Anne Wareham of Veddw House Garden, ‘a modern romantic garden’ tucked away in the heart of Monmouthshire, introduces herself as the Bad Tempered Gardener and has written a book of the same title, to prove it. Keen to make it clear that she is not a professional gardener as such, Anne explains her motivation for writing the book. “It was partly to write a realistic account of making and running a garden and includes design and construction aspects of the Veddw (but not diarised) and partly because the garden media in general find it impossible to tell the truth about anything horticultural at all. Gardening is all portrayed so cheerfully. The only thing we are allowed to hate in the garden are slugs, even the media deplore slugs,” she adds. “I have chanced my arm; I wanted to be honest and just wrote it as it came though I have clicked out a few names.”
Asking Anne if she’s passionate about gardening obviously disappoints her. “Oh not the passionate thing,” she sighs, “If I told you I was still passionate about my husband after 30 years of marriage, you’d raise your eyebrows and doubt me and it’s the same with the garden. I suppose I go between feeling ambivalence and devotion for both really.”
I have caught her in a devoted mood, for her husband at least, as she is quick to point out that he, professional garden photographer Charles Hawes, features largely in the book and also took all the photographs included.
The Veddw, which is also open to the public, consists of 2 acres of woodland and 2 acres of ornamental garden but Anne, who also writes for a variety of publications is undaunted, “My gardening style is about labour saving; I spend about a day a week gardening, I’m not out there gardening remorselessly. By the time I’ve done all the admin, taken care of coach parties, looked after the house and all my writing there’s not much time left. I have a man who comes in to help with all the hedges, but that’s all.”
“I don’t grow veg apart from a few runner beans; the supermarkets do a good job of supplying our fruit and veg and I think there are too many guilt trips about growing your own food today. We’re told we’ll save the planet by growing a few carrots and peas but if you’re a single Mum for example, trying to cope with it all can cause a huge guilt trip. There’s a shocking hype about it all, with the garden media shoving it in people’s faces. My own experience of gardening magazines and TV programmes is that they’re all so dishonest. Television has reduced gardening to entertainment.”
“There are too many labour demanding gardens around. My own advice is to keep it simple. Reduce the varieties of plants in the garden by 90% and avoid roses. There’s a chapter in the book on why roses are horrible,” she adds.
Anne’s invigorating drive for ‘horticultural honesty’, is also reflected in her involvement and association with www.ThinkingGardens.co.uk which, supported by the Royal Horticultural Society, has been created ‘for people who want more than gardening from gardens.’
Describing herself as a ‘thorn in the flesh of the garden world,’ Anne has nonetheless had a lot of ‘good-tempered’ feedback about her latest book through social media. “There have been a lot of great blog reviews; I’m not sure the book will bring me any extra work,” she shrugs “but the words ‘honest and refreshing’ are constantly coming up in the reviews which is good enough for me.”
Find out more about Anne, Charles and Veddw House Garden at www.veddw.com where you can also order a copy of The Bad Tempered Gardener.