The peculiar affliction of gardeners’ godwottery

My apologies to those subscribers who received a draft version of this earlier. I hit “publish” instead of “preview”….

Godwottery! A friend gave me the gift of a word this morning. How can I have lived my life so far without this word?

Godwottery. A noun. “Gardening or garden design in an affected, fussily decorative, or over-elaborate style; an instance of this.” This is from the Oxford English Dictionary so it must be right. It does mention that it is an example of archaic and affected language but wot ho, jolly sir? It has only been in use since 1937 so it is but a  modern archaism at worst. So too is the second descriptor a double irony, for what could be more appropriate than an affected word to describe a garden full of affectation?

I am not deterred, I shall incorporate this word into my lexicon (or ‘my vocab’ as others less prone to archaic affectations might say). I am an experienced godwotter spotter, I tell you.

We were part of the open garden scene in the first decade of this new century when over-decorating your garden became the rage at a mass, domestic level, even amongst those who would never dream of ornamenting their interiors from the Warehouse shelves at the time. It was the Gnome Brigade exhumed from the past but on steroids and with expanded horizons. Not just Grumpy and his mates. No. Now one must add fairies, orcs, trolls, odd monster-y reinterpretations of classic grotesques and a whole lot more. Also reproduction classical statues of the armless, legless and white type. And focal points! For what is a vista or a view without a focal point? Or seats as focal points. Just a single seat painted in an eye-catching colour and placed where it is never to be sat upon but gives Yet Another Focal Point.

Godwottery goes well beyond the unrestrained approach that leads to cluttering up a garden with decoration. It takes in the “but wait! There is more” gardening syndrome where thinking that yet more points of interest, destinations, hedges, squitty garden rooms and other enclosures such as rondels, features and constructions will enhance the space.

And veneer gardening, which is what I call the DIY attempts at trompe l’oeil, garden design that emulates theatre set design and the attempts to recreate Grand Garden Design but in plywood and tanalised timber. I find it easier to accept naïve over-ornamentation (at its best it can be genuinely creative, tipping over to folk art) rather than pretentious veneer gardening.

But now I have the word. Godwottery. “He is just a pretentious godwotterer,” I may say in the future. “It is way past time they ceased godwottering.”

Just to prove that I am not alone, I give you two quotes from the OED:

1969   Guardian 18 Aug. 7/1   ‘Godwottery’, the sentimental preconception of what a garden should be, results in a very strange collection of elements.

2006   Denver Post (Nexis) 31 Mar.   If you’d like to create a godwottery of your own, you might consider ‘sundials, gnomes, fairies, plastic sculptures, fake rockery, pump-driven streams and wrought-iron furniture’.

Believe me, I have seen some godwottered gardens that have the lot detailed in that second quote. AND a giant chess set as well.

Trentham Gardens were treading a fine between enhancing the visitor experience and tipping over the edge to godwottery. Public gardens are particularly vulnerable to this trap in their attempts to pull the punters as can be seen below.

I have had to crop very heavily on these godwottery exemplars in the hope that they may remain relatively anonymous. I could have chosen many other examples. some simply appalling, but they are too readily identifiable. I would prefer to be able to cross the road without fear of being run down by a disaffected garden owner.



13 thoughts on “The peculiar affliction of gardeners’ godwottery

  1. Christine Goodin

    Hahaha I had never heard Godwottery before either but you already long ago had given me nervous twitches every time I thought of adding a couple of godwotters around here!!

    I do have minimal concrete whatevers here but honestly I think of you often as I go past them!! Very few and I love what I have.

    Saint Fiacre is tucked well back in case you should show up…..

    Very fun and well written article.


    Chris and Steak (who is about to have hip NINE and then he will live to 100!!)

    Charlie Lewis is the man!

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Hahaha! It is the latent school teacher in me. The ability to inspire fear from a distance. Good luck to Steak but tell him to stop being so greedy and leave some hip replacements for others! XXX

  2. Tim Dutton

    Great word, though doubt I’ll ever get the chance to use it in Scrabble! Perused the garden to see if the godwottery police might nick us, but all seems OK so far. Tend to use a lot of pots all over the place, but not the way that Pukeiti does :-]

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Pots in themselves are not godwotterish, Tim. Just if they are bright, shiny blue, decorated with bamboo leaves, sunflowers or similar, or adorned with decorations or cutsie water dispensers such as one might buy from the Innovations catalogue.

  3. Pingback: Classic style statuary in New Zealand gardens – yes or no? | Tikorangi The Jury Garden

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