Letter to Elton

Dear Elton,

We were very disappointed that your recent trip to New Plymouth was so fleeting that you did not have time to visit our garden. Maybe next time, you will manage more than an eight hour stopover which really only left time for your concert.

We know that you are keen on gardening. In fact we know quite a bit about your garden. So we left word with Somebody We Know in Town who was involved with hosting you, that should you have a bit of spare time, we would love to show you around our place. But it was not to be on this visit.

We know your tastes are quite particular. That there are various plants and flowers you hate. Gladiolus feature high on the hate list. That is fine. We don’t grow the Dame Edna type of gladdies. All we have are a few tasteful and understated species and only one of those is in flower at this time of the year. It could have been like a little test to see if you spotted it in the rockery. It is a curious beige colour with burgundy spotting so it may have attracted your attention, but unless you know gladiolus species you may not have picked what it is.

We agree with you that marigolds are common. Nor are we fans of carnations. When somebody gives you carnations, there is always the suspicion that they buy their flowers from the supermarket or the petrol station, don’t you think? Big blowsy dahlias are so vulgar and OTT really, without even the bonus of fragrance. At the risk of alienating every Dutch reader, I must admit that I am not a fan of tulips either. The weird colour mixes and frilly ones just don’t do it for me though a sea of pure perfection in a single colour is not so bad.

We would have been so tactful had you found the time to visit us. We would not have mentioned your major aberration in Good Taste. We refer to the ever so slightly tacky dinosaur that you have in your garden (a gift from George Harrison, we understand. How polite of you to keep it.) I don’t think you would have found any such lapses in decorum in our garden, at least not of that magnitude.

We know about your garden and your dinosaur because we watched Rosemary Verey walking around yours with your head gardener. Sure Mrs Verey died some years ago (maybe you have had second thoughts about Dino since that footage was shot?) but the Living Channel is not always up to the moment with its garden programmes.

Mrs Verey was such a quintessentially English gardener, wasn’t she? Highly skilled, clearly of good stock and well mannered but such a fine plantswoman. We did try growing her Lavatera Barnsley but it wasn’t quite the stop you in your tracks performer here that it is in the UK. In fact it staged a bit of a takeover bid here and while it flowered well, as it grew ever larger it tended to become increasingly scruffy and to fall apart. We cut it out after a season or two.

But we have a profound respect for Mrs Verey and what we saw of her garden and you must have too, as she was closely involved in the development of yours. It may even have been her who placed Dino in your garden after you had accepted him as a gift. Rather than making him a major focal point, Dino appeared to have been tucked discreetly amongst the undergrowth and the overgrowth. We watched her walking your garden and pausing by Dino, commenting that he seemed to have settled in rather well now. At the time we both burst out laughing because we interpreted that comment as a veiled reference to a hope that in another year or two the foliage around would have grown sufficiently to block out all sight of Dino, but we wouldn’t have told you that had you come to our place to visit.

And yes we do know that you call George’s gift Daisy, not Dino. But really, how can anyone take seriously a fibreglass tyrannosaurus rex of such magnitude that it requires a helicopter to move it and with glow in the dark red eyes, when it is called Daisy?

Nor would we mention the figure of Aphrodite inside a red British Telecom box residing in your woodland area. But we do notice that you lean towards tasteful terracotta pots rather than the garish glazed ones more popular here. Same with us, but alas the distance is rather too great for us to manage those charming Cretan olive oil jars which you have flanking your potager.

We would have been curious to hear why you replaced Mrs Verey’s pride and joy, the white garden (well, whitish really, when you read the list of plants ) which your bedroom overlooks. It sounded so lovely when she wrote about it, but apparently you have replaced it with an Italian garden. She seemed ever so slightly miffed that you chose to go with statuary and vistas instead. In the nicest possible way, she made it pretty clear that this seemed a very odd choice to complement your English regency residence and rococo garden.

To be honest, we are not really rococo here but we are deeply envious of your nineteen acre woodland, all maintained and underplanted in a woodland-y sort of way (as opposed to an herbaceous border sort of way). It makes our woodland gardens feel very small and paltry.

But a couple of weeks ago you would have caught the tail end of the nuttallii rhododendrons which are always some of the last to flower for us. I am sure you would have liked these, though I doubt you can grow them in the UK with your harsh winters. They are all class, the nuttalliis. Big, reasonably spectacular (in a refined sort of way) with divine fragrance in most of them. Long white trumpets and big, textured foliage. They can be a bit open in their growth but the peeling cinnamon bark is such a reward for the open habit. I think you would have been moderately impressed by them.

And a couple of weeks ago, we could have shown you our baby kereru which has now flown the nest and our little family of five moreporks which have since dispersed. A visit could have been such fun.

Do feel free to call if you are passing this way again.