I didn’t really want to go to a garden, but I forced myself. Hours sitting in a traffic jam (more accurately, a series of traffic jams) had taken their toll and, although Trentham Gardens was not far out of my way, I wasn’t feeling it.
As I was wavering, I remembered once calling a friend, MVM, to get out of going to see some gardens as I was not feeling well. He said “You’ll be sorry! You’ll like it! There’ll be flowers!”. I went, and it was that day I got to know my sweetheart. The influence of the two of them, spreading as it does over time and space, was powerful enough for me steer my car away from the default path, up the M6, to invest in all the things we invest in when we visit a garden.
It was after 4 o’clock when I arrived at The Trentham Estate, so entry to the garden was only £6. I had expected to see lots of flowers in the Piet Oudolf borders, and remember thinking apart from a few asters, it all looked a bit green. Perhaps the dry summer had shortened the season.
I’d stupidly not eaten much all day, so I bought an egg mayo sandwich and sat down on a bench under a tree to eat it. Nobody was around, just the birds and bees and what looked suspiciously like a horsefly. That’s when I had a strange experience. As I ate, and relaxed, my eyes stopped comparing what I’d imagined to what was. I looked around me, grew more in tune with my surroundings and experienced a strange shifting.
The scene around me stopped looking uniform and started to acquire character and individuality. It seemed to happen over a few seconds, perhaps a minute at most, as if a camera lens was slowly being turned into focus. Seedheads, grasses, flowers and leaves started to compete for attention in the late afternoon sunshine. The sky was blue and the light, alluring.
The pictures I’m sharing here are towards the extremes: flashes of autumn colour. You’re seeing this on your phone, tablet, laptop or computer – wherever you are, I hope you’ll be able to feel part of the magic of a great English garden, peaceful, but full of life on an early September evening.
Places I’d only ever seen in the daytime had extra atmosphere at night. Backlighting boosted The Sensory Garden, pulling the painted fence and plastic panels into closer harmony with the tree leaves that were just starting to take on autumn colour.
In another small garden room a few hundred metres away, a patch of wildflowers was frankly astonishing, like a dream of high summer. Linaria’s folk name fairy bouquet seemed apt: it felt like you could take a scythe, slice off a handful and just drop them into a vase to make an ethereal posy.
As the light began to fade, it seemed time to resume my journey home. I made my way round the edge of the lake from the giant dandelions back to the gate, listening to the swans flapping and honking at each other as they set off in the opposite direction (what time do swans go to bed, I wonder?).
Stealthily stalking the edge of the lake, a wading bird waited for his evening meal to rashly volunteer. The bird saw me approaching, but didn’t think I was a threat: I was thrilled to get close enough to capture a picture with my iPhone. Just a couple of hours with nature had transformed the way I was feeling.
I passed a middle-aged jogger on an evening run around the lake. How much difference it must make to have this garden close enough at hand to be your gym! It might not get me jogging, but a stroll… a stroll would be lovely any clear, calm evening like this.
Next time you’re wondering whether to do something harmless that you usually enjoy, do yourself a favour – remember my friend’s wise words of temptation: “There’ll be flowers!”
Shared as part of The Propagator’s Six on Saturday.