The dubious worth of garden writers’ opinions.

by AnneWareham on June 25, 2012

Mosaic at the Laskett copyright Anne Wareham

Stephen Lacey was a bit of an idiot to put the Laskett in his recent Telegraph piece about the best garden makers. See these opinions elsewhere. I’m sorry to be exampling the Laskett again – it’s simply that there are not many gardens that have been so roundly deplored by so many garden bloggers.

I can’t comment – I couldn’t possibly comment, could I, since I’m clearly miffed at being excluded?

When did that ever stop me? And, well, yes, I am human, and since, having travelled from The Laskett to the Veddw someone once said “from the ridicuous to the sublime” you might have thought I could feel a little ouch, given the mediocre choices that were made in the piece.

But Stephen Lacey only ever visited Veddw twenty years ago. Never since. He lives in Wales and has not visited the National Botanic Garden either. So his survey might well be somewhat limited if his visiting is as restricted as that elsewhere.

This would be quite normal amongst garden writers. Garden features are picture led. Writers get asked to visit and write about gardens when editors have decided to publish a piece, so that’s when garden writers go on a visit. Sometimes they write the piece without visiting even then. I do believe they rarely visit a garden without a commission to write or a press jolly.

Though most of them they must visit friends’ gardens, I imagine.

Am I wrong? How many people have had a garden writer visit their garden without their having a garden article to write?

Path at the Laskett copyright Anne Wareham

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Zoë June 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm

I was given his book, The Lasket as a Christmas Gift some years ago. It was rather errrr – well, it was what you would expect someone involved as a member if the Art establishment.

His garden I think reflects his interest in things Elizabethan and Renaissance and is probably a matter of taste. What makes good taste is a matter of what is fashionable? Some fashions are perhaps best left as simply part of our history?

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AnneWareham June 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm

You are right.(It was also, when visited, a God Awful Mess) XXX

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Paul Steer June 25, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I was surprised by his choices particularly because of his criteria for choosing them which The Veddw fitted perfectly. I have not seen The Laskett (yet) but to not even mention your garden was a surprise. It just looked like a rehash of a previous review, I think the photograph was used a couple of months ago?

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AnneWareham June 25, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Paul, you are soo sweet. I’m glad you didn’t fall off a mountain.

I think photo editors can’t resist that photo – it turns up all over the place. The wish to use it might drive a lot of things!
XXXXX

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Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall August 15, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Not sure if I qualify as a ‘garden writer’, a part time one, perhaps. I do sometimes write an article about a garden and you are right, the prime mover is never me. Most articles begin with a photographer showing their pictures to a magazine editor. If the editor likes the pics he/she casts around for a writer to do the words. It’s never easy for the writer because the photographs were taken, say, in May, and the commission comes to the writer in
September. But we go and talk to the garden owners and do the best we can.

I certainly don’t wait to be asked to write about a garden before I visit it, and I’m sure other writers including Stephen Lacy don’t either. Most of us visit gardens all the time because it’s fun and we’re passionate about them. We never leave home without the Yellow Book and we always follow up tip-offs from friends.

Anyone who makes a list of 20 best of anything is on a hiding to nothing. A particularly silly idea when it comes to garden makers. No doubt the suggestion came from the Editor.

One more thing: anyone else tired of knocking Roy Strong? Who shall we pick on next?

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AnneWareham August 15, 2012 at 6:55 pm

I’m sorry you think of me as ‘picking on’ Roy Strong.

The problem is just how little genuine reaction from garden visitors of other gardens reaches the light of day, so that I have sometimes doubted my perceptions. With the Laskett this is simply not possible, because so many people continue to complain about it to me.

And I think you might just perhaps be more of an exception than the rule when it comes to keen garden visiting, but I’m open to correction on that one. Perhaps – excluding you again, Jane, they simply avoid the Veddw? (sometimes even with a commission)

I’m very keen to hear of visits made simply from interest. I like to be fair and accurate.

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Stephen August 24, 2012 at 9:26 am

Anne,
I am lucky enough to be reading for review an advance copy of ‘What Are Gardens For?: Visiting, Experiencing and Thinking About Gardens’ by Rory Stuart …an example of garden writing and visiting that shows exactly what is wrong with the Lacey book…..Veddw and yourself are featured, discussed and appreciated rather well….highly recommended and a rare treat…

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AnneWareham August 24, 2012 at 9:29 am

O, you tease!!! We have to wait for the launch…(unless you finish it and let us have a little look!?) Thanks for ….well…teasing us. XXXXXXXX

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Stephen August 24, 2012 at 9:41 am

Sorry…had not meant to tease..though I quite like that !! It is good…am trying to finish it….

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AnneWareham August 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Am delighted to hear that it’s good, for Rory, too.

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