This time last year I had just about forgiven my husband for landing me in it - barely a week after a public exhibition for which I'd been working all hours, he had volunteered our garden to be open for a charity lunch party. He had charitably told me at the time that I mustn't fuss, or to do any extra work for the opening, but any gardener reading this will know that having your garden open to the smallest of Groups is the horticultural equivalent of a critical inspection of your knicker drawer. We did of course survive the opening and the guests were kind, and I was almost grateful for the injection of fear and adrenalin that had me up at Sparrow's, replanting entire beds that did not quite pass muster in the design department.
What bliss then this year, what relief and joy to be a mere guest, to waltz off without a care or responsibility to someone else's garden party for the same charity luncheon. Of course that would not be quite fair or friendly, so when he asked me to do some salad I was chuffed to have a home for my extra lettuces and all those pretty violas and marigolds. When he asked me to help cook one of the dishes I was domestically docile.. when he appeared with the biggest salmon I have ever seen, and asked me to cook it to perfection for thirty people, I was domestically daunted.
Step in my lovely planting assistant of previous posts, who told me that she always cooks big salmons in the dishwasher. She wasn't joking and google showed me that Alaskan fisher/skaters and English fish-cooking gardeners have a common love of multi-tasking. I didn't go as far as they suggested, and put a load of dirty dishes in at the same time whilst I disappeared off for a skate (weed), but I did wrap the salmon in foil, duly herbed and buttered, and a hot wash later we were barely 5 minutes late for lunch, salmon perfectly cooked.
The garden was a real treat. It is the private project of a clever fellow, born in America but here for years, he apparently retired early to do things that he loves. The garden shows that love, with clever use of colour and bold planting that sets off the Elizabethan walls and enhances the original layout of this beautiful manor house.