For those of you who doubt that I am a proper grown up gardener, I must confess that once upon a time I actually did some training. And it was in horticulture. Of all things. Crazy I know. And the esteemed hub of learning that had the pleasure of my patronage was none other than the world renowned Cannington College in Somerset. Perhaps just “Cannington” at the moment, but working towards greater things.
Now the story gets a little complicated. Although it was officially “Cannington College” I was actually based in a satellite division in Bristol, my time spent between Bristol Zoological Gardens (the clue is in the name) and in a defunct walled garden at Blaise Castle. The only time we actually went to Cannington was for the Unit called, which I think has certain industrial chic, “Machinery”. From my slightly dodgy memory, this involved driving tractors, laughing and maintaining lawnmowers.
At this time I was still working in an office whilst studying part time. My employers generously paid for us “gals” to go for a day at Champneys Health Spa. Included was a “healthy” lunch, full use of the gym, pool, hot tubs, a manicure and massage. With great foresight we had stocked the minibus full of wine and crisps for the return journey. The following day, when my colleagues had returned to the photocopier and filing cabinet, I was adjusting the blades on a Qualcast. In perfect purple nail varnish. Not sure my tutor understood the irony.
During the two years that I was a Cannington student, we were never invited to the walled garden. When it was demanded that we continue our quest to achieve the perfect cut, we once again headed west. Our minibus, driven by the wondrous and fearless Julie, arriving in the village turned utilitarian right, whilst the joys of the famous garden lay to the decorative left. Never did the twain meet. Were they trying to tell us something? Perhaps.
So when my local Plant Heritage group arranged a trip to this garden, it seemed that it was an opportunity for what Oprah would call “closure”.
What had I missed? Some beauties actually.
There was a full flowered Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’.
A Judas tree, Cercis siliquastrum, dripping both bloody blossom
and seed pods.
The outlandishly exotic Beschorneria yuccoides
Dew dropped poppies
And weeping Iris
And much, much more.
I did skulk slightly, worried that I would be discovered and sent back to sharpen a blade or reverse a trailer into a gateway. Old habits never ever die.