be. I know I’m not looking forward to meeting her when she turns up with her coach party…..

Annoné Butler April 15, 2016 at 5:42 pm

I don’t think you are being difficult at all! I find it astonishing at the sense of entitlement some people have. I think authors have similar problems (here’s my manuscript – can you just read it and advise me etc.). It’s your home and garden – you are entitled to open it when you want to!

AnneWareham April 15, 2016 at 5:54 pm

Hard to believe sometimes – thanks for the encouragement. I will toughen up!

Paul Steer April 15, 2016 at 5:46 pm

Anne, watch those pretty Lithuanians !

AnneWareham April 15, 2016 at 5:53 pm

Think I might have been suddenly afflicted with the gift of prophecy?

Lisa - Ontario April 15, 2016 at 6:41 pm

I can understand the tour operator wanting to preview the garden and facilities before taking the people there. Otherwise she may look like an idiot. However she didn’t need to be so uppity about it not being convenient for you. My brother once decided it would be a good idea to host my parents’ wedding anniversary at my garden on our farm. It won’t be any trouble he said, people won’t even go in your house he said, there will be a tent and self contained he said. Keeping the 2 acre lawn in great condition for such a large event is in itself a great deal of work, let alone having your kitchen, bathrooms, and garage ready, to say nothing of my garden work, working full time and raising a 2 year old.

Right now I am trying to convince people to be on our little town garden tour. It is very difficult to get people to agree, even for one day with a couple months advance notice.

AnneWareham April 15, 2016 at 10:22 pm

I think people who seriously feel they need to check out the garden first come the summer before when we’re open. And many parties come and their guides do manage without the reec. If all the coach parties needed an initial reec I think we’d have to call it a day.I sympathise with your reluctant openers!

cynthia woodyard April 15, 2016 at 7:13 pm

I’m so with you! After my last open garden, and the only in years, I say never again for groups……..grouchy old bitch, lol!

AnneWareham April 15, 2016 at 10:18 pm

I enjoyed that. XX

Kev the Yank April 15, 2016 at 9:00 pm

Speaking from the perspective of one who contacted you wanting a tour last year when it was “iffy” if it was tour season, I would have perfectly understood if you said , “NO!” And would not have whined or cried, even though The Mrs & I came all the way from the center of the United States by train/ship/and hired car ONLY TO SEE VEDDW! Well, not exactly “only”…. But it seems rude and insensitive to me that someone would be so , well, rude and insensitive… And as a retired cop, I was trained and paid to be rude and insensitive!

AnneWareham April 15, 2016 at 10:18 pm

You were actually sweet and polite, and just about in the right time and so no trouble! (and it was great to meet you both) XXXX

Ben Probert April 16, 2016 at 9:32 am

If a place is open it’s open, if it’s closed (or only open by appointment) then in order to visit you must *negotiate*. If I wanted to visit on a certain day and it wasn’t possible then I would try to find a time when it is possible; simple. A hissy fit because someone says ‘no’ smacks of arrogance and rudeness. Who is this person to say when you must welcome them, especially in your closed season?

Personally I’d cancel their tour at the last minute, but I’m not the right person to say that when I’ve already vowed that when I do eventually have a garden it will NEVER be opened to the public. Ever.

AnneWareham April 16, 2016 at 9:37 am

It was two tours, from Germany, and I wouldn’t let them down like that just because their employee was so inadequate. But you’re right about the negotiating – and sometimes it’s just going to be ‘no’… I do think though that it would be strange to keep a garden like ours to ourselves – but that’s maybe a topic for another post?

Ben Probert April 16, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Whether your garden is open to the public or not is your prerogative; you’ve put the time, effort and money into it, it surrounds your home, and it is up to you to choose if and when others can visit. People get spoilt by National Trust and RHS gardens being open for inspection at all times, but a privately owned garden is a different beast altogether.

AnneWareham April 16, 2016 at 5:54 pm

I think it’s true that we all get lumped together….

Janet C April 16, 2016 at 9:47 am

Hmm, the tour guide may find her standing within ‘the gardening world’ will soon be shrinking – while yours gets bigger. Karmic retribution.

AnneWareham April 16, 2016 at 9:48 am

Great idea!

Jenny April 16, 2016 at 11:36 pm

I agree entirely. I have politely said the same thing to some garden group organizing a tour of my humble garden. I make special effort when people are coming and I don’t want to have to attempt to perfect at the wrong time of year.

Amy May 12, 2016 at 12:33 am

Now that garden visitor will be forever in your memory for the wrong reason. I don’t think you’re being at all unreasonable. Just because someone asks doesn’t mean the answer is yes. This person says s/he is a gardener, well s/he should know what goes into creating and maintaining a garden and have some consideration for the gardener.