Thursday, April 29, 2010

A great partnership

The creative world is full of great partnerships. Gilbert and Sullivan, Rodgers and Hart, Gilbert and George. And now we have Victoria and VP. We've collaborated on a garden guide for this Saturday's Independent, so if you're UK-based, make a note to rush out and buy it.
The 50 Best series runs each week in The Information section of The Independent. This week, the 50 Best is Gardens.
It's always very difficult to choose one's favourite gardens. There are so many, for a start, and there may be gardens that, while not generally considered world-class, may touch something inside you that draws you to that place.
Alternatively, some of the great gardens may leave you cold. They may lack intimacy, or that sense of retreat that many of us treasure. Or they may be so manicured that you find yourself longing for the odd weed or shaggy bits around the edges.
Personally, while I admire the great 18th-century landscapes created by Capability Brown and Humphrey Repton and William Kent from an aesthetic point of view, they don't really strike an emotional chord in me.
It's a bit like looking at a beautiful painting - which indeed is what they were intended to replicate. The nobility of the time came home from their Grand Tours and wanted something that would reproduce the antique glories they had seen in Rome and Greece, as depicted in the classical landscapes of Claude Lorrain.
I'm much more drawn to the cosier, more domestic scale of gardens such as Great Dixter, or Sissinghurst. I like gardens that take you on a journey through archways and round corners, rather than something that is designed to be seen from a rather grand drawing-room.
I'm saying all this because I'm very conscious that people may not agree with our choices. On the other hand, VP and I are not setting out to become garden critics, nor are we aiming at a specialist, garden-enthusiast audience.
We're trying to encourage people to get out and see things, and because of this we've split the list into five sections: must-see gardens, rose gardens, kitchen gardens, gardens for walks and gardens for children.
I'm very grateful to VP for finding time in her busy schedule to help me with this. She manages to do so much, she reminds me of one of those circus performers who keeps plates spinning on the end of a pole.
I am hopeless at spinning plates. In fact, I'm very good at breaking them - I broke three the other day while we were having a barbecue without any practice whatsoever.