What's Your Favourite...?

What's your favourite...?

I was out en famille at RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Harrogate along with some friends the other weekend. It's always a beautiful garden, was packed out with visitors and looked great in the warm spring sunshine. Then the inevitable question from one of our party cropped up: ‘So, where's your favourite garden?' My heart always sinks when I hear it. How can you ever choose?

Labelling a garden as your favourite isn't as straightforward as say choosing a biscuit. Actually, thinking about it, that can be complicated too. Sometimes I'm in a right old Jammie Dodger mood; other times, only a slice of juicy Garibaldi will do. Maybe it's like coffee or tea. Hold on - latte, cappuccino, mocafrappoespressochino, strong, fortnight (too weak), green or herbal?

But my friend wouldn't let go. 'You have to have a favourite.' Well, actually… no, I don't. It really depends on what you want from a garden. And most importantly, what's right in that particular moment. I might want a superlative veg garden to gain inspiration from if I'm in GYO mode, or a romantic rose filled affair if that's what's needed to tickle my fancy. I may want to study a family of plants so a clinical encyclopaedic garden would be my favourite there and then. It all depends.

He got the message regarding overall gardens, yet still persisted with his 'What's your favourite?' line of enquiry. 'What about plants? You must have a favourite plant?' Well, again it isn't clear cut. He wasn't happy.

'I like roses.'

'So do I,' came my honest reply. I love them. But not at the expense of everything else. They are part of a mix.

'I like daffodils.'

'Yep. Me too.' I have quite a few different varieties in the garden. But they also look terrific near my tulips, currently making strong strides to be the stars of the garden.

He sulked a bit. We strolled admiring the gorgeous alpine house ('What's your favourite garden structure?’) and the lawns ('So, is it fine fescue or dwarf perennial rye-grass then?'), commented on the thick mulch on all borders ('Surely you are a spent mushroom compost man? Or shredded bark perhaps'), eventually reaching our predictable destination, Bettys tea rooms.

By this time, it was mid-afternoon and the perfect time for an ice cream. We queued and by the time we reached the front I had made up my mind.

The children ordered theirs, I went for chocolate and then Mr Question Time dithered. Raspberry, vanilla, chocolate or brown bread (I know – a tad unusual) were all on offer.

'Err...now, what do I feel like?' he said hesitantly. He looked at me. I didn't need to say anything.


For the record my favourites are (in order of appearance above): 

Biscuit: custard creams usually win outright

Drink: hot Vimto scores top marks in the beverage stakes

Plant: Amelanchier takes some beating for year-round interest

Garden structure: my own greenhouse (self-indulgent, I know, but I love it in there!)

Lawn: ryegrass mix for hardwearing cricket sessions now we have light evenings

Mulch: home-made compost is still better than any other mulch

Ice cream: chocolate ice cream, preferably with chocolate chips, is a sure-fire winner

Garden: I told you, it depends!