In every town and village, we discovered walls of purple – and occasionally white – wisteria, sometimes completely covering the side of a building, even climbing onto the roof. Seldom had we ever seen such extravagant wisteria. By comparison, our wisteria at home seemed puny and sickly. Walking on the streets of the Cotswold villages of Broadway and Stow on the Wold, we got the impression that before long the wisteria would devour all of those ancient houses and shops of gold limestone. Some of the trunks of these aged wisterias were thicker than my arm, twisting and bending like sinewy muscles as they crawled up the walls and over the tops of windows and eaves.
A yellow climbing rose almost as aggressive covered whatever the wisteria didn’t. I recognized the Lady Banks blossoms because one was trying to cover the back of our garage in Berkeley, but most of these outdid even that one. Rhododendrons and azaleas were in full bloom, too, some of the bushes as large as big trees, their gaudy reds and pinks and salmon colors almost attacking the gray sky.
Even the smallest patch of ground in these villages displayed blossoming shrubs and spring flowers, tulips, iris, and blossoms I didn’t yet recognize. It was too early for most of the roses to be in bloom, but the other flowers were compensating. During the weeks we spent visiting gardens in southern England, I learned just how serious the British can be about gardening. I also learned about herbaceous borders, those lavish mixtures of plants and flowers that line so many of the gardens there.
Everyone, it seems, has a theory or two about gardening and will debate it happily if you give them a chance. They also will share their experience and knowledge, offer advice and encouragement, and wish you well with your own gardening efforts. Gardeners, after all, are nice people and believe in nurturing the earth.
If you enjoy gardens, you'll also enjoy reading
Simone Martel's collection of garden-themed stories,
EXILE'S GARDEN, Edwin E. Smith Publishing.